Vote Blue 2020

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Handsome Hero/Great White Whale of Excess

I don't want to turn this into the Elvis channel, but the King is on my mind, getting ready for a performance of some Elvis songs in early January.  But it's true I am totally fascinated by the King. Growing up I was not a fan. As a young lad I was in the Dylan/Beatles/Stones camp, and Elvis was so much a part of the cheesy entertainment establishment in the late 60's & early to mid-70's.  I always thought he was kind of a joke.

The movies were terrible. The Vegas Elvis was the epitome of bad taste.  But of course, that was not the whole story.  If you did a little digging, it turns out that people like Dylan, Keith Richards, Neil Young and John Lennon were tremendously influenced and inspired by Elvis.  Especially the young, early rocker Elvis.

Later I discovered and devoured the original Sun Sessions, and that haunting, amazing voice - so beautiful, so strange, so unique, finally hit me like a freight train. And if you dig a little, you will find amazing music - Blues, Country, Gospel and Rock & Roll.  I saw Jim Jarmusch's "Mystery Train," and then finally I read the two volume biography of Elvis written by Peter Guaralnick. It is a masterpiece. One of the greatest biographies I've ever read… of any kind, I'd put it up there with other great bios I've  read (and I've read lots of them). 

And the Elvis saga almost seems Biblical. Mythological. And so American. It's an inspiring ride. From very humble beginnings in the South to wild fame and fortune and then a horrifying, numbing, drug-addled decline. And Guranlnick captures it all in vivid and beautifully written detail.  It's an improbable, impossible story… and Elvis is the young, handsome hero who morphs into the great white whale of excess. 

It's a story of the birth of rock and roll and it becomes a story of the madness of celebrity culture too, and so much more… and finally you are left with just a man… Elvis… and that haunting, over-powering, improbable voice...

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