Singer Elvis Presley has continued to make waves in the entertainment industry despite having passed on decades ago.
For years in the 90s, the singer delighted music fans with his successful songs, which were said to have their origins in black music. While he had outstanding accomplishments, he was loathed by some section of the public, courting controversy for purportedly being racist and advocating vulgarity with his signature dance moves.
In light of the new biopic about the renowned singer directed by Baz Luhrmann, Elvis’ ex-wife Priscilla Presley has come out to reject the racist claims, saying that her former husband had black friends and had no issues with color.
Elvis Presley Has ‘Never Been A Racist’
Speaking with Piers Morgan on his show “Piers Morgan Uncensored” on Tuesday, Priscilla shared her thoughts about Luhrmann’s new biopic “Elvis,” in which actor Austin Butler plays the Rock’ n’ Roll legend.
When asked if her ex-husband would have been a victim of the cancel culture that has recently afflicted the entertainment world, the 77-year-old entrepreneur replied, saying Elvis got along with everyone, regardless of color.
“He’s never been a racist. Elvis had friends, Black friends, friends from all over,” she said. “He loved their music. He loved their style. He loved being around, you know, Black musicians.”
Priscilla then highlighted the singer’s association with certain black artists who were also successful at the time to back up her claim.
She continued: “I mean, Fats Domino, when he was in Vegas, he was in the lounge playing, and he would always, we would always, go and hang out with him. Sammy Davis Jr [did] the same thing; he would always come into the dressing room. He loved, loved being around blacks and being around anyone actually.”
Some Black Artistes Criticized Elvis
While Priscilla felt sure that Elvis’ connection with black artists was free of bias, certain artists, including Grammy-winning musician and producer Quincy Jones, have expressed a different viewpoint. Jones claimed during an interview in 2021 that he would never have collaborated with the famous King of Rock’ n’ Roll while he was alive.
At the time, he attributed his view of Elvis to his interaction with orchestra leader Tommy Dorsey while collaborating on a project.
“I was writing for [orchestra leader] Tommy Dorsey, oh God, back then in the ’50s. And Elvis came in, and Tommy said: ‘I don’t want to play with him.’ He was a racist mother — I’m going to shut up now,” he revealed as per NME
Acclaimed pianist and song composer Ray Charles was also among Elvis’s greatest critics, once claiming that the singer plagiarized Black sounds for white audiences.
Alongside getting the flak for alleged racist behavior, Elvis also courted controversy over his iconic dance moves during his live performances.
The conservative public vilified his trademark hip-swiveling and leg-shaking dance routines in the 1950s. Many felt he encouraged adolescent delinquency and a lack of moral standards among the younger generation.
In 1956, the “Jailhouse Rock” vocalist would come out to defend his style, saying he was not trying to be perverse.
“I don’t roll my — what they call ‘pelvic gyrations’ — my pelvis has nothing to do with what I do,” Elvis said as per TV guide. “I just — I get rhythm with the music. I jump around to it because I enjoy what I’m doing.”
He continued: “I’m not trying to be vulgar, not trying to [simulate] sex. I just do a lot of wigglin’ and quiverin’, but I never do a bump or grind. I can’t sit still when I sing, so the kids can’t sit still.”
Elvis Presley’s Legacy
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Love him or loathe him, Elvis remains one of the greatest singers to have ever walked the earth’s surface, setting countless music records that modern performers have yet to equal. To this date, he is still the best-selling solo artist and holds the record for the most gold and platinum albums.
While several films have been made about him since his death, filmmaker Luhrmann’s latest “Elvis” biopic brings to light his roots in the black music industry, which previous ones about the performer mainly disregarded.
The biopic starred Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla, Tom Hanks as Elvis’ manager, and Helen Thomson, Richard Roxburgh, Kelvin Harrison Jr., David Wenham, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Luke Bracey in supporting parts. “Elvis” grossed $31 million in its debut weekend in June and is set to premiere on HBO Max in August.
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