Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) was one of the most influential and iconic American singers of the 20th century, selling over a billion records worldwide. Want to know just how legendary he is? Ask most any foreign national to name something about America, and they'll likely say "Elvis".
Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, Presley moved with his family to Memphis, Tennessee in his teens. There he began his professional singing career, signing his first contract in 1954 with Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records, who teamed him with two other musicians, guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black. (They were later joined by drummer DJ Fontana.) Elvis himself often played guitar. These legendary early sessions can be enjoyed on the compilation album The Sun Sessions from 1976. In 1955 Phillips signed Presley to RCA Records, with whom he would remain for the rest of his career.
During The '50s, several popular artists had combined Country and Blues influences to make Rock & Roll, but the genre really took off with Presley's breakthrough in 1956. The 21-year-old Presley stood out with his energetic performances, distinctive singing voice, influence from black musicians, and his often-controversial sex appeal. Moral Guardians were shocked by some of his dance moves, particularly his tendency to shake his hips. Teenagers, of course, loved him. He took a break from making music from 1958 to 1960 to serve in the US Army and then returned, more popular than ever. Many future rock stars were directly inspired by him to take up music, including The Beatles, Roy Orbison, and Bruce Springsteen.
Presley had a notorious manager, Colonel Tom Parker (born Andreas van Kuijk in The Netherlands), who had played an important role in his early breakthrough. In return, Parker took a great chunk of his earnings and dictated to Presley the direction of his career and image. In the 1960s, Parker steered him away from touring and making records toward acting in films and selling soundtrack albums, which he hoped would prove more lucrative. They were generally poorly received, and as The British Invasion took hold, Presley started to look out of touch with the music scene. note
He then made a Career Resurrection in 1968 with his first live performance in seven years, on a massively-watched show called Elvis. On the back of this, he returned to being a rock star, releasing more albums and taking several successful tours in the US at the turn of The '70s. The last great moment of his career was Aloha from Hawaii in 1973, the world's first satellite-televised rock concert. Thereafter, his health (and the quality of his concerts) deteriorated significantly due to his battle with prescription drug abuse. On August 16, 1977, Presley died in Graceland, his mansion in Memphis. He was reading in his bathroom that night before he had to begin another tour in Maine. Presley suffered a heart attack and his body was found several hours later. He was 42 years old.
Despite the fact Presley almost never actually wrote songs himself note , he became one of the most successful and influential musicians in the 20th century. There are probably more tribute acts to Elvis Presley than any other music artist. But perhaps his most important legacy is the enduring popularity of guitar-driven rock music.
Presley was a charter member inductee of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and is an honoree of several other such organizations, including those devoted to Blues, Rockabilly, Gospel Music, Honky Tonk, and Country Music.
Despite persistent denials that Presley died in 1977, the U.S. Postal Service put his likeness on a first-class postage stamp in 1993.
- 1956 - Elvis Presley (The Album)
- 1956 - Elvis note
- 1957 - Loving You
- 1957 - Elvis' Christmas Album
- 1958 - King Creole
- 1959 - For LP Fans Only
- 1959 - Elvis Sails
- 1959 - A Date with Elvis
- 1960 - Elvis Is Back!
- 1960 - G.I. Blues
- 1960 - His Hand in Mine
- 1961 - Something for Everybody
- 1961 - Blue Hawaii
- 1962 - Pot Luck
- 1962 - Girls! Girls! Girls!
