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Elvis Presley News

January 2010
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early January
  • Singer Sandro, the 'Argentine Elvis,' dies at 64
    (, January 5 2010)
    Argentine singer Sandro, whose gyrating pelvis and romantic ballads brought comparisons to Elvis Presley and made him the first Latin American to sing in Madison Square Garden, died Monday of complications from heart and lung transplant surgery. He was 64. Sandro, who recorded 52 albums, acted in 16 movies and was awarded a Latin Grammy for career achievement in 2005, suffered from chronic lung disease that led to the Nov. 20 surgery. He died at the Italian Hospital in the Argentine city of Mendoza, said Dr. Claudio Burgos. Born Roberto Sanchez in 1945 in Buenos Aires, he was the author of hits such as "Asi" ("Like That") and "Dame Fuego" ("Give Me Fire"), and his rock and pop tunes won him

    AP - FILE - In this Aug. 19, 2003 file photo, Argentina's popular singer Sandro waves to fans in Buenos Aires

  • Elvis Presley the original king of Rock changed everything
    By Andy Goldberg
    (, January 5 2010)
    When "Heartbreak Hotel" became Elvis Presley's first number one hit in the spring of 1956, the US was still racially segregated in many areas and crooner Frank Sinatra was its biggest star.

    The country was in the midst of a post war boom that put money in kids' pockets to buy records while the spread of television and portable radios was creating a new media age. 21 years later, when Elvis died aged 42 in 1977, he had done as much as anyone to dramatically change the world's strongest military, economic and cultural superpower.

    The rock 'n' roll music he pioneered smashed racial barriers and became the soundtrack of the 1960s and 1970s, making him one of the most important figures in 20th century pop culture.

    Had he lived, Elvis would have celebrated his 75th birthday on Friday. Even decades after his death, his estate earned a total of USD 55 million in the past year from his work and the estate, making his the fourth-highest earning deceased celebrity, according to a list by Forbes magazine.

    Elvis was born in 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi, the only son of a poor white family. He grew up in African American neighbourhoods and is remembered as a shy, lonely kid who played guitar, hung around blues record stores when his family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, and gazed at the flashy outfits on display at the local costume shops. He graduated from high school to become a truck driver. He was interested in singing and had a breakthrough in 1954, thanks to a fortuitous chain of events that involved an alert receptionist and a relaxed moment during a recording session, when the studio owner heard him singing the blues number, "That's All Right", during a break.

    Sam Phillips realised the potential of a good-looking white kid singing upbeat blues. Until then that kind of music had been the exclusive style of the black community. But as soon as Elvis' song hit the airwaves, he became an overnight local star.

    After signing for a major record label he became a national and international sensation in 1956 with hits like "Heartbreak Hotel", "Hound Dog", and "Love Me Tender". Appearing on America's top television shows, his unique vocal style, his visual swagger and provocative gyrations drove teenagers wild and conservative critics even wilder.

    Even Sinatra, never seen as a paragon of virtue, echoed the righteous indignation of many older Americans: "His kind of music is deplorable, a rancid smelling aphrodisiac. It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people." But for youngsters, the combination of Elvis' independent image and uninhibited music was irresistible. "He'd start out, 'You ain't nothin' but a hound dog,' and they'd just go to pieces," said Scotty Moore, his manager at the time. "They'd always react the same way. There'd be a riot every time."

    Elvis also reflected the simmering race issues of a time when the civil rights movement was still in its infancy. "The fact that his music was so openly influenced by black culture cannot be overestimated," says historian Cheri Paris of the University of California, Santa Cruz. "It helped relax a rigid colour line and gave the different communities a vital common culture."

    On the back of his early hits, Elvis bought Graceland mansion in Memphis in 1957 at the same time as "All Shook Up" dominated the charts. He also became the first rock star to also be a movie star. He made four hit films that year before he was drafted for a two-year army stint in 1958 that took him to Germany.

    On his discharge in 1960 his train was mobbed by adoring fans and he was soon back in the studio recording some of his greatest hits such as "It's Now or Never" and "Are You Lonesome Tonight". But even as he was joined at Graceland by the teenaged Priscilla Beaulieu, who would eventually become his wife, he also started displaying the insular behaviour that characterized the rest of his life.

    As the rock 'n' roll movement that he kicked off snowballed with acts like The Beatles, Elvis withdrew from giving concerts and releasing singles. Instead, as his career track was controlled by manager Colonel Tom Parker, he made 27 films during the 1960s.

