A swivel of the hip and a shake of the leg and the crowd goes wild. Girls scream, there’s fainting in the front row, and concerned parents are wondering what, exactly, is going on. Elvis is in town.
When Elvis Presley arrived on the scene in the mid-1950s, the world of pop music changed forever. He brought a new sound and a new aesthetic to rock ‘n’ roll, influenced by blues, Christian gospel, and Southern country, and sung in his distinctive baritone voice with a three-octave range. His high-energy performances, meanwhile, sent his fans into a frenzy, while courting controversy among society’s more conservative elements.
Elvis was more than a singer, though. He soon became a cultural icon, whose sense of style ranged from a slick James Dean look (complete with signature quiff and sideburns), to outlandish diamond-studded jumpsuits that inspired the likes of Elton John. He was endlessly colorful and entertaining both on stage and off, belying his humble Memphis roots and the shyness he felt as a child.
In his personal life, Presley had his ups and downs, struggling with both drugs and his health (he had a well-documented love of peanut butter, bacon, and banana sandwiches). Still, his comeback concerts never failed to impress, and few doubted that he deserved the title of the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” As Leonard Bernstein once said, “Elvis is the greatest cultural force in the 20th century. He introduced the beat to everything, music, language, clothes, it’s a whole new social revolution.”
Here are 15 quotes from the King himself, covering everything from his famously provocative pelvis to his views on fame and fortune.
Some people tap their feet, some people snap their fingers, and some people sway back and forth. I just sorta do ‘em all together, I guess.
To judge a man by his weakest link or deed is like judging the power of the ocean by one wave.
The first time that I appeared on stage, it scared me to death. I really didn't know what all the yelling was about. I didn't realize that my body was moving. It's a natural thing to me. So to the manager backstage I said, “What'd I do? What'd I do?” And he said, “Whatever it is, go back and do it again.”
Just because I managed to do a little something, I don't want anyone back home to think I got the big head.
The image is one thing and the human being is another… it's very hard to live up to an image.
In public, I like real conservative clothes, something that's not too flashy. But onstage, I like ‘em as flashy as you can get ‘em.
Money's meant to be spread around. The more happiness it helps create, the more it’s worth. It's worthless as old cut-up paper if it just lies in a bank and grows there without ever having been used to help a body.
Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away.
I'm not a loner, I don't think. But I've got to admit. Sometimes I like just getting off by myself. You know. Just off somewhere alone. No crowds or anything. Where it's just peaceful. And quiet. And you can think.
I figure all any kid needs is hope and the feeling he or she belongs. If I could do or say anything that would give some kid that feeling, I would believe I had contributed something to the world.
Money can never buy everything your heart desires. It won't buy love, or health, or true happiness.
My momma taught me one thing right from the very beginning, and that's that everyone's got a right to his own opinion. I believe that. And I also believe that you can't make everyone like you.
I watch my audience and listen to them, and I know we are all getting something out of our system. None of us knows what it is. The important thing is that we’re getting rid of it and nobody’s getting hurt.
I've had a pretty good lesson in human nature. It’s more important to try to surround yourself with people who can give you a little happiness, because you only pass through this life once, Jack. You don’t come back for an encore.
Photo credit: Allstar Picture Library Ltd./ Alamy Stock Photo