- 1963 - It Happened at the World's Fair
- 1963 - Fun in Acapulco
- 1964 - Kissin' Cousins
- 1964 - Roustabout
- 1965 - Girl Happy
- 1965 - Harum Scarum
- 1966 - Frankie and Johnny
- 1966 - Paradise, Hawaiian Style
- 1966 - Spinout
- 1967 - How Great Thou Art
- 1967 - Double Trouble
- 1967 - Clambake
- 1968 - Speedway
- 1969 - From Elvis in Memphis
- 1969 - From Memphis to Vegas / From Vegas to Memphis note
- 1970 - That's The Way It Is
- 1971 - Elvis Country (I'm 10,000 Years Old)
- 1971 - Love Letters from Elvis
- 1971 - Elvis Sings The Wonderful World of Christmas
- 1972 - Elvis Now
- 1972 - He Touched Me
- 1973 - Elvis note
- 1973 - Raised on Rock
- 1974 - Good Times
- 1975 - Promised Land
- 1975 - Today
- 1976 - From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee
- 1976 - The Sun Sessions
- 1977 - Moody Blue note
- 2010 - Viva Elvis
- 1968 - Elvis (NBC TV Special) (Often referred to as the "68 Comeback Special")note
- 1969 - From Memphis To Vegas / From Vegas To Memphis note
- 1970 - On Stage
- 1972 - Elvis: As Recorded At Madison Square Garden
- 1973 - Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite
- 1974 - Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis
- 1974 - Having Fun with Elvis on Stage note
- 1977 - Moody Blue note
- 1977 - Elvis In Concert note
Films starring Elvis Presley:
- Love Me Tender (1956)
- Loving You (1957)
- Jailhouse Rock (1957)
- King Creole (1958)
- G.I. Blues (1960)
- Flaming Star (1960)
- Wild in the Country (1961)
- Blue Hawaii (1961)
- Follow That Dream (1962)
- Kid Galahad (1962)
- Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962)
- It Happened at the World's Fair (1963)
- Fun In Acapulco (1963)
- Kissin' Cousins (1964)
- Viva Las Vegas! (1964)
- Roustabout (1964)
- Girl Happy (1965)
- Tickle Me (1965)
- Harum Scarum (1965)
- Frankie and Johnny (1966)
- Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966)
- Spinout (1966)
- Easy Come Easy Go (1967)
- Double Trouble (1967)
- Clambake (1967)
- Stay Away Joe (1968)
- Speedway (1968)
- Live a Little, Love a Little (1968)
- Charro! (1969)
- The Trouble with Girls (1969)
- Change of Habit (1969)
- Elvis Thats The Way It Is (1970) note
- Elvis On Tour (1972) note
Media about Elvis Presley:Biopics and Documentaries
- Elvis (1979): A Made-For-TV biopic directed by John Carpenter and starring Kurt Russell as Elvis.
- This Is Elvis (1981): Documentary
- Elvis (2022): A biopic directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Austin Butler as Elvis and Tom Hanks as Colonel Parker.
- Priscilla (2023): A biopic directed by Sofia Coppola focused on Elvis's wife Priscilla. Elvis is played by Jacob Elordi and Priscilla is played by Cailee Spaeny.
- Elvis Shrugged (1993): A three-part Affectionate Parody of Ayn Rand's epic Atlas Shrugged featuring a still alive Elvis whose clone died in his place.
- Elvis Meets Nixon (1997): A Made-For-TV mockumentary about Elvis’ meeting with then President Richard Nixon.
- Bubba Ho Tep (2002): A comedy implying Elvis is still alive and the one who died was an impersonator that he got to take his place for a break.
- Elvis Found Alive (2012): A mockumentary about Elvis who supposedly faked his death.
- The Identical (2014): A musical drama that features a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Elvis, Drexel Hemsley, and juxtaposes his life with that of his separated-at-birth twin brother,note who becomes his impersonator.note
- Elvis And Nixon (2016): A comedy-drama film about Elvis’ meeting with President Richard Nixon, similar to the Elvis Meets Nixon above.
- Agent Elvis (2023-present): An adult animated action comedy co-created by Elvis’ widow Priscilla Presley depicting the King moonlighting as a secret agent.
People associated with Elvis Presley:
You ain't nothin' but a Trope Namer, just cryin' all the time...
"You can do anything, but lay off-a them blue suede tropes:"
- The '50s: For better or for worse, his was possibly the most famous face of the decade.
- '50s Hair: Elvis doesn't scream '50s without his ducktail pompadour. The long, thick sideburns only came out in The '70s. And he based his '50s look on a style Captain Marvel Jr. was rocking as early as 1941.
- Anachronism Stew: This applies to several of Presley's movies, especially any that are meant to be period pieces, yet Presley sings a rock and roll song or something approaching it. Love Me Tender, set in The American Civil War era, for example, features the semi-rocker "Poor Boy" which Presley performs complete with his trademark hip-swivel (in reality he'd have been arrested on the spot). One of his last films, The Trouble with Girls, is set in the 1920's, yet features the 1960's soul-style song "Clean Up Your Own Backyard" in which the lyrics reference "armchair quarterbacks" — a term coined only after the advent of television sports broadcasting in the 1950's.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "Blue Suede Shoes:"Well you can burn my house
Steal my car
Drink my liquor from an old fruit jar.
