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Elvis is NOT the "King of Rock and Roll"


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Something I've become more and more interested in is the lineage and history of rock music. Looking at what genres were born from and looking at influences that led to new sounds in the music. From when I was young, even before I was listening to anything close to Rock and Roll, I knew one thing: Elvis was the "King of Rock and Roll". It's something you remember always hearing and feeling like it's a fact since the beginning of time.

But, have you ever stopped to think about it: Why would Elvis be called the King? What separates him from Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Buddy Holly and others? Here are some thought I have as to why he is and how I think it's wrong.

1. Listen to 'Hound Dog', 'Johnny B. Goode', 'Tutti Frutti', 'Peggy Sue', 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On', 'Rumble', 'Bo Diddley', 'Rock Around the Clock' and other early songs of Rock and Roll. Then think about which songs would evolve into what we call Rock and Roll today. 'Hound Dog' would be near the bottom of my list, if that were the criteria, as would many Elvis songs. Elvis was considered himself a Rockabilly, Gospel and Pop artist before he was a Rock and Roller. He didn't write many of his songs either. Granted it was an uncommon practice for many artists, but I would like to think the King was an inventor rather than an innovator.

2. As obvious as it seems, the fact that Elvis was white in the 1950's led to his mainstream success, despite he was playing "black" music. Elvis once said "Rock 'n' roll has been around for many years. It was called Rhythm and Blues". He made it acceptable for white artists to play black music and for white fans to listen to black music. He deserves all the credit in the world for helping to break racial boundaries; something I feel is lacking in his legacy. But does that contribute to the music itself and how it's sounds? It's hard to say.

3.As the music began to have a commercial appeal, Elvis became the face of that. Millions of dollars in unofficial Elvis memorabilia; dolls, lunchboxes, china, toys, and anything retailers could slap his face on were sold in the late 50's and early 60's. It's only natural to assume his influx into homes across America helped him gain the reputation he still has today. But does exposure equal greatness?

4. Elvis also had the benefit of reaching the 1960's unscathed. He didn't marry his cousin (Jerry Lee Lewis), transport a minor across state lines (Chuck Berry), decide to join the priesthood (Little Richard) or die in a plane crash (Buddy Holly). As the 60's rolled around and Rock was beginning to be accepted as a legitimate form of music, Elvis was an original artist still around. Perhaps he was the King by default in their eyes since he made it.

I know I was kinda rambling, but it's something I feel is wrong with the history of Rock and Roll: labeling Elvis as its King. And if you want to know who I think the true "King of Rock and Roll" is... here's my quick bullet points about their career

-He has some of the most iconic Rock and Roll songs of all time

-He has been covered and/or ripped off by an infinite amount of artists

-He put Rock and Roll's flagship instrument front and center in his songs and performances

-He wrote many of his own songs

The True King of Rock and Roll (Click Here)

Your thoughts?

Edited by zosodude13
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Roy Orbison.

Better singer and multi faceted songwriter than all the others mentioned put together.

Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley whom I met once are great entertainers, however, like Bill Haley and Jerry Lee their music is very repetitous and while this is an accepted thing in Rock and Roll music it can be somewhat boring at times.

You're right about Elvis being elevated by white America back then but there's no denying the profound effect he had on Rock n Roll and music in general and like Roy at least he mixed it up.

Mind you this is my opinion only and unlike a lot of others is not presented as fact.

So if any of you don't agree, fine, just keep your insults to yourself.

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Your thoughts?

I have thought exactly what you've posted for many years and I wholeheartedly agree with you.

Those early innovators you mentioned,Buddy Holly,Little Richard,Bill Haley and Chuck Berry deserve to be put right up at the very top as the true Kings of Rock and Roll.

And I suppose if I had to decide who'd be wearing the crown,it'd have to be Chuck.

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Are the Stones "the World's Greatest Rock n' Roll Band"? Is Michael Jackson the "King of Pop"? With all due respect, Chuck Berry is no more the "King" of rock n' roll than Elvis Presley, such titles are useless and largely inventions of the media. No one artist is worthy of the title because no one artist is single-handedly responsible for creating and/or popularizing the genre. The birth of rock n' roll came about through a culmination of diverging influences that can't be pinned on just one artist. That's my perspective on it anyway. I also don't think an artist that doesn't write their own material in any way lessens their impact. Waylon Jennings, arguably one of most talented artists to come along at roughly the same time mainly performed material written by other people. Emmylou Harris, one of the most recognizable voices in country music is also known more as an interpretor than a songwriter but that in no way lessens her impact on the genre. Those are but two examples, there are many, many more.

