Late icon’s music continues to be discovered by younger generations
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Elvis’ hips were so threatening and dangerous to society that during his third and final appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, he was filmed from the waist-up
Elvis Presley has been dead for 44 years. January 8 would have been the King’s 86th birthday. Presley’s estate, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee, recently held a three-day birthday celebration event. The festivities included a hidden Graceland tour, Elvis birthday proclamation ceremony, tour of Tupelo (Elvis’ birthplace), musical performances, complimentary appetizers at Vernon’s Smokehouse restaurant—followed by more Graceland mansion tours.
Presley’s music and image has endured as younger generations have discovered his music. Another boost to help expose Elvis’ enduring popularity to younger fans is a new Baz Luhrmann biopic about the King—scheduled for release in November 2021. Austin Butler portrays the King while Tom Hanks has the role as Presley’s polarizing manager, Colonel Tom Parker.
Notably, Presley has sold over an estimated billion records worldwide—more than any solo artist in history. He had 39 number one hits (combined US and UK charts). He also starred in 31 films and won three Grammys during his career—all for gospel music. Presley, with his talent, charisma, and unique style was a phenomenon in the 1950s—helping to bring rock ‘n’ roll music to a wider audience. He was also a sex symbol and was controversial; his wiggling hips were considered vulgar by the older generation. Elvis’ hips were so threatening and dangerous to society that during his third and final appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on January 6, 1957, he was filmed from the waist-up. The nerve of Elvis to move his legs and hips like that while singing, how dare he do such a thing! Today, fans young and old have kept Elvis’ memory alive with Facebook groups, fan clubs, and annual festivals (all canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic).
Barb Dobie, who lives in Duncan, BC, is an Elvis super fan. She had the opportunity to meet the King during the late 1960s and saw him live 30 times during the 1970s. Dobie says from her experience in interacting with younger people, they prefer the older Elvis instead of the younger Elvis. “It seems the younger people really love the early [1970s] the most for [his] music and specials!” Dobie said in an email interview with the Other Press. “However, they really love how Elvis sounded and looked in that sexy leather suit in the [1968 Comeback] Special (recorded in June of 1968) […] As for the [1970s], it’s the [films] That’s the Way It Is (1970) and Elvis on Tour (1972) […] Then the Aloha Special from [January 1973] too!”
However, Elvis’ popularity has not been fully embraced by some young people. A quick YouGov poll conducted in the UK in 2017 interviewed 2,034 British adults. The findings revealed that 29 percent (aged 18 to 24 years) stated they had never listened to an Elvis song. Also, none of the same age group listened to Elvis daily; with only eight percent listening to the King monthly. As well, the group was asked their thoughts about other musicians. Twice as many said they liked The Beatles (23 percent) and David Bowie (25 percent) compared with Elvis (12 percent).
Nonetheless, Presley’s music on Spotify has revealed no lack of interest from subscribers. The King’s music has been streamed and downloaded at an astonishing rate; as of January 10, Presley has 25,522,790 monthly listeners. In August 2019, Spotify issued a statement published in the Memphis Commercial Appeal pertaining to Elvis’ appeal with younger audiences: “It’s not often we see an artist stream in similar numbers across different age groups, but it seems Elvis appeals to 18-22-year-olds almost as much as listeners aged 45-59. The former group accounts for 20 percent of all Elvis streaming on Spotify in the last month, while the latter accounts for 17 percent.” In addition, Spotify states that Presley continues to be one of their top artists during the holidays with the King’s classic song, “Blue Christmas” being streamed over 116 million times. In November 2020, Spotify announced that “Blue Christmas” was ranked number 19 as part of Spotify’s list of the top 25 most-streamed Christmas songs of all time.
Plus, the King has a strong presence on YouTube, as there are numerous videos posted with younger fans filming reaction videos to Presley’s music. Elvis Presley’s image and music has transcended generations. With younger fans discovering Elvis’ music as evidenced by his massive number of monthly listeners and followers on Spotify, the King’s popularity will continue to endure.