We say Elvis Presley is the King Of Rock And Roll.
But, really? He’s the one and only? He’s the almighty, world famous, hailed rock icon; the chosen one so very worthy of the title to represent the courageous, fierce, cool and clever way of the most popular genre in music history: rock and roll?
Why?! Because I disagree.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually an avid fan of Mr. Presley and his music, so this view point certainly does not come from a place of arrogance, or ignorance.
“Rock and roll was already thought to be the devil’s music.”
In fact, let me tell you, when I was growing up in the 90s the rest of my peers were sidetracked buying into the latest music trends from the cool kids on the block, like LL Cool J, Will Smith, and TLC, while I was hiding under my bed listening to Elvis Presley. I even went on a road trip to Graceland when I had turned 20. I wore my cowgirl boots and a pretty red polka dot dress and had an Australian tourist snap a polaroid of me in front of Presley’s estate, where on the sidewalk it read “ROCK N ROLL” in thick black letters.
But growing up in a musical household exposed me to a number of musicians from so many different genres, and some even dating back to the 1920s. I have to say, I just don’t see why Elvis Presley is the chosen one as the “King of Rock And Roll.”
So, let’s take a look, shall we?
Elvis Presley’s first single “Heartbreak Hotel” was released in 1956, and it was an immediate hit. But that very same year, Jerry Lee Lewis released his first single as well, “Crazy Arms”. While it wasn’t received with the same enthusiasm as Presley’s tune about a place on Lonely Street for “broken-hearted lovers,” Lewis came with an incredible rock and roll attitude. I mean, the guy set his piano on fire on stage once, and that was in 1957, just a year after he busted onto the scene as a new star.
For the 50s, well, that’s making a statement in a fairly controversial manner, whereas Marilyn Manson has come out on stage sporting a bloody dildo whilst balancing on stilts and singing about the devil, and even when he gained fame in the 90s, no one really flinched. But, you see, I think that’s what rock and roll is all about. Isn’t that what we have been taught? Isn’t that what seems to remain true? It’s about the music, and it’s about the character of both who creates it and the people who enjoy it. Rock and roll is controversial, and there was nothing very controversial about Presley.
He was the sweet Christian boy from Memphis who had a pretty face and an innocent charm, and Lewis had an edge to him, like the adventuresome Huck Finn, barefoot and ready for anything. I will say the one difference between the two rock and rollers seems to come from their audiences. Presley had fans screaming over his signature movements on stage, and Lewis had fans screaming for his energetic and charismatic songs.
Truly, I believe Mr Lewis deserves the crown. Then again, I’m still not convinced.
And, yet, I wonder if you thought I might be leaving out Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Little Richard for any reason. No way! Actually, things are about to get a little tricky!
Berry, Diddley, and Richard are considered to be the founding fathers of rock and roll, with their heavy blues influences and soulful voices. Quite frankly, that makes more sense to me than calling Presley the “King”. And, would you guess it, but these three musicians each made their first radio debut in 1955! That’s before anyone had even heard of Elvis Presley or Jerry Lee Lewis!
We should also remember that it was the 50s, and segregation in the US was at an all time high. Black music was not held to the same caliber as white music, even if of the same genre. Rock and roll was already thought to be the devil’s music, and throwing race into the matter probably didn’t help. But this still doesn’t give enough reason behind Elvis’ royal title in rock.
I get thinking about it, and I try to figure it out… Really, I do; but I haven’t yet settled on a final answer to my question: Why is Elvis Presley the King of Rock and Roll?! It’s such a debatable question! We can’t even make it easy and pass the King’s crown down year after year, either, in which case I am fairly certain that Robert Plant would have worn the crown at one point, as well as Axl Rose or Jimi Hendrix or Steven Tyler.
I’m going to go ahead and say there’s no right answer.
As far as I’m concerned, every rock and roller who has ever made headlines and moved our hearts with their music is worthy of the title! After all, rock and roll is a community! Let’s not single anyone out.
So, I am going to settle this right now. This article hereby serves as the official literary mark for the origin of the Knights Of The Rock And Roll Table.
No one gets the crown! So, pick up your swords, rockstars, you’ve been dubbed worthy.
Story: Kate Catalina
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rock My World, its affiliates, or its employees.