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To me, titles such as "The King Of Rock and Roll", "King Of Pop" and "Queen Of Pop" seem very top-lofty and ambiguous. For instance, what is the criteria for declaring an artist to be "The King Of Rock and Roll"? Album sales? Popularity (both inside and outside the United States)? Song writing abilities? Maybe some people might tell me that Elvis Presley shines in all of the above mentioned criteria. That's fine. But, again, it is all a matter of taste.

OK, let's make it a little more interesting and convert the term "The King Of Pop" into it's plural version "The Kings Of Pop". Some folks out there will immediately tell me that "The Kings Of Pop" are "The Beatles", not only in terms of album sales but for also (apparently) being the pioneers of the concept of a "boy band" and in terms of the kind of impact they had on "popular culture" during the "British Invasion" of the 60's. Right! Gotcha!

Now for the term, "The Queen Of Pop". Immediately, all the Madonna fans and Lady Gaga fans out there will put on their "boxing gloves", getting ready for the fight of their lives. Yep! I've been witness to quite a few debates about which woman can be rightfully crowned "The Queen Of Pop". Some onlookers butted in and began speaking of "Kylie Minogue".

My conclusion on all this is : "by using titles like these (for an "elite" list of artists), to me, people are actually saying that in the next 100 or maybe even 1000 years (from a very hypothetical sense, of course, because it is close to impossible for any of us to predict the kind of trends which will prevail in a 100 or 1000 years time), the pop industry, rock 'n' roll industry, the blues industry, etc (in the context of both mainstream and indie music) hasn't a chance in hell of ever having an artist who can match the success and popularity of the "legends" like Elvis, Madonna or Michael Jackson (for instance)".

I have even been witness to an argument among 3 friends of mine at University who were literally shouting at each other about which band can rightfully be termed as "The Kings Of Progressive Rock". One bugger declared it to be "Yes". The other declared it to be "Pink Floyd" and the other felt it was "Queen". Poor bastards! The only thing they didn't do was to physically beat each other up! To me, bands like "Yes", "Pink Floyd" and "Queen" made immense contributions in the "progressive rock" genre, but it isn't fair to term one band as the "Kings" and other bands in the same genre as "their humble servants!".

I do think it is rather silly to use terms like "King", "Queen", "Knight" (there is a possibility, you know? What with the media making up all kinds of shit), "Joker", "Jack Ass" (only kidding!), "Ladies In Waiting" (you never know!) and "Royalty" to describe the contribution of artists in various genres. According to me, you can rightfully describe "The Beatles", "Elvis", "Michael Jackson" and "Madonna" as pioneers in their fields but giving them these titles is pretty much taking things a bit too far. It is as absurd as terming Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page as a "deity".

Edited by Kiwi_Zep_Fan87
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My conclusion on all this is : "by using titles like these (for an "elite" list of artists), to me, people are actually saying that in the next 100 or maybe even 1000 years, the pop industry, rock 'n' roll industry, the blues industry, etc (in the context of both mainstream and indie music) hasn't a chance in hell of ever having an artist who can match the success and popularity of the "legends" like Elvis, Madonna or Michael Jackson (for instance)".

There won't be a pop industry in 100 years, let alone a 1000. Popular music will have been reduced to data packets you download in the privacy of your own home.

All the major labels are doomed to fold or downsize because artists will continue to have the means within which to distribute their recordings independently.

There will never be another artist who can match the success of Elvis (specifically his sales figures) because popular culture has become far too fragmented.

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There won't be a pop industry in 100 years, let alone a 1000. Popular music will have been reduced to data packets you download in the privacy of your own home.

All the major labels are doomed to fold or downsize because artists will continue to have the means within which to distribute their recordings independently.

There will never be another artist who can match the success of Elvis (specifically his sales figures) because popular culture has become far too fragmented.

