Elvis Presley is considered one of the most commercially successful performers of popular music of the 20th century. His fame is notable as most people call him only by his first name – Elvis. The singer is also associated with the phrase “King of Rock and Roll.” He is viewed as the most outstanding performer of all time and the most incredible vocalist. It is important to analyze his musical genre, impact, and origins to understand why Elvis Presley is an influential figure in world pop culture.
The Presley family belonged to the working class, and they often moved from place to place. Elvis was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1935; he had a twin brother named Jessie Garon, who was stillborn (Elvis Presley Biography). They moved to Tennessee in 1948, where it was easier for the head of the family to find work (Elvis Presley Biography). Finally, the family settled in Memphis; here, Elvis became familiar with African American styles of music such as blues, boogie-woogie, and rhythm and blues.
Presley worked in many places after graduating from high school. He was also trying to realize his dream in the music industry. In 1955 he recorded his first demo version of the song at what would later be called Sun Studio; in the same year, he signed a contract with RCA Records (Elvis Presley Biography). Soon, by 1956, Presley was already recording his songs and touring in the hope of success (Elvis Presley Biography). He quickly became an international star, played in 33 popular movies, and sold over a billion records. Moreover, Elvis got 14 Grammy nominations and three wins. He died relatively young at his Memphis home in 1977 (Elvis Presley Biography). Population acknowledged his musical talent, charisma, and human kindness. These days, Elvis Presley is regarded as one of the most influential people of the 20th century.
Even though Presley did not receive a formal musical education, he possessed musical talent. He played several instruments, including bass, guitar, and piano. Elvis was the so-called musical prodigy, having a perfect pitch and remembering harmony for a long time. His style has been described as a rough, emotional vocal manner emphasizing the rhythm of the blues with a string orchestra and drum rhythm guitar (Elvis’ Musical Style). Presley music was a union of lyrics, distinctive tempo and beat; it could be recognized as Elvis’ song almost always. Presley combined white and African American music culture in his first record – a cover of Arthur Crudup’s blues hit “That’s Alright Mama”(Elvis’ Musical Style). The producers could not determine the genre of Presley music and eventually called this style rockabilly.
First, Elvis Presley was inspired by gospel music, especially by the Statesmen Quartet. As he used to attend services from early childhood, he was inspired by all-night gospel singing (Doll). The Statesmen was famous in the 1950s; Elvis was fascinated by the vocalist of this music group – Jake Hess (Elvis’s Childhood). Presley borrowed the vocal technique; for instance, it is recognizable in his album “How Great Thou Art”, where Jake Hess’s features can be seen (Elvis’s Childhood). From gospel music, he obtained “voluptuous phrasing and ecstatic self-confidence” (Elvis’ Musical Style). Another quartet member James Wetherington also impacted young Elvis’s dance and looks, especially the singer’s suits for performance and hip dance moves on stage (Elvis’s Childhood). In this case, Elvis’s voice is considered the principal instrument in the melody.
The following person who influenced the music style of Elvis Presley was B. B. King. He was born in 1925 and, by the time of adolescence of Elvis Presly, was named as a King of Delta Blues. While living in Memphis, Elvis visited the Beale Street neighborhoods, where he watched the bluesman play (How Elvis Was Influenced by “The Blues”). Young Presley met the legend of Delta blues B. B. King; afterward, in his songs, the pentimento of the blues vocalist could be recognized (Elvis’ Musical Style).
The character of instrumentation in Elvis songs was taken from the Delta blues, using acoustic and harmonicas guitars. The music of B. B. King also originated from gospel songs and dance beats; therefore, it is similar to Elvis’ performance, as the beat was noticeable due to rhythm and blues (How Elvis Was Influenced by “The Blues”). He used blues form; regarding lyrics, wit and menace in his songs also came from B. B. King, accompanied by love and life’s hardships.
Furthermore, the American country singer Dean Martin had a significant influence on Elvis Presley. Martin was born in 1917; Elvis was a fan of popular music, singing ballads like Dean Martin (Elvis’s Childhood). Presley patterned the performance of “Love Me Tender,” relating to the country singer’s style with a slow tempo called largo (Elvis’ Musical Style). The singing manner of the King of Rock’n’Roll was often described as romantical crooning and following relentless screeching, putting his heart into melody (Elvis’ Musical Style). From first sight, lyrics seemed to be simple as in classic country songs; however, Presley transformed it into deep stories. As a result, the distinctive instrumentation of Elvis’s songs combined group choral vocals, heavily amplified electric guitars and drums.
Elvis’ musical influences were multiple genres, from blues, church and country music. The voice served the basis of the songs, being described as an open, raucous, ecstatic singing, accompanied by the reckless sound of R&B and gospel melodies. The Statesmen Quartet, B. B. King and Dean Martin defined the unique genre of Elvis Presley’s music. Mixing various styles and backgrounds allowed the singer to become one of the influential music figures in the 20th century. Unlike other musicians who played early rockabilly in the country tradition, Elvis moved away from the canons, combining the music of African American and white, and at the same time uniting the whole country.
Doll, Susan. “Elvis Presley Biography.” HowStuffWorks. Web.
“Elvis’s Childhood.” Musician Guide. Web.
“Elvis’ Musical Style, as a Musician and Impact as a Vocalist and Stage Performer.” Elvis Australia. 2017. Web.
“Elvis Presley Biography.” Graceland. Web.
“How Elvis Was Influenced by ‘The Blues.’” Elvis Information Network. Web.