- Author Appeal: Or Author's Manager Appeal. Colonel Tom Parker had served in Hawaiʻi in the Army, then worked on the carnival circuit before going into management, which influenced the many Elvis projects involving Hawaii (Blue Hawaii, Girls! Girls! Girls!, Paradise, Hawaiian Style, Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite) or traveling shows (Roustabout, The Trouble with Girls, the "Guitar Man" production number in Elvis (NBC TV Special)).
- Berserk Button: "You can burn my house, steal my car, drink my liquor from an old fruit jar. Do anything that you want to do, but uh-uh, Honey, lay off of my shoes..."
- Big Eater: Toward the end of his life, Elvis gained a taste for rich, decadent foods he consumed in excess. There are at least two sandwiches that claim to be his favorite. Both "the Elvis" and the "Fool's Gold Loaf" are heavily fried. But the latter is said to have 8,000 to 9,000 calories and can feed eight to ten people. Other reports claim that he ate anywhere between 10,000 to 12,000 calories worth of fried foods daily.
- "In The Ghetto" from From Elvis in Memphis starts and ends with a boy being born in the ghetto.
- The first song Elvis ever recorded: "My Happiness," was a country weepie. The last song Elvis ever recorded in a studio, "He'll Have to Go", was a country weepie.
- Briefer Than They Think: He only started wearing jumpsuits on stage in 1970, and didn't really get fat until about 1975.
- Celebrity Paradox: In G.I. Blues, Elvis' character is singing with a band in a bar and a guy goes to the jukebox saying "I want to hear an original" and plays "Blue Suede Shoes"... by Elvis Presley, of course.
- In Girls! Girls! Girls!, Elvis' character is walking with his love interest along a sidewalk and pass by a movie theatre where the posters show that the current film is Elvis' Blue Hawaii.
- Christmas Songs: Elvisnote recorded two full Christmas albums (Elvis' Christmas Album in 1957, Elvis Sings The Wonderful World of Christmas in 1971), with a one-off single ("If Every Day Was Like Christmas" in 1966) in-between. The former is still the best-selling Christmas album of all time in the U.S., and his renditions of "Blue Christmas" and "Here Comes Santa Claus" continue to get frequent airplay each December.
- Disguised in Drag: A scene in Girl Happy from 1965.
- Dramatic Timpani: Featured on "If Every Day Was Like Christmas".
- Embarrassing Nickname: Believe it or not, "The King". Elvis hated being called that, since to him there was only one true King. He also disliked "The King of Rock 'n' Roll", believing that (1) he was given that nickname only because he was white, and (2) many black performers, such as his idol Fats Domino, were far more talented than he was.
- Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: The lyrics for "(You're the) Devil in Disguise" reference this:You look like an angel
Walk like an angel
Talk like an angel
But I got wise
You're the devil in disguise
- First-Name Basis: You can go anywhere in the English-speaking world (and even in some places where they don't speak English) and say "Elvis", and they know who you mean. By the start of the 1960s, RCA Records had pretty much stopped putting the name "Presley" on Elvis' album and singles sleeves.
- Formerly Fit: During the last few years of his life, Elvis put on quite a bit of weight, which has led fans to dub the final part of his career the "Fat Elvis years".
- Generation Xerox: The vicious cycle of poverty implied at the end of "In The Ghetto."
- Genre Roulette: Elvis detractors are quick to point out that Elvis wasn't any sort of rock & roll innovator like, say, Chuck Berry, but Elvis did have something that many of his contemporaries (besides maybe Buddy Holly) didn't, which was a rich, diverse body of work filled with a multitude of styles: rockabilly, country, show tunes (especially in the 60s), traditional pop, gospel, bossa nova, and even some Hawaiian flavor, all given the same passion and gusto.
- Gospel Music: One of the many genres Elvis dabbled in, made especially prominent since Elvis was proudly a God-fearing Christian. Curiously, his gospel recordings are the only recordings for which he won Grammy Awards.
- Gray Rain of Depression: "Kentucky Rain" where the narrator searches down a "lonely Kentucky backroad" on a "cold, dark afternoon" for his lost love.
- Greatest Hits Album: Many of them, including ELV1S: 30 #1 Hits (which turned out to have 31, as bonus track "A Little Less Conversation" topped the UK charts), and 2nd to None.
- Heavy Meta:
- "Good Rockin' Tonight" is one of the first rock examples.
