Elvis the American
Posted 16 August 2012 - 06:39 AM
He died 35 years ago today.
Daniel J. Flynn
"The army can do anything it wants with me," remarked Elvis Presley upon leaving for basic training in 1958. "Millions of other guys have been drafted, and I don't want to be different from anyone else." But Elvis was not like anyone else.
He wore sideburns and greasy long hair in the crew-cutted fifties. He played black music in the segregated South. He appeared in foppish fashions -- ascots, satin pants, pink shirts -- in t-shirt-and-jeans Memphis. As a teenage steady remembered, "I knew the first time I met him that he was not like other people."
This did not sit well with other people. Classmates cut the strings to his guitar. Other kids pitched rotten fruit at him. The coach kicked him off the high school football team, and a boss threatened to fire him, for refusing to get a haircut. "I felt really sorry for him," noted a classmate, who had defended Elvis from bullies. "He seemed very lonely and had no real friends. He just didn't seem to be able to fit in."
Elvis enthralls 35 years after his death in part because of his contradictions. A mama's boy/rebel, the loner amidst the entourage, and the painfully shy performer who confidently commanded audiences remains an enigma. Thirty-five years from now, the world will still be talking about, imitating, and singing along with the King.
Americans loved Elvis because he was unique. Americans loved Elvis because he was America.
Elvis Comeback Special 68
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