“Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away.” ~ Elvis Presley
photo source: rising70’s photostream.
A well I bless my soul,
What’s wrong with me?
I’m itchin’ like a man in a fuzzy tree
My friends say I’m actin’ wild as a bug
I’m in love —
I’m all shook up!
Sweet Jesus, can you feel it?
Elvis is in the building!
For someone who turns 75 today, he looks smokin’ hot.
I’m grateful I grew up with his music, very happy my first exposure to him was during the early part of his career — before Hollywood turned him into a mass market brand, before Las Vegas, before all the tacky velvet paintings and cheesy Elvis imitators, before he became a caricature of himself. I like Elvis best raw, unschooled, doing what came natural. What a thrill to witness the makings of a King.
photo source: LegacyRecordings.
This is not to say I stopped loving him when he started making all those predictably sappy movies. On the contrary. My cousins and I spent countless hours in the Wahiawa Theatre, watching “Kissin’ Cousins,” “Viva Las Vegas,” and “Blue Hawai’i” over and over. Then we went home and acted out the stories.
See, we claimed Elvis as uniquely ours, because he loved Hawai’i so much. Besides “Blue Hawai’i,” he also filmed “Paradise, Hawaiian Style,” and “Girls, Girls, Girls” there. And of course there was the famous 1973 Aloha from Hawai’i TV Special, the first global live concert satellite broadcast, reaching 1.5 billion viewers, and raising $85,000 for the Kui Lee Cancer Fund.
Because of “Blue Hawai’i,” I experienced my first official teeny bopper-heart-stopping moment. Safe to say nothing much happened out our way in central O’ahu, where I grew up. But one day, I was riding in a car along Kamehameha Highway, pineapple fields on either side, when we spotted a baby blue convertible in the distance. Remember the scene (“Moonlight Swim”) where Elvis’s character, Chad, takes Miss Prentice and her four teenage students on a guided tour around the island? Yes! They whizzed right by us! Red dirt never looked so good, and it easily became my favorite part of the film.
Graceland kitchen by Gato del Valle.
Graceland dining room by The Nite Tripper.
Sigh. We all have our favorite Elvis songs, Elvis movies, Elvis moments. Last year, U2’s Bono recited his Elvis tribute poem, “American David,” on BBC Radio 4. A longtime Elvis fan, Bono called Elvis “the blueprint for rock ‘n roll,” a man who “changed the center of gravity.”
Besides listening to his music, how else could we celebrate The King’s birthday? I propose eating what Elvis had for his last meal: spaghetti and meatballs, four scoops of ice cream, and six chocolate chip cookies.
Or maybe a charred hamburger, which was supposedly his all-time favorite, even eclipsing the iconic fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. While you’re deciding, wrap your lips around this banana cupcake with peanut butter buttercream frosting and honey bacon sprinkles:
photo by nycblondieandbrownie. Recipe here.
Tricia of The Miss Rumphius Effect is hosting today’s Poetry Friday Roundup. “Baby, let me be, your lovin’ teddy bear . . . ”
I leave you with my favorite ballad. Thank you, thankyouverymuch.
“When I was a child, ladies and gentlemen, I was a dreamer. I read comic books, and I was the hero of the comic book. I saw movies, and I was the hero in the movie. So every dream I ever dreamed has come true a hundred times. I learned very early in life that: ‘Without a song, the day would never end; without a song, a man ain’t got a friend; without a song, the road would never bend — without a song.’ So I keep singing a song.” ~ Elvis’s acceptance speech, 10 Outstanding Young Men of the Nation Award (1970).
Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.
31 thoughts on “friday feast: happy 75th birthday, elvis!”
Great birthday tribute! And – the blue convertible moment – O.M.G.!
For Christmas, I gave my SIL (who is the ultimate Elvis fan!) a biography of Elvis’ early years. Needless to say, I had to do some reading pre-wrapping. I’m with you – I loved the early Elvis, before the sparkly jumpsuits and the extended Vegas shows. He was raw and gorgeous and honest. Yep – definitely one of a kind. Happy Birthday, Elvis!
He was “the enemy.”
Or so the Teen Mags would have me believe. The Beatles VS. Elvis.
I didn’t really care about music when he was truly making his mark. It was Movie Elvis. And Teen Mag Elvis-Enemy that I became “aware” of—and with little interest.
But as time went on, “my heroes” told me of the Elvis that inspired them (as they did of me). and that was cool. And in ’68, I saw THAT Elvis reborn on that TV special—suddenly he was cool.
But then he proceeded to be “not so.” His whole Tricky-Dick years and FAT Vegas…..
I just recently saw an Anthology extra where George spoke of meeting Elvis “another time” (other than the Beatles “one—very surreal—time” in 65 or 66)…and George said Elvis was all WHITE and SPANGLED and he wanted to tell him “get rid of that…go back to just leather and jeans… and play the music as it was”
(I suppose there were times in George’s and Beatles’ careers that some folks wanted to say the same to them)
But I do dig that EARLY ELVIS and your VERY WONDERFUL BIRTHDAY post, Jama!
I’ve read a couple of Elvis biographies, and the feeling I got from them is sadness — that he indeed was an original, with natural talent, and then he became a product of the music industry. Even he didn’t like making those movies after awhile. He was about the music, and wanted to get back to his original love.
I saw that same Anthology thing with George talking about the spangly and white Elvis — and I said, “yeah, exactly!” Get back to the music as it was.