- 1973's "Raised on Rock" is a weird one, since, as Elvis expert Ernst Jorgensen has noted, it's odd for Elvis to be singing about about growing up listening to the music he helped invent, but then it steers into outright Metafiction with these lines.Listening to the music that my idols made
I knew every single record the DJs played
From "Honky Tonk" to "Hound Dog" to "Johnny B. Goode"
- Hell-Bent for Leather: The Elvis 1968 special: The man rocks both the music and his black leather jacket and tight pants.
- I Know Karate: Elvis loved Karate and was an avid practitioner of Shotokan Karate and Kenpo as well as Taekwondo and famously loved showing his moves off on stage.
- It Will Never Catch On: In 1954, he was auditioning for a musician called Eddie Bond. Bond said to him: "Stick to driving a truck, because you'll never make it as a singer." Elvis recorded his first hit a few months later.
- Jackie Gleason was a producer for Stage Show, where Elvis made his debut on national TV in 1956. Allegedly, Gleason said of Presley afterwards: "He can't last, I'll tell you flatly, he can't last."
- Juke Box Musical: "Viva Elvis", the Cirque du Soleil show that ran in Las Vegas until 2012.
- Lady Luck: Invoked in "Viva Las Vegas":I'm gonna give it everything I've got
Lady Luck, please let the dice stay hot
Let me shoot a seven with every shot
Viva Las Vegas!
- Large Ham: Elvis wasn't exactly subtle about his emoting on record. Whether a ballad or a full-blown rock number, Elvis milked that signature vibrato for all it was worth.
- Later-Installment Weirdness: His last few narrative films made an admirable effort to avoid the frothy comedy/musical formula that had been run into the ground after G.I. Blues, though with mixed results. Stay Away, Joe dealt with life on a reservation, Live a Little, Love a Little is sort of a light attempt at a Sex Comedy, Charro is a faux Spaghetti Western (where he famously only sings the title song), The Trouble with Girls is a Period Piece Dramedy about a traveling Chatauqua show in The Roaring '20s, and Change of Habit tries to be a socially-relevant drama.
- Letters 2 Numbers: ELV1S: 30 #1 Hits, a Greatest Hits Album released in 2002.
- Lighter and Softer: The movie years in the 1960s wound up being this for his music, which became more about pop crossovers and novelties than the big rock numbers that made his name. Elvis eventually got fed up and revived his career.
- Listing Cities: "Guitar Man" mentions the unspecified Kingston (maybe Kingston, Arkansas, going by the song's geography); Memphis, Tennessee; Macon, Georgia; Panama City, Florida; and Mobile, Alabama.
- Live Album: Nine, starting with 1968's Elvis (NBC TV Special). The most infamous is Having Fun with Elvis on Stage, which is just a collection of Elvis talking to the audience during concerts, but devoid of any context, or even songs, making listeners at home wonder what the hell is going on.
- Location Song: "Viva Las Vegas", a Pep-Talk Song about the place.
- Lyrical Cold Open: "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Hound Dog" are possibly the two most famous uses of this trope in music.
- Miniscule Rocking: His first hit, "That's All Right" doesn't even hit the two-minute mark.
- Some of Elvis' movie songs run little more than a minute, including the rockin' "We're Coming in Loaded" from Girls! Girls! Girls!; timed at about one minute, twenty seconds the song actually had to be extended to fill a TV commercial for Nike that featured the song in the 2010s.
- "Nothingville", from the 1968 TV special, only runs around a minute, but it was written specifically as an intro to the big "Guitar Man" medley production number.
- New Sound Album:
- Blue Hawaii (moving away from the Rockabilly and R&B orientation of The '50s to a lighter pop sound), From Elvis in Memphis (a blend of Soul and Country Music influences, which would become his main mode for the rest of his career), Elvis Country (straight contemporary Country, which he would often emphasize in the aforementioned Soul/Country blend).
- Among his movies, there was G.I. Blues (the first frothy musical comedy with Elvis basically just playing himself, which became the main formula), Blue Hawaii again (back to the formula after the Acclaimed Flop receptions Flaming Star and Wild in the Country got, with the added bonus of an exotic locale), Kissin' Cousins (the basic formula, but on a much lower budget with a gimmicky plot and a tone that feels more like a feature-length Sitcom episode, which would carry over into his next few years of movies), Charro! (his first Western since Flaming Star, heralding a change to dramas with a only a handful of songs) and Elvis: That's the Way It Is (Concert Film).
