Letter to the editor

Another Look At Elvis

Hi!! I don’t particularly care what the writer of the Elvis article feels about Elvis Presley the performer, but here is what he should have known about Elvis the person.

First of all, Elvis reputation was once unjustly tarnished by an assertion Jet magazine made about how he felt about African Americans. He never said it (blacks are only good to me because they buy my records, and shine my shoes), as this was supposed to have taken place in Boston, in the 1950's, a place he never visited until 1971.

Hundreds of articles have repeated what Elvis never said, and although "Jet" magazine itself later found no evidence that it had ever taken place, and published it, it nevertheless keeps being mentioned as if he had said it. Presley could not have been a racist, as B.B. King, Fats Domino, Jackie Wilson, Muhammad Ali, James Brown, and most every African American superstar of his time held him in extremely high esteem.

Elvis Presley was a terrific performer of African music but he never claimed to have invented rock and roll. In hundreds of interviews in the mid-1950´s, when it was considered a taboo for a white American to sing African American music, he said that he not only loved the music, but that it had influenced him, from black gospel to R&B, and especially the blues.

The tremendous success of Presley, as a vocalist, and as a performer, stemmed from the fact that he just didn’t interpret R&B, gospel or the blues, but that he did so whilst simultaneously adding a great Palette to that voice, which included his peerless knowledge of pop, country, European, neo-classical, operatic and even Latin music, and all of that before he even turned 18 years old.

In the company of Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash, in early December of 1956, at a jam session in SUN Records studios, when he was already the #1 singer in the world, and the so-called King of Rock and Roll, he starts the jam session with a composition written by Agustin Lara in 1926, and called "You belong to my heart". He even knows the Spanish lyrics to "Salamander una vez".

In February of 1970, the managers at the Houston Astrodome, when advised that Presley had brought with him the Sweet Inspirations to sing back=up for him, asked him, plainly, to get rid of them, or his appearances (6 back to back for a cumulative audiences of over 245,000 in less than three days) would be cancelled if he did not. And what this so-called racist did? he said, "either they sing, or I cancel". They gave in...

He gave Cadillacs to black Americans he never even knew for more than a few seconds. Bought wheelchairs for black American ladies who needed it, and he never once told the press about it. There are thousands stories about his generosity to black African Americans, like the time he paid for Jackie Wilson´s operation, or when he secretly financed Arthur Crudup´s last recording session.


Jim Burrows

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