COLUMN: A Malat Musing: Birth of an Enduring Legacy
If anyone ever epitomized the American dream it was Elvis Aaron Presley.
He was born on Jan. 8, 1935 in a dirt floor shack in Tupelo, Mississippi. His twin brother Jesse Garon did not survive birth.
The Presley’s were considered and treated like “poor white trash” while living in a largely African-American neighborhood during Elvis’ youth. This ugliness clearly prepared him for his fate in life.
Elvis’ shaky legs, his quivering lip, his long sideburns, his unconventional style of dress and his African-American sounding music steeped in gospel and rhythm and blues, served to not only continue the loathing but spurred even greater scorn. Any negative feelings or ramifications from all of this hatred that Elvis may have experienced were never expressed publicly.
Elvis was the first American entertainer to not only gain overwhelming popularity despite such public ridicule but did so by overcoming a level of ridicule that was unparalleled at the time. There could be no greater tribute to the man’s incredible talent and charisma.
Elvis stood at the center of an American movement that could not be halted and was the leading force in spurring the music industry to far greater levels of creativity and imagination. His impact on both the music industry and American culture was, and continues to be, unprecedented.
His kindness and generosity are almost as legendary as his music legacy. It was not uncommon for someone to be gifted a Presley possession if that someone was simply complimentary of the possession. Elvis was also angered when informed that Christmas traditions at Graceland would have to be altered. Too many complete strangers had begun showing up at the Presley’s door for the elaborate gifts Elvis presented. He finally agreed to the changes.
He overcame great poverty and hatred to achieve worldwide admiration that very few Americans have ever known. And while it is oh so sad that; “Elvis has left the building.” We can rest assured that his music and all its precious memories, along with his remarkable influence, shall remain with us forever.
Phil Malat is a columnist for KSTP.com.