August 18, 2017

Death as a Career Move

"Forty years ago Elvis Presley passed ...into a stunningly successful new phase of his career." Mark Steyn has been marking the anniversary of Elvis Presley this week with several posts

The Man Who Invented Elvis

Back in 1954 it was Sam Phillips who told Elvis to sing the country song ("Blue Moon Of Kentucky") kinda bluesy and the blues song ("That's All Right") kinda country, and, as Elvis was a polite 19-year old who obliged his elders, somewhere in the crisscross something clicked.  It's the Phillips tracks that redeem Elvis for everything that came afterward. Critics still insist that Elvis's The Sun Sessions is the all-time greatest album. As Robert Hilburn put it, on the Sun set "you hear rock being born" - not to Tin Pan Alley hacks and big-time corporations, but in a one-story brick studio where a kid walked in off the street

Rock-a-Hula Baby from the guy who wrote more Elvis songs than anybody else.

And concluding with All Shook Up: On death as a career move.

 King Elvis Dead

It was his widow Priscilla who turned Elvis into a brand name. In life he was a most naive superstar: there were no shrewd investments, no offshore funds - just a million bucks sitting in the same kind of no-interest checking account a minimum-wage waitress would have. His most valuable copyrights had been sold to RCA for a pittance, and the reason he never did any overseas tours turned out to be because Colonel Parker, who claimed to be the son of West Virginia carnie folk, was actually an illegal immigrant from the Netherlands and didn't have a passport.

To secure Lisa-Marie's inheritance, Priscilla set about the belated professionalization of her husband's career. He was posthumously all shook up. She opened Graceland, so that fans could make their pilgrimage to his home and his grave, which now attracts more annual visitors than President Kennedy's. Before Elvis, it was an established legal concept that "the dead have no rights." Priscilla decided to reclaim exclusive rights to her late husband – his image, his identity. The Celebrity Rights Law, passed by Tennessee in 1983 and since taken up by other jurisdictions, effectively extends to Elvis' estate the rights of a living person. Whether you believe he and Osama are working the night shift at the Dubuque Burger King is up to you. But, in the legal sense, Elvis is most definitely alive; it's just that he's changed his name to Graceland Enterprises Inc.
Posted by Jill Fallon at August 18, 2017 10:49 PM | Permalink