The ’68 special was amazing. He never looked better and we were all reminded of what he really was about when he started.
Thanks for sharing your experiences. No matter who we are, or what age, we all have some kind of memory of Elvis touching our lives somehow.
Oh I love this!
There is a new picture book out about Mark Alan Stamaty being introduced to Elvis’ music….Here we go: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780375846854.
I was reading it to my girls this week and telling them who Elvis was. I sat down to find some video footage of him online, and I found that “Love Me Tender” you have here, and I teared up. Such a beautiful voice.
I prefer the raw Elvis, too.
(Incidentally, I have a lullaby album for kids that has Beth Nielsen-Chapman (sp?) singing “Love Me Tender” as if it’s a lullaby. Might be blasphemy to some folks, but it totally works.)
75…wow! I cannot listen to JailHouse Rock without putting down whatever I’m doing and dancing. To my son’s complete chagrin. 🙂
Sadness – yes. He was so good, but I think he didn’t always believe in himself – making it much easier for others to manipulate him (which they did.)
Sadly, I did not grow up with Elvis. I can tell by your post that my life has been every so slightly poorer because of that empty spot. I intend to fill it with cupcakes that have bacon bits on top. “I’m in love!/ I’m all shook up!”
I had the same reaction when I saw the YouTube “Love Me Tender.” Will have to check out the new picture book!
Oh dear, I am sad for you, ML. He was kind of hard to miss, but there you go. I think you should indeed make up for this lack by eating double the amount of cupcakes this weekend! 🙂
I remember the 1950s–Blue Suede Shoes, All Shook Up, Hound Dog. Elvis seemed to have a skeleton made of rubber. I hated the studded jumpsuits he wore in later decades.
I heard on the radio this morning that it would’ve been his 75th birthday today, and thought “only 75?” He looked so horrible by the time of his death, which now feels so long ago, that I think I was painting him far older.
How funny – we were just talking Elvis here last night (unrelated to any birthday issues). I never saw him live in concert (though I think I saw him hanging out in Hollywood last week :-)), but when I watched the “Comeback Concert” video, I suddenly “got” him in a way that the music alone hadn’t made clear.
Rock on! And see you in the Cybils trenches….
Saw article in recent issue of Vanity Fair on early Elvis b&w photographs by Alfred Wertheimer (Elvis right on the verge of becoming a star); exhibit opening in LA at Grammy Museum this month. Related link
Thanks, as always, for your great post!
Yes, what a great song. Love the movie dance sequence, too!
I agree — it’s also unfortunate that there are probably quite a few people out there whose only image of him is in those very jumpsuits. I’ll take the leather and blue suede shoes any day.
He did look very unhealthy towards the end. I must admit to being surprised, like you — only 75?
The Comeback Concert was indeed awesome. Black leather definitely suits him well. And he looked like he was really digging the music once again.
Thanks for the great link, Martha. Loved the pictures, especially the one of him with his natural hair color!
elvis and thanks
Jama, Thanks for visiting me earlier today! Love your birthday tribute. Did you ever read the Peter Guralnick books? Because your tribute just made me want to read them again. (They’re more depressing than uplifting, but GOOD.) My favorite Elvis movie was Change of Habit just because it starred him AND Mary Tyler More. And she’s a nun! Songs: too many to mention. When I lived in Blacksburg I did a story on a woman who built Mini Graceland in her yard. Fell into disrepair and the men’s garden club took it over, but if you’re ever in Roanoke, Va., ask me about it again =)
Re: elvis and thanks
A mini Graceland? Cool!
Haven’t read the Guralnick books but they DO look good, albeit depressing. His story is a sad one, so realistically, the darker side of his life should be included.
I only vaguely remember “Change of Habit.” Maybe I should add it to my Netflix queue! Thanks for stopping by today :)!
Oh, loooove this. Jama, how interesting — that Hawaii connection. How nice to feel like he was yours that way…
I’m surprised there haven’t been a FEW picture books about his. Buddy, about Buddy Holly, is so awesome…
Oh, and sorry to have not said this straight up: Would you LOOK at that man’s EYES????
I’m so with you on those eyes! He was a very handsome man. I think there is a Buddy Holly PB out there already. Forgot the author, but I think Paula Wiseman was the editor.
Yes, Anne Bustard’s Buddy. LOVE it. But is there an equivalent one for the King? And if not, why????
Anne Bustard, of course! I can’t really think of any Elvis PBs offhand. Hard to believe somebody hasn’t thought of it all this time.
I might have to try a peanut butter and banana sandwich in his honor. My puppy shares his birthday (she just turned one), she ain’t nothing but a hound dog! 🙂
Elvis is definitely the King. My hubby and I danced to “Love Me Tender” for our first dance at our wedding reception.
And that comment above was from me. 🙂
Great choice for a first dance!
The PB and banana sandwiches are good, but very filling. Happy Birthday to your puppy!!
Oh my goodness. Our local cupcake place has as cupcake of the month a peanut-butter banana cupcake with a dried banana chip on top, but they were seriously thinking about putting bacon on top of the cupcakes. Wow!
It might interesst you to know that my former tenant, Brad the Gorilla, won 4th place in the Elvis Invitationals: http://bradthegorilla.blogspot.com/2006/01/elvis-impersonator-4th-place-winner.html
Thanks for the link, Farida! That is too cool :)! I envy you living in Seattle, the mecca of cupcake shops. First you guys cornered the market on coffee, and now cupcakes!
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