    By 1968 Elvis was deeply unfulfilled over his singing career and also hated the hippie culture that had spawned from his innovations. But he made a spectacular comeback with a Christmas special that was his first live performance for seven years.

    In 1970, Elvis wrote a six-page letter on American Airlines stationary to then president Richard Nixon, expressing his patriotic concern over the drug and hippie culture. He offered his celebrity status to speak out against drug abuse, and after the White House confirmed the letter was authentic, the two men met.

    But his marriage to Priscilla unravelled, his weight ballooned, he lost his legendary self confidence and he increasingly sought solace in barbiturates, almost dying from an overdose in November 1973.

    By 1977 he had become "a grotesque caricature of his sleek, energetic former self," according to biographer Tony Scherman.

    On Aug 16, just days after a book by his former bodyguards detailed his massive drug use, he was found dead in his Graceland bathroom. The King of Rock 'n' Roll was dead, but he had left a lasting legacy.

    "Elvis was the greatest cultural force in the 20th century. He introduced the beat to everything, music, language, clothes, it was a whole new social revolution," the late classical maestro Leonard Bernstein once said.

  • Elvis Presley, the actor
    (, January 5 2010)
    By Mark Olsen
    The musical visionary's films add another dimension to a dynamic career. With his 75th birthday anniversary this week, American Cinematheque and Turner Classic Movies showcase his other talent.

    Elvis Presley's gifts as a singer, producer and arranger, as an interpreter of emotions, likely made a step toward acting seem part of a natural progression. But his stirring musical vision -- his daring and imaginative blend of country, pop, gospel, R&B and rock 'n' roll -- rarely found an analogous expression in the 31 narrative films he made in Hollywood.

    Any consideration of Elvis movies must acknowledge that there are a lot of duds, lighthearted but workmanlike romps with such titles as "Tickle Me," "Easy Come, Easy Go" and "Kissin' Cousins" that Presley mugged his way through half-heartedly. All the danger, sex appeal and implicit rebellion of his early career was neutered or, at best, put into neutral by these shameless products, among the earliest instances of multi-platform branding and synergy whereby movies and records simultaneously promoted each other.

    The conventional narrative of Presley's life begrudgingly allows for the Hollywood era, when he was making roughly three pictures a year from 1960 to 1969, as a necessary low to set the stage for his triumphant reemergence in music with the television program now popularly known as his " '68 Comeback Special," which led to his revival as a live performer until his death on Aug. 16, 1977.

    Yet within his body of often-dismissed films there is a submerged narrative of unrealized potential and unexplored talent. Amid the flotsam are films with talented directors and actors in which Presley showed glimpses of startling sincerity and emotion, a true actor in the making.

    The 75th anniversary of Presley's birth on Friday provides an opportune moment to reevaluate and perhaps even celebrate his film career (also celebrating the occasion will be a Turner Classic Movies marathon on Friday and an American Cinematheque double feature Sunday).

    For all the general thinking that Presley's movie career was a dead end, the films have had an unexpected and surprisingly broad-reaching influence. Presley's second movie, the 1957 Technicolor-bright "Loving You," was a loose telling of his own rise to stardom and can be seen as a precursor to many subsequent pop star crossovers, perhaps most notably Prince's "Purple Rain." The 1968 film "Speedway" featured an odd bit of production design (cars used as restaurant booths) that was revitalized in 1994's "Pulp Fiction," and the 1968 soundtrack single "A Little Less Conversation" became a surprise hit after it was featured in the 2001 remake of "Ocean's Eleven."

    When Presley began making movies in 1956 with "Love Me Tender," it was with hopes to eventually achieve something of the dramatic emotionalism of James Dean and Marlon Brando. His last two films before entering the Army in 1958, "Jailhouse Rock" and "King Creole," go a long way toward making that goal a reality, ranking as his most complete and fulfilling efforts even among those who otherwise dismiss his work.

    Following the relative commercial disappointment of two essentially dramatic efforts, "Flaming Star" and "Wild in the Country," and the success of the lightweight "Blue Hawaii," his future in Hollywood was largely sealed.

    A template for many of the films to follow, "Blue Hawaii" had Presley playing a young man who wants to be a tour guide rather than run his family's pineapple plantation. His scenes with Angela Lansbury as his stubborn, intrusive mother again showcase Presley's rough-hewn emotionalism and point toward what might have been had he pursued acting more seriously.

