You’ve got to respect Elvis.
I’ve been listening to his number ones all week. That’s right I have Elvis on my iPod.
August 16 marked the 30th anniversary of the death of the icon, the “king of rock n roll”. An estimated record breaking 50,000+ fans paid homage at his Graceland residence yesterday.
I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan. There are some really comedic and campy things about Elvis which probably has not helped. I don’t expect any of you born in or after the 80s to have any appreciation but know this, I don’t think we’d have what we have today, musically that is, without him and that includes Contemporary Christian Music. Realize that Elvis won only three American Grammy music awards – all for gospel albums. Elvis began singing gospel music at church in his youth. It was his favorite music and he sang it like he really meant it. There was nothing half-hearted in the way he approached life. Regardless, his influence on American culture is deep. But that’s what icons do.
Here’s what other icons have said,
“Elvis is like the Big Bang of rock ‘n’ roll. It all came from there.” – Bono
“I’m just a singer. Elvis was the embodiment of the whole American culture.” – Frank Sinatra
“Nothing really affected me until I heard Elvis. If there hadn’t been an Elvis, there wouldn’t have been a Beatles.” – John Lennon
I remembered watching his movies on lazy summer saturday afternoons too. There was something about him. He was smooth. He had charisma. He got the girl. Whatever it was Elvis was compelling. I was watching “He Touched Me” on public broadcasting the other night which highlights the Gospel side of Elvis’ life especially towards the depressing end. I suppose most big stars struggle with this towards the horizon of their career. There’s a loneliness that they struggle with, even a search for meaning. We can all relate to that. It makes us realize, they’re just like us, human afterall.
“In the Ghetto” has been one of those songs that have stuck with me for years. I still remember the first time I heard it. I was a kid and it deeply effected me. It is a very socially conscious song -in 1969 and also for our time now. The original title of the song provided an even clearer reality – In the Ghetto (The Vicious Circle). It’s oh so very John Singleton and Boyz n the Hood.
Lisa Marie filmed a virtual duet of this song with her father for this special occasion.
OK, not the best video but interesting for several reasons – the uncanny resemblance of lisa marie to her father (which i’m always enamored by it), then there’s the guns (those babies are going to be scarred for life), and elvis’ pronounciation of “ghet-TO”.
All of this — the song, the video — is going to charity. The money from the downloads is going to help build another Presley Place in New Orleans, which is a transitional housing program that we started in Memphis. Families come in and live there, get their life skills and get it together. They get jobs … and then about a year later, they move out when they can get back on their feet. This program has been doing incredibly well for the past few years, so I wanted to branch it out. It’s something [Elvis] was very interested in, because it’s kinda where he started from. And Presley Place is near where he was raised. I wanted to do this and use it for something good. All fingers pointed towards New Orleans. I landed there to do the video and I looked around when I got off the plane, and it looks like Katrina happened six months ago. That’s when it all fell together. And all proceeds — not a portion of — all proceeds are going towards building a transitional housing building in New Orleans.
As the snow flies / On a cold and gray Chicago mornin’ / A poor little baby child is born / In the ghetto
And his mama cries / ’cause if there’s one thing that she don’t need / it’s another hungry mouth to feed / In the ghetto
People, don’t you understand / the child needs a helping hand / or he’ll grow to be an angry young man some day
Take a look at you and me, / are we too blind to see, / do we simply turn our heads /and look the other way
Well the world turns / and a hungry little boy with a runny nose /plays in the street as the cold wind blows / In the ghetto
And his hunger burns / so he starts to roam the streets at night / and he learns how to steal / and he learns how to fight / In the ghetto
Then one night in desperation / a young man breaks away / He buys a gun, steals a car, / tries to run, but he don’t get far /
And his mama cries
As a crowd gathers ’round an angry young man / face down on the street with a gun in his hand / In the ghetto
As her young man dies, / on a cold and gray Chicago mornin’, / another little baby child is born / In the ghetto