- The Not-Remix: The original 1968 single version of "A Little Less Conversation", the version released on the 1970 budget album Almost in Love, and the rejected Elvis (NBC TV Special) version that became the basis of the JXL remix (Elvis singing live over a prerecorded backing track) all sound like different mixes, but they're all actually completely separate takes of the song from the same 1968 recording session, immediately distinguishable by Hal Blaine using slightly different syncopated drum rolls to open the song.
- Odd Friendship: He became good friends with Liberace during their time in Las Vegas together. Elvis even began wearing his famous gold jackets after receiving one as a gift from Liberace.
- Precision F-Strike: In his famous rant about how tabloids reported that he was strung out, Elvis says, "If I find or hear the individual who has said that about me, I'm gonna break your god-damn neck, you son of a bitch."
- Prisoner Performance: The song "Jailhouse Rock" is about the inmates of a prison putting on a band-session and playing music.
- Rearrange the Song:
- Elvis Vs JXL's "A Little Less Conversation"
- Dozens of Presley's tracks have been given the JXL treatment, dating back as far as 1981 and the successful remix album Guitar Man.
- Cirque du Soleil's "Viva Elvis" featured remixes of Elvis' song catalogue, much the same way their show "Love" remixed The Beatles.
- Elvis songs mixed with the orchestration of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, with the album If I Can Dream, and its sequel album, The Wonder Of You.
- Red Baron: "The King," or more elaborately, "The King Of Rock & Roll." He's been promoted as such for so long now that it may surprise some to know that Elvis was uncomfortable being called that in the first place, for multiple reasons.
- Ring on a Necklace: "Wear My Ring Around Your Neck" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin; the singer is asking his lady love to wear his ring around her neck as a sign that she's taken.
- Rockabilly: Elvis is seen as one of the earliest singers in this genre and popularized it.
- Rock & Roll: He is often considered to be the "King" of the genre. Elvis insisted the real king of rock and roll was Fats Domino.
- Self-Plagiarism: A common complaint about his movies is that after a while they just rehashed the same plotlines and premises. This includes three movies set in Hawaiʻi (Blue Hawaii, Girls! Girls! Girls!, Paradise, Hawaiian Style) and three movies where he plays a race car driver (Viva Las Vegas!, Spinout, Speedway).
- She's All Grown Up: The girl from "Little Sister", who the narrator hopes won't break his heart like her big sister.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: "In The Ghetto" from From Elvis in Memphis.
- Sigil Spam: His gold lightning bolt with the letters TCB (Taking Care of Business).
- Springtime for Hitler: According to The Other Wiki, Elvis did not want to re-record Ernest Tubb's hit, "Blue Christmas", and after much arguing, deliberately sabotaged his recording by singing it in the silliest way possible with the worst backing vocals ever; he instructed the singers and backing musicians to just have fun. The single still shot up to #1 and is still a Christmas favourite.
- Supergroup: The Million Dollar Quartet. Elvis met up with Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins in Sun Studios in 1956 and they recorded a few songs in an impromptu jam session. There was also a time in 1965 when The Beatles went to his mansion to meet him and they had an impromptu jam session (though Ringo Starr was mostly left out since they didn't have drums handy), though no recordings exist of this due to them specifically forbidding it.
- Too Hot for TV:
- When Elvis appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, the cameras kept trying to censor his waist by aiming up or doing close-ups of his face, due to the effect his gyrations were having on female audience members. (And thus, presumably, any teenage girls tuning in.)
- Comedian Ernie Kovacs spoofed this on his show by presenting "The bottom half of Elvis!" (A pair of pants with a guitar attached dancing around the stage).
- Unbuilt Trope: "A Little Less Conversation", with its funky drumbeat and repetitive guitar riff, has a lot more in common with dance music from 1998 than from 1968 when it was recorded, which is why it was so easy for Junkie XL to successfully remix it in 2002.
- Verbal Tic: "Uh-huh!" Elvis was aware of this and lampshaded it while videotaping a promo for his 1968 NBC Special (the out-takes are included on the special's DVD release).
- What Song Was This Again?: "It's Now or Never" and "Surrender" borrow the melodies of the Neapolitan classics "O Sole Mio" ("My Sunshine") and "Torna a Surriento" ("Come Back to Sorrento"), but the lyrics don't come anywhere close to being translations. The Italian originals are both about the natural beauty around the Gulf of Naples mixed with romantic sentiments ("O Sole Mio" is basically a Silly Love Song, "Torna a Surriento" is about The One That Got Away).