    "Viva Las Vegas" (1964) is the only Elvis movie that understands itself as being an "Elvis Movie." Directed by George Sidney, who also cast Ann-Margret, the star of his Elvis-parodying "Bye Bye Birdie," the film has a kicky self-awareness missing from any of Presley's other pictures. Yet Presley himself was no ironist, and so perhaps the "purest" Elvis movie is 1965's insouciant "Girl Happy." An innocent gloss on the beach movie, the film shows that Presley at half-speed still exudes more talent, charm and charisma than most performers.

    Throughout the '60s, filming and soundtrack work often kept Presley from recording much additional music, so the main engine for his success began to slow. As Presley's televised comeback special pointed toward a new beginning, his film career drew to a close with such oddball efforts as 1968's bracingly mature sex farce "Live a Little, Love a Little" and 1969's ersatz spaghetti western "Charro!"

    His last fiction feature was "Change of Habit" (1969), seemingly a rough narration of his hit song "In the Ghetto." It had Elvis playing an inner-city doctor who becomes involved with a nun (Mary Tyler Moore).

    After Presley's triumphant return to live performances in 1969, his last two films were concert documentaries, 1970's "Elvis: That's the Way It Is" (re-edited in 2001) and 1972's "Elvis on Tour." Both films show Presley at his full artistic maturity, highlighting the expansive, encompassing idea of American music that is inarguably his most valuable and lasting legacy.

    Which is not to say that Presley gave up entirely on the idea of acting. In a 1969 news conference he noted, "I want to change the type of script I've been doing," and in 1972 he expressed an interest in more dramatic movie roles, what he referred to as "a non-singing type thing." Infamously, he was approached to play the part of an aging rock star in Barbra Streisand's remake of "A Star Is Born" but no deal was ever reached.

    Perhaps what makes Presley such a perfect pop star even all these years later is that for having made 33 theatrically released feature films in his lifetime, he is still somehow at once completely familiar and utterly unknowable. His film career leaves us with fixed images -- Andy Warhol's iconic gunslinger Elvis comes from "Flaming Star" -- but also with open ideas and possibilities. A fundamental part of his career's narrative, Presley's time making movies only adds to the dynamic of his mystery and the enduring vitality of his talents.

  • Elvis Presley is still everywhere as fans prepare to celebrate King's 75th birthday
    (Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 4 2010)
    Friday, Elvis Presley would have turned 75. Like the cliche says, he might be gone, but he's not forgotten. ...

  • Meet Elvis Presley, before he became the King, in new exhibit
    By Marco R. della Cava
    (, January 3 2010)
    Elvis Presley would have turned 75 on Jan. 8. But for New York photographer Alfred Wertheimer, the King is forever a 21-year-old prince. "Elvis keeps me young. Every time I pore over those negatives, I discover something new," says Wertheimer, 80, who in 1956 was hired by RCA, Presley's new label, to take a few publicity stills.

    But Wertheimer instantly liked his subject and decided to stick around. The resulting candid images captured the crooner on the still-innocent cusp of global stardom.

    The Kiss, perhaps the most famous of those shots, and 55 other stills make up the new Smithsonian traveling exhibition Elvis at 21, Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer. It kicks off on Presley's birthday at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles before embarking on a four-year tour.

    Though Presley has long been at risk of becoming a stereotype, the exhibit seeks to restore his place in the cultural pantheon.

    "It's important that the younger generations know something other than the tight jumpsuits and schmaltzy songs," says Grammy Museum executive director Bob Santelli. "Elvis' story is the great American story, a rise from poverty to being the architect of rock 'n' roll."

    Wertheimer's intimate photos reveal an artist whose confidence belies his age and rural roots. "Al's shots are real fly-on-the-wall stuff, long before celebrities had handlers and managers wanted approval of photos that were released," says Chris Murray of Govinda Gallery in Washington, who curated the exhibit.

    Elvis at 21 doesn't just make Elvis young, it renders America positively Rockwellian. Girls wear white gloves. Men sport crisp suits. Elvis waits patiently to buy sandwiches on a train platform.

    Perhaps the most evocative images show Presley hopping off that train from New York to Memphis one stop early because it's closer to his parents' house. Wertheimer shoots from the train as Presley stomps through some grass, asks for directions, then waves as the train chugs away. He walks off, alone. Soon, never again.

    "This was just another assignment," Wertheimer says. "But those days with Elvis, before he was Elvis, have become a huge part of my life."


  • Memories of King Elvis
    By Michael Freedland
    Source: Guardian
    (Canberra Times, January 3 2010, Panorama section p. 4)
    His childhood friend, his maid, his doctor, his girlfriend ... for the 75th anniverary of Elvis Presley's birth, Michael Freedland travels America to meet the people who were close to the King ...

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