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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Elvis was a hero to most But he never meant Sh%@ to me....was Chuck D right? Was Elvis racist?

I’m pretty sure Public Enemy fans are greatly aware of the following lyrics:

Elvis was a hero to most
But he never meant ---- to me you see
Straight up racist that sucker was
Simple and plain
Mother---- him and John Wayne

More specifically, the words are from Enemy’s anthemic treatise, Fight the Power-which I suspect encapsulate the feelings of many African-Americans who have been lead to believe that Elvis Presley was a racist. But how accurate were Chuck D’s assertions about Elvis? Of course, we are all experiencing Elvis fever as a pilgrimage takes place to the mecca of Hillbilly excess, Graceland to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the alleged King of Rock & Roll’s untimely death. Check out this excerpt from Chron.com as they explore the issue of Elvis’ alleged racist streak:

A repudiated rumor
Just how committed he was to a view that insisted not just on musical accomplishment but also on fundamental humanity can be deduced from his reaction to the earliest appearance of an ugly rumor that persists to this day. Presley, it was said within the African-American community, had declared, either at a personal appearance in Boston or on Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person television program, "The only thing Negroes can do for me is buy my records and shine my shoes."
That he had never appeared in Boston or on Murrow's program did nothing to abate the rumor, so in June 1957, long after he had stopped talking to the mainstream press, he addressed the issue — and an audience that scarcely figured in his sales demographic — in an interview for the black weekly magazine Jet.
Anyone who knew him, he told reporter Louie Robinson, would know he could never have uttered those words. Amid testimonials from blacks who did know him, he described his attendance as a teenager at the church of a celebrated black gospel composer, the Rev. W. Herbert Brewster, whose songs had been recorded by Mahalia Jackson and Clara Ward and whose stand on civil rights was well-known. (Elvis' version of Peace in the Valley, Brewster said later, was "one of the best gospel recordings I've ever heard.")
The interview's underlying point was the same as the underlying point of his music: Far from asserting any superiority, he was merely doing his best to find a place in a musical continuum that included breathtaking talents like Ray Charles, Roy Hamilton, the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi and Howlin' Wolf on the one hand, Hank Williams, Bill Monroe and the Statesmen Quartet on the other. "Let's face it," he said of his rhythm and blues influences, "nobody can sing that kind of music like colored people. I can't sing it like Fats Domino can. I know that."
And as for prejudice, the article concluded, quoting an unnamed source, "To Elvis people are people, regardless of race, color or creed."

Any thoughts on this issue? Do you think Elvis was racist or was it the system that enabled him to become iconic at the expense of Black talent?

For the entire article, click on the link below:

Was Elvis a racist? Let the record sing for itself

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