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News createt: 27-08-2012 14:00:00

Why I stopped hating Elvis Presley

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by Todd Stereo Williams (extract from article published the 20th August)

Growing up, I was conditioned to loathe Elvis Presley. The lightest criticism I heard of Elvis was that he “stole Black people's music.” The harshest criticism I heard was that he was a blatant racist who felt that all a Black man could do for him was “shine my shoes or buy my record.” I heard this from several family members and casual acquaintances — a sentiment that was forever immortalized in Public Enemy's classic single “Fight the Power.” Elvis was no hero. And he certainly never meant shit to me.

I viewed white folks' obsession with him as evidence of their inherently racist preference for black music without a black face. Even as I became a fan of 1960s British Invasion bands, part of my praise of the Beatles, Stones, and Who was that they openly acknowledged the Black influence in their music — “unlike Elvis Presley.”

But it wasn't until years later that I really had to learn about Elvis beyond what I'd been told. I was working on a piece about his supposed racism and racist legacy and started doing research for proof.

I learned that the infamous “shine my shoes” quote was never verified, and was told second-hand to what basically was a 1950s tabloid rag out of Boston called Sepia. During the same time that Elvis supposedly gave this “quote,” he did an interview with Jet (yes, the black-owned Jet magazine) in which he spoke openly about the controversy and the origins of rock ’n’ roll as black music. “I never said anything like that, and people who know me know that I wouldn't have said it,” he told Jet. “A lot of people seem to think I started this business. But rock ’n’ roll was here a long time before I came along. Nobody can sing that kind of music like colored people. Let's face it: I can't sing like Fats Domino can. I know that.”

I found quotes from notable black musicians and celebrities, detailing their experiences with Elvis, which ranged from respectful to affectionate. James Brown said, “I wasn't just a fan, I was his brother.” B.B. King was also close to Presley throughout his life and Ike Turner reportedly let Elvis carry his band's gear early on and claimed he was the first man to put Elvis on a stage. Muhammad Ali, who let Elvis live with him while he trained for a bout against Joe Frazier, said, “Elvis was my close personal friend. I don't admire nobody, but Elvis Presley was the sweetest, most humble and nicest man you'd want to know.”

Read the full article here.