Happy Birthday, Elvis Presley!

Elvis Presley would have turned 80 today so in honor of his birthday, here are a couple of fun fact excerpts from Elvis FAQ books, Elvis Music FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the King’s Recorded Works by Mike Eder and Elvis Films FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll in Hollywood by Paul Simpson.

His breakthrough hit was Heartbreak Hotel, released in 1956 – a song inspired by a newspaper article about a local suicide:

00333500“A record that altered the path of so many people and things, “Heartbreak Hotel” is the song that put Elvis on the map. It was written by Mae Boren Axton, who was inspired by a story her friend Tommy Durden told her about a John Doe who left a suicide note reading, ‘I walk a lonely street.’ Axton gave Tommy and Elvis a third of the credit and royalties on the song, the latter because Axton felt sorry for the kid from Memphis who just escaped from poverty. “Heartbreak Hotel” stands out as a composition because of Axton’s use of imagery. The hotel is at the end of ‘Lonely Street’; there’s a crying bellhop, and a desk clerk dressed in black. The music matches the glum mood of the lyric, with the piano of Shorty Long sounding, in the immortal words of author Robert Matthew-Walker, like ‘sad-rain.’ Elvis sings with distress in his voice and a newly honed sense of the dramatic. Still mysterious and alluring, “Heartbreak Hotel” is an incredibly unusual song. Teens could relate to the feeling of bottomless despair, and moreover Elvis made anguish sound cool. As “Heartbreak Hotel” slowly became a phenomenon, it gave young people something of their own to hold on to. Elvis launched the whole rock-and-roll image – he talked the talk and walked the walk. He wasn’t going into this thinking he was going to change things in society; he just wanted to be good at what he did, make enough money to give his parents the things they wanted, and, most of all, find some personal redemption. After all, how many people who are considered outcasts actually bend society to their way of thinking?” – Elvis Music FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the King’s Recorded Works

In 1956, he began his film career with a western, Love Me Tender:

“…Presley made his screen debut in the B western Love Me Tender, originally titled The Reno Brothers, which 00314953had been revamped to give him a significant supporting role in which he could sing four songs. The cast and crew on his first movie weren’t sure what to make of him. His love interest Debra Paget summed up Hollywood’s preconceptions when she said later: ‘Before I met him, I figured he must be some sort of moron.’ On set, his humility, charm, and industry overcame such skepticism, but it could do nothing to shield him from the critical abuse that greeted the movie’s release on November 21, 1956. The Hollywood Reporter dismissed Presley as ‘an obscene child’ but did note that the new hero possessed ‘mannerisms by Brando out of the Actors Studio’ and concluded: ‘The new hero is an adolescent. Whether he is twenty or thirty or forty, he is fifteen and excessively sorry for himself. He is essentially a lone wolf who wants to belong.’ That last line pretty much sums up Elvis’s status in the movie industry as his film career progressed and, you could argue, the tragedy of his life and death.” – Elvis Films FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll in Hollywood





Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group, the trade book division of Hal Leonard Corporations, publishes books on the performing arts under the imprints Hal Leonard Books, Backbeat Books, Amadeus Press, and Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.

Posted on January 8, 2015, in Film & TV, Music Fans and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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