Elvis in the movie 'Jailhouse Rock', 1957
Elvis will probably be remembered for generations as the greatest rock star ever. His most common nickname – “The King” – says it all. He started performing in 1954, singing and playing rockabilly, a blend of country and R&B. He made new versions of old numbers, combining elements of white and black music, and in the course of his career he was into rock, gospel, country, blues, ballads and pop. His performances on stage and TV were groundbreaking, not least due to his body movements which earned him the name “Elvis the Pelvis”.
In the 1960s he made movies, and after a seven-year break from live performances he returned to the stage and toured the USA from 1968. In 1973 Elvis starred in the first worldwide live concert broadcast by satellite, Aloha from Hawaii. It was watched live by more than a billion people, and by another 500 million later. Never, before or since, has an individual performance been seen by so many people. Elvis also broke records for disk sales, TV ratings and attendance at concerts.
Not surprisingly, his life was hectic and he tried to make it easier in the wrong way. Elvis Presley died when he was only 42. His death was caused by poor health and dependence on drugs.
Here are some definitions of words and phrases you will find in the text. Which are they?
- religious songs of American origin marked by simple melody and harmony and elements of folk songs and blues
- sad songs in 3-line verses in which the words of the second line usually repeat those of the first.
- popular, slow, romantic or sentimental songs
- music by African-Americans
- new and very different
- a basin-shaped structure in the skeleton
- a man-made object which goes round the earth, the moon, or another body in space
- full of activity, excitement, or confusion
Activities for the links below
1) Read the lyrics of Elvis Presley’s hit “In the Ghetto” on the first website, and answer these questions:
- How do we know that the mother is poor and that she belongs to an ethnic minority?
- If the baby does not receive help, what will happen to him?
- When he becomes a little boy, what does he do, and why?
- As a young man, he commits two crimes. What are they, and why does he do what he does?
- How do you think he dies?
- How does Elvis tell us that this problem will go on and on?
- What makes “In the Ghetto” different from a song like “Blue Suede Shoes”? You can find the lyrics for the latter at http://www.lyricsfreak.com/e/elvis+presley/blue+suede+shoes_20049053.html
- How did you react to “In the Ghetto”? Do you think music like this is important? Why, or why not?
2) The second link will take you to some pages on The King’s official website. Click on “Graceland Tours” and surf around the site.
Now imagine you have been lucky enough to spend a week in the Memphis area. No trip there is complete without a visit to Graceland, so you spent an afternoon on Elvis’s estate. Write an email to a friend, telling him or her all about it. Mention
- when you went, who you went with, which of the tours you took, and how you bought tickets.
- what you saw (this will take up most of your email).
- where and what you ate and drank.
- what you bought, both for yourself and for family and friends.
- how Graceland impressed you, for better and for worse.