Elvis Presley is widely known as the King of Rock and Roll, having begun his career in the 1950s when the genre was still relatively new. He was known for his popularization of the rockabilly style, and his cultural background (born in Mississippi and raised in Memphis, Tennessee) helped to influence his infusion of country and R&B into his music. His music had a strong backbeat, and teenagers at the time never had much trouble dancing to any of his songs.
The King’s style was highly revolutionary for its time. The overt sexuality in the way he swung his hips and the flamboyant clothing he wore were considered highly unorthodox, but they were a hit with his younger fans. He was a controversial hit, but his popularity grew throughout the 1960s. Even in the 1970s, when he had lost much of his sex appeal, his voice considered to be one of the more unique voices in rock and roll. Like many black musicians, his vocal style was influenced by gospel and Delta blues; however, it was uncommon for white musicians to adopt these styles at the time of Presley’s initial rise to fame.
It is no coincidence that the controversy surrounding Presley’s popularity happened to strike at about the same time as the civil rights movement. The fact that he was influenced by a number of black musicians made him dangerous to a number of traditionalists, but it also helped to make the notion of segregation more mainstream. Elvis did not have to take a more direct approach to politics, because he had already begun to break down racial and cultural barriers by simply performing in the way that he did.
One of his first songs to become particularly popular was “Heartbreak Hotel.” He would follow it up with a number of other Top 10 singles such as “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Love Me Tender,” “Hound Dog,” “All Shook Up,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Stuck on You,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” and “Return to Sender.” He would also become known for popularizing songs such as “Mystery Train” by Junior Parker and “Blue Suede Shoes” by Carl Perkins.
Elvis is also known for his film career. With the exception of his time spent in the army, he released at least one film each year between 1956 and 1970. Many of his films were named after songs that Elvis recorded, such as Love Me Tender, Jailhouse Rock, and Viva Las Vegas. Many of his other films achieved popularity as well, such as Blue Hawaii. His physical appeal was not just limited to his talents on the stage, but extended to his talents on the silver screen as well.
Elvis Presley was an icon of his time, and his image is still iconic to many. His rockabilly sound and his swinging hips helped to establish him as a force to be reckoned with as his popularity spread throughout the mainstream media during the 1950s and the decades after. No discussion of the great names in rock and roll history is complete without mention of the King.
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