Elvis Biographical ArticleElvis Aron Presley was a performing artist of monumental import to the development of rock and roll.
The crowned king of his genre, he managed to build a lasting legacy as a musician and entertainer within his 47 years of life. The worldwide phenom from the small town of Tupelo, Mississippi endured a rapid rise to fame and stardom after starting his musical career in Memphis, Tennessee. At just 19, he recorded his first song at Sun Records, but a mere two years later (in 1956), he was hot on the charts at number one with "Heartbreak Hotel."
Elvis's music spanned genres and ethnic backgrounds - pulling significant influence from the black-dominated genre “rhythm and blues,” of which his eponymous debut album featured three songs covered in his own unique style. He sang Little Richard's, Ray Charles's and the Drifters' songs in a manner that white listeners hadn't heard from a country-born performer. His take on this music would prove, ultimately, to serve as a major driving force for his meteoric ascent in notoriety. Coupled with his lively, overtly sexual stage presence, it's little wonder his fans caused such a stir at his concerts. At the height of his fame, most all of his concerts were riotous affairs.
Elvis's stardom crossed musical-visual boundaries as well when he first stepped into film in 1956. His film debut saw him playing to his sexual appeal in "Love Me Tender." A slew of films would follow this first one, most created during his 7-year recording hiatus in the 60's and all of them moving along similar love-based narratives. Before his extensive body of films would be produced, though, he was drafted into the U.S. Army.
1958 marked the year in which Elvis joined the Army. He served first as a private in Arkansas - having been convinced to serve as a regular soldier instead of joining Special Services. He took advantage of his brief, 2-week leave to record songs which were carefully released during his stay in the military to help maintain interest in his music. This proved a successful plan - sustaining his notoriety in the public eye with a number of well-received hits during his absence.
Elvis scored a total of 10 top 40 hits while he was still in the military - including songs like "Hard Headed Woman" and "A Big Hunk o' Love." On top of that, his compilation album, "Elvis' Golden Records," reached 3rd on the LP chart in 1958.
Coming into the 60's, Elvis' courtship with the young Priscilla Ann Wagner had already begun. The two had met on September 13, 1959 - when she was just 14 years old. Elvis himself was 24 and still serving in the Army at that time. It was in Germany that they first met. A long and somewhat scandalous courtship would follow over the course of 7 years, fraught with myriad allegations of affairs on Elvis' behalf with the leading ladies of the movies he would film throughout the early 60's. Despite the difficulties, they would eventually marry in Vegas on the 1st of May, 1967. The ceremony itself would last but 8 minutes - lending large notoriety to the iconic Vegas-styled, impulsive wedding concept. Nine months later, their only daughter, Lisa Marie, was born.
Their marriage officially ended in 1973, when Elvis filed for divorce.
Although Elvis' life had taken many interesting turns throughout the 60's his appeal had dwindled.
By the end of the 60's, Elvis found himself in a rut. Having spent the better portion of the decade building up a collection of film appearances, his musical output had seen a dip in positive reception. Most of his songs weren't causing much of a commotion and only two of his eight releases between January 1967 and May 1968 managed to chart at all. He needed a revival and, luckily, he got one.
It was the December 1968 Elvis special airing on NBC that would later come to be known as the Elvis comeback special. It positively reignited his fame and ramped up his standing in the public eye to new heights. The special proved to be the first chance Elvis had of performing live since 1961 - charming a small studio audience with his energetic playthroughs of his own classic songs. The show itself became NBC's highest rated production of the season and the launchpad Elvis needed to put his career back on track. This was also the singer's first shift in fashion towards his iconic, high-collar look; this time in black leather.
Throughout the 5 years following his 1968 special, he built up his image and success substantially with a solid body of well-received releases. His "From Elvis in Memphis" album of 1969 garnered positive reviews all-around and reached the number one slot in the UK's chart. This success was followed by a long-lasting series of successful Vegas performances. It was at this time that Elvis set about having his classic jumpsuit stage uniform designed; a look he derived from his fascination with karate.
In 1973, Elvis performed in the now legendary "Aloha from Hawaii" television special wearing his stage uniform adorned with a cape and eagle motif. The special was the world's first global satellite concert broadcast. The performance's resultant double-album went on to sell five million copies and reach number one on the charts that year.
After 1973, Elvis began to suffer the consequences of a difficult, demanding lifestyle and routine prescription drug abuse, according to popular reports. His health waned quickly in the wake of his failed marriage and increased touring requirements. On August 16, 1977, he died - suffering a heart attack in his own home on the Graceland property. The Graceland estate is now listed as a historic place (since 1991) and a full-fledged national landmark (since 2006) - serving as the second most-visited house in the country, just behind the White House.
Elvis' life and career over, his legacy lives on in the hearts of many faithful fans around the world. Though he publicly refused the title of "King of Rock and Roll" - attributing it rightly to the likes of rhythm and blues predecessors such as "Fats Domino," his legacy in the genre and in music as a whole is difficult to exaggerate.