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Elvis Presley is one of the greatest artists of all time the changes that he went through during his career was controversial and also a success. Elvis changed music genres during his career, his distinctive way of entertaining the audience, and many people praise him as a great icon. Marcus Greil has praised Elvis for his influences on people, a great entertainer, but besides being able to capture the attention by the fans, there is a negative standpoint where Greil states Elvis lacks in his originality. People focus on the peripheral features and the commercialized product he became and Marcus views Elvis attitude toward music is different, instead of concentrating on one genre, he transformed himself multiple times to become part of the music trend. People would recognize for his deep tone voice, his signature dance moves on stage, and his self image. I agree with Marcus’ praise towards Elvis because he is popular for his talent in the entertainment industry and how Elvis became a product of what people wanted him to be.
Elvis career slowly developed and changed through many types of genres, Greil states, “The cultural range of his music has expanded to the point where it includes not only the hits of the day, but also patriotic recitals, pure country gospel, and really dirty blues…” (Marcus, 1975, p.121). Elvis was successfully able that he could do many genres not just what he was good at such as rock ‘n’ roll. In the Mid 1950s rock and roll lecture, Echard (2011) discussed how he was exposed to different genres when he was growing up, “Elvis was extremely open minded in terms of musical style. Some of the kind of music he enjoyed included: hymns and gospel, country music, R+B, and TPA pop. As an amateur he used to sing all these kinds of music” (slide 7). This gave him an advantage to become a great singer, and be very flexible in what he did, he was able to transform his image and change into a different direction of genre , ” Almost as soon as he got to RCA, Elvis image began to soften a little and his material moved in a more pop direction” (Echard,14).
Besides looking at the singer’s artistic abilities, Marcus have incorporated nationalism and Rock and Roll together, “Marcus posited a notion of “Americanism” that would embrace
rock ‘n’ roll in its entirety” (Mazullo, 2000,145). Elvis was very important part of America’s music history and Marcus that he represented inventing new creativity to the music in the quote he mentioned, “If they define different versions of America, Presley’s career almost has the scope to take America in” (Marcus,121). This shows that he was important part of the Rock and roll history, Elvis was able to show America, certain music genres was not just for Black or White people, I think may have brought a rebellious side but at the same time it is making a statement to country. In Marcus’ perspective of Rock and roll gives a confidence image to the audience, “rock and roll was best understood as a cultural form that worked against the American grain, because of its “antiestablishment” message, while still representing a distinctive national character” (Mazullo,145).
People critiqued him at the start of his career doing something very different, media was a big help with developing him as a big artist, “It was through the influential TV performances that Presley’s early somatic presence was relayed to homes in America” (Sewlall,2010,47). This point goes back to Marcus (1975) that the opportunity to create new material in music is not there, “…his presentation of mastery the grandest fantasy of freedom, but it is finally a counterfeit of freedom: it takes place in a world that for all its openness (Everybody Welcome!) is aesthetically closed…”(Marcus,123). Popularity became important when media was important, Echard (2011) discussed in the Mid 1950s Rock and roll lecture, the radio was important and a lot of people were exposed to the music. Later on, it led to marketing other artists, such as teen idols. In the lecture of 1958-1964, Echard (2011) discussed the personality became more important than the music, which is an issue because it took away their chances to compose original songs, “Teen idols were invariably young and cute. Often they were inexperienced performers with comparatively weak voices and mild personas when compared to the first- generation rock and rollers. They were usually accompanied by studio musicians rather than by bands of their own” (slide 5). This represented the country, being able to put attractive music to the audience was important to the music market.
There was also an issue of what kind of artist they wanted him to be because record because they thought they want to satisfy the majority of the population, “…Elvis was marketed as the hillbilly cat…Elvis came to national attention, the first impulse of a larger record industry was to market him as a country musician.” (Echard,2011, slide 11). This supports what Marcus critiqued about Elvis, people want to advertise and control in a certain way that we lost the sense of originality, Other critiques that he discussed in the book “The mystery train” was while his fame was rising the meaning of music was fading away, “The golorious oppression of that presentation parallels the all-but-complete assimilation of a revolutionary musical style into the mainstream of American culture, where no one is challenged and no one is threatened” (Marcus,123). New teen idols, applies with the quote how they did not need to worry who wrote the better song, Echard (2011) discussed an example of Frankie Avalon in the 1958-1964 lecture, his image was less dangerous than Elvis. His music was intended for the youth Audience.
Elvis was portrayed as perfection, he had the physical attributes about him, it influenced people to be drawn to his personality, he was the typical guy girls wanted, Greil quoted, “great artist, a great rocker, a great purveyor of shlock, a great heart throb, a great bore, a great symbol of potency, a great ham, a great nice person, and, yes, a great American” (Marcus,121). Everything that is described here, I believe is just the peripheral characteristics of Elvis that is shown to us, Marcus has a good standpoint of Elvis capability to just to please his fans by the presentation of his performance.
Even though he lacked originality, he showed a confidence in his music which showed through his performance, he was able to interpret other people’s songs better than the original version by another artist, “… and to know that even though other signers would have come up with a version of the new black music is acceptable to teenage America, of who did emerge in Elvis’s wake, none sang as powerfully, or with more than a touch of his magic” (Marcus ,141). The story of his humble life and to rise to fame, I believe that many people were inspired in him in some way even if someone was trying to become an artist or becoming something else, he was relatable to the general public even though he presented with a lot of star qualities, Marcus stated in his book, “A real glow passes and forth between Elvis and his audience, as he shares a bit of what it means to transcend the world of weakness, failure, worry age and fear, shows what it means for a boy who sprung the poor to be godly and shares that too.” (Marcus,127)
Greil Marcus presented with relevant arguments about Elvis Presley’s development of his career, he presented the disadvantage of the emerging lack of original songs written by the artist because the production became the important part of making a successful single. Marcus had a strong understanding of America’s new music trend and being able to explain that Rock “n” roll was influential even though it is not a popular genre today. Media was important to promote the artist, Elvis Presley was able to perfect his presentation, which did not matter, if he wrote a song or not, his technical skills and the image was already the total package, his influences of performances influenced other artists. His legacy has left an imprint in the music industry, most people today are still able to recognize who is, songs that he did have been done by the artist today.
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