In Memphis in the early 1950s, young Elvis Presley would sometimes help out the upstairs neighbors, Rabbi Fruchter and his family, by acting as a "Shabbos goy," -- that is, by doing tasks that Jews may not do on the Sabbath. (The rabbi's son Harold, then a toddler, recalls the arrangement in an audio interview.
) Yet Elvis knew he had some Jewish forebears. Tablet Magazine notes that his "great great maternal grandmother was Jewish
and had a daughter who had a daughter who had a daughter that was Elvis’s mother." Though he embraced Christianity, he often used to wear
a Chai necklace
(sometimes paired with a cross), saying "I don't want to miss out on going to heaven on a technicality." In that spirit, a Hasidic Elvis impersonator named Dan Hartal
, aka "Schmelvis,"
recently recited Kaddish at Graceland and traveled to Israel to plant a tree in Elvis's memory.
posted by GrammarMoses
on Aug 27, 2014 -
One Nation Under Elvis
My own conversion to country music came all of a sudden in 1990, around another campfire, also in Nevada. The great Western Shoshone anti-nuclear and land-rights activist Bill Rosse, a decorated World War II vet and former farm manager, unpacked his guitar and sang Hank Williams and traditional songs for hours. I was enchanted as much by the irreverent rancor of some of the songs as by the pure blue yearning of others. I’d had no idea such coolness, wit, and poetry was lurking in this stuff I was taught to scorn before I’d met it. [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns
on Jul 28, 2013 -
Well, bust my britches, here it is January 8, Elvis Presley's birthday! Now, a mere 20 days after the young rock crooner had celebrated his 21st, back in 1956, he stepped onto the stage at CBS Studio in New York City and made his US national television debut
, on the Dorsey Brothers show. Seems he was hot property from the get-go, cause he was back on that stage, straightaway, for five more appearances, on February 4th
, then again on March 17th
. And, yeah, heck, he was pretty good.
posted by flapjax at midnite
on Jan 8, 2012 -
Jerry Leiber, one of the greatest rock and roll songwriters to ever ply the trade, has died
aged 78. Along with songwriting partner Mike Stoller, he was responsible for so many hits, including but not limited to: Love Potion No. 9
by The Coasters, Stand By Me
by Ben E. King, Hound Dog
by Big Mama Thornton, later popularised
by Elvis Presley, and, solo, in conjunction with Phil Spector, Spanish Harlem
, as sung by Aretha Franklin.
posted by Len
on Aug 22, 2011 -
Surely one of the most memorable musician photos ever is this one: Johnny Cash
, making his feelings known with customary aplomb. But did you ever notice he was wearing a jumpsuit in that photo, and not his more standard black shirt/trousers ensemble? Well, that very jumpsuit
just went for a handsome $120,000 at auction. Someone else just paid $300,000 for one of Elvis' peacock-emblazoned jumpsuits
. And remember that little necklace
John Lennon wore on the cover of Two Virgins
? Yep, the only
thing he wore. Fetched a cool $528,000. Meanwhile, in Japan, a bunch of grapes
just went for $910. What a bargain! [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite
on Aug 11, 2008 -
"The most brutal, ugly, degenerate, vicious form of expression it has been my displeasure to hear," Frank Sinatra
wrote of rock 'n' roll during the time of Elvis Presley. But Frank wasn't stupid... he knew his relevance was fading and if you can't beat 'em, you have to join 'em. So in 1960
, Elvis Presley was welcomed home from his two year military tour
by the Frank Sinatra Timex Show "Welcome Home Elvis"
special. Later Sinatra said, "I'm just a singer. Elvis was the embodiment of the whole American culture."
posted by miss lynnster
on Feb 26, 2008 -
Fifty years ago today Elvis Presley
recorded what would prove to be one of the iconic standards of the rock'n'roll canon, Leiber and Stoller
's Jailhouse Rock
. The song's sly allusions ("number 47 said to number three, you're the cutest jailbird I ever did see")
to same-sex prison liaisons went unnoticed (or at least uncommented on) at the time, and it stayed a US #1 radio hit for 7 weeks straight. The unisex production number [youtube]
from the movie
of the same name has come to be recognized as one of the grandfathers of the pop/rock video. A black-leather-clad, still-svelte Presley performed the song on his 1968 [youtube]
"comeback" TV special, and was singing it (slurred delivery, sequins and all) right up into 1977 [youtube]
, the year of his death. In 1980 John Belushi and company turned in a fine version [youtube]
as the closer to the Blues Brothers movie, and the song was a regular feature of their live [youtube]
shows as well. Happy 50th birthday, Jailhouse Rock!
posted by flapjax at midnite
on May 2, 2007 -
The Afghan Elvis
(with YouTube clip
), the Soviet Elvis
(played by Tom Hanks
), the French Elvis
(now seeking Belgian citizenship
), the Mexican Elvis
, the Swedish Elvis
, the Filipino Elvis
, the Chinese Elvis
, the Sikh Elvis
, the Japanese Elvis
who became a Prime Minister, and other foreign Elvii
posted by jonp72
on Aug 21, 2006 -
Elvis was a hero to most but he never meant shit to me …
"Media arrogance and dishonesty means we are eternally bound to live in a skewed world where Elvis is king of rock'n'roll, Clapton is the guitar god, Sinatra is the voice and Astaire is the greatest dancer."
Is it right to celebrate an artist who’s fame derived from appropriating and diluting the original
music of black America?
posted by niceness
on Aug 16, 2002 -
Is The King Finally Dead, After 25 Years? Elvis Presley
died on 16 August 1977 and, silly season or not, The Observer
, kicking off with Nik Cohn
's above-linked essay, has assembled a cracking collection of articles, interviews and humorous pieces about the controversial crooner, mainly directed (I'd say) at non-fans
. To my mind, the most enjoyable are Nigel Slater
's brave attempt to make the famous Presley sandwich
; the weird interview with Larry Geller
, his hairdresser and spiritual advisor
; the account of Elvis's only (secret) visit to Britain
; Michael Odell
's funny set of instructions on how not to behave
at an Elvis party; an interview with George Nichopoulos
, the doctor who wrote out more than 10,000 prescriptions for him; a round-up of ludicrous ex-girlfriends' memories
and, as an after-thought, a collector's report on locating that legendary first "Uh-huh"
of his. It's all good stuff but one has to ask whether, in this day and age, it isn't, er, overkill
. Is Elvis Presley still that relevant or is he slowly becoming a figure of fun? Whether or not he's actually dead, of course, is entirely another matter...
posted by MiguelCardoso
on Aug 11, 2002 -
The best CD I've purchased so far this year is the latest
from the Blind Boys of Alabama
. this record features superb vocalizing, great bluesy guitar, and a Sones(!) and Tom Waits(!!) cover. In an age where "gospel music" has sunk into the quagmire of "Contemporary Christian"
, its easy to forget that old-school gospel
influences on rock and roll. Little Richard, for one, took his trademark "Whoo!" from Marion Williams and countless rockers from Aretha to Elvis learned to sing in church.
Now, can I get an Amen?!
posted by jonmc
on Apr 2, 2002 -