With all due respect, how can any of us be too sure about anything and make bold predictions about whether the pop industry will actually exist in 100 years time? I know that you are looking at facts and figures and from a very realistic sense, you are trying to point out the so-called "inevitable". But none of us can be too sure about anything. That's my opinion.

And take pop music. Who knew that there will be a Lady Gaga out to snatch the so called title from Madonna? You might not agree but I've seen 1000s of kids going nuts over here in Sydney, when she came for her "Monsters Ball" tour.

And you say, the entire music industry will become digitalised? Looking at the trends, I may agree with you. With all due respect, I think that is a bit too impossible to tell. I mean, when I was a kid, my dad who is a huge fan of vinyls thought that what with the emergence of CDs and stuff like that, vinyls will lose their popularity and people might not be interested in turn tables anymore! Luckily, he was dead wrong! Vinyls are so popular among my friends and people of my age!

Anyway, back on topic, I think these so called titles are just media cooked up nonsense and that they don't mean a thing.

Edited by Emma Jane
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There won't be a pop industry in 100 years, let alone a 1000. Popular music will have been reduced to data packets you download in the privacy of your own home.

All the major labels are doomed to fold or downsize because artists will continue to have the means within which to distribute their recordings independently.

There will never be another artist who can match the success of Elvis (specifically his sales figures) because popular culture has become far too fragmented.

That statement I made was from a very hypothetical sense. Realistically, I don't think any of us can predict what will or won't exist in a 100 or a 1000 years time. It is close to impossible, in my opinion. As far as Elvis is concerned, perhaps to generations of folks out there, he will always remain the King. But to me, irrespective of what statistics indicate, he was just another artist in the rock and roll scene. I am not one of those "die-hard" fans out there who chooses to declare that "Zep is the greatest band of all time" or "Elvis is the greatest". And statistics or the so called "indicators" do not mean anything to me. I am a die hard music fan who loves different genres and artists and who loves to discover new music. That's it.

Edited by Kiwi_Zep_Fan87
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With all due respect, how can any of us be too sure about anything and make bold predictions about whether the pop industry will actually exist in 100 years time?

Very easily really because they know they will not be alive or around then to be proven otherwise, so very easy to make statements like that.

The King of Rock'n'Roll was Bill Hailey (so I was told anyway).

Nobody can even begin to think what it will be like in a hundred or so years, 120 years ago or so there wasn't any of the popular music styles, Blues,Jazz,rock and Roll etc, in the 1890's they couldnt of even predicted how music styles would change and although they say every configuration of chord progressions,note order has been used in music, I guess its still possible to have a radical new musical style in a 100 years time.

They will be saying The King of Slink or something , who knows ??.

All the guys frm Chuck to Elvis are the Kings, they paved the way forward for some decent popular music.

P.S I have to agree with what "Captain Sensible" says

Edited by leddy
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The King of Rock'n'Roll was Bill Hailey (so I was told anyway).

Founders and Kings are two separate things. Berry, Hailey, Holly, Chubby Checker, Little Richard etc. have their rightful place in history but never came close to becoming the King of Rock. Elvis was and remains The King.

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Founders and Kings are two separate things. Berry, Hailey, Holly, Chubby Checker, Little Richard etc. have their rightful place in history but never came close to becoming the King of Rock. Elvis was and remains The King.

:bait: I know Stevie

PS Have to say the fatty Vegas Presley was pretty good. He was certainly "The King of Paunch" if nothing else.

Edited by leddy
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Geez, where have we heard this debate before?

On just about every discussion about Rock & Roll.

Elvis is "The King" because he took this new form of music to places it had never been before. Namely into the living rooms of millions of white, middle class homes. It's rather silly to argue about who did this first, or who wrote that. The fact is, is that this kid from humble beginnings became the most important entertainer of his time and the catalyst for where we are now. If you need any more proof, just ask Jimmy Page who inspired him to become a musician.

Edited by danelectro59
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Elvis is "The King" because he took this new form of music to places it had never been before. Namely into the living rooms of millions of white, middle class homes. It's rather silly to argue about who did this first, or who wrote that. The fact is, is that this kid from humble beginnings became the most important entertainer of his time and the catalyst for where we are now. If you need any more proof, just ask Jimmy Page who inspired him to become a musician.

Exactly.

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