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Elvis Presley's impact on US society in the 1950's

Paper type: Essay
Pages: 15 (3557 words)
Categories: Society
Downloads: 1
Views: 7


Both of these sources help to show the conflicting views that were branded around by US society. Although source F is not a direct opinion or view on Elvis Presley it clearly shows that he must have had fans to have four singles in 1956 that were in the top five of the year and three singles in 1957 that were also in the top five of the year. Source E can seem to have much more importance than source F as there are direct opinions being said about Elvis while source F are just statistics.

This is not the case as those opinions in source E were to be expected as all of the people were from the older generation who hated Elvis because of the affect he had on young teenagers and the fact that he had sung rhythm and blues and had no problem with coloured people with reference to the member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Sources E and F are very useful in explaining the impact of Elvis Presley in the mid 1950’s. Source E is useful in showing that high people who have an influence on society have an opinion on Presley and in Source E’s; these are all negative opinions for Elvis.

This also shows that most of the older generation had negative opinions on Elvis Presley but this didn’t seem to influence Presley’s success in the charts according to Source F. This shows that the amount of support that Elvis had with the younger generation was huge as according to Source E older people didn’t share the same views compared to their children. 4) Study Source G. Source G suggests that attitudes to Elvis Presley were beginning to change by 1958. Use the source, and your own knowledge, to explain why this was happening.

(12) Source G is an article from a magazine about Elvis Presley’s service in the US army in 1958. This is a positive article definitely for Elvis as it promotes the fact that he did not try to buy his way out of serving for the army which probably is a change from a lot of people who with the power that Elvis had, would have bought their way out. Some would say though that a little part of this article could be seen as a negative for Elvis as it says ‘where else could a nobody like Elvis become a somebody so quickly?

‘ From this in my view I can gather that this magazine journalist thinks that Elvis would not have been able to have such an impact as he had on the US anywhere else as with Elvis being born in the US it is a little easier to be accepted, not by everyone, but by a small minority at least which is always an advantage. It goes on to say ‘in what other nation in the world would such a rich and famous man serve alongside other draftees without trying to use influence to buy his way out? This is US democracy at it’s best’.

This could be another part in the article where the article being positive could be brought in the question, as there seems to be a sense of satisfaction when this journalist is saying this. Elvis being one of the most hated people in certain minorities cannot be put into question and the fact that with the power and status that Elvis had, he wasn’t able to avoid doing US army service because everybody had to do it maybe put a little smile on those faces who did not approve of Elvis in the first place.

The fact of the matter is that Elvis could have probably exercised his power into getting out of doing the army service but it would have been a lot harder than thought and Elvis probably didn’t have the energy to go through with that and even might of wanted to do the army service any way, but that is less likely. Elvis going into the army would definitely have produced respect as for such a powerful and successful superstar to then serve time for the army shows society that Elvis cares about his nation and is willing to put his career on the line and serve for the army.

The fact that some people would say that Elvis didn’t have a choice is another matter because to my knowledge Elvis didn’t question doing the service and it probably would have been wise not to anyway as he would have been gaining a lot of supporters, especially among the older generation, which was Elvis’ problem as it was only the teenagers that really bought his records. Overall Elvis probably knew that it would have been a good idea for him to serve for the army as he would been gaining supporters and also respect among society for his willingness to do something that he probably could have got out of doing.

Whatever Elvis’ intentions were when he decided to serve for the army without any problem is not the case, but the fact is that Elvis knew by doing this army service he would be gaining a few supporters as everyone knew that Elvis could probably exercise his power to the extent that he could get himself out of doing the army service with a good lawyer. This source can be used to explain how attitudes towards Elvis Presley were starting to change as compared with previous sources, which have mainly been negative, this source is comparatively different as it sheds a positive light on Elvis’ character.

This is compared with Sources B and E, which are from the years 1956 and 1957 and give accounts of newspaper and people’s opinions on Elvis’ character. An example from source B is from the New York Times and states ‘Mr Presley has no singing ability’ in 1956. A member of the Ku Klux Klan speaking in 1956 from Source E states ‘we’ve set up a twenty-man committee to do away with this cannibalistic, negro-loving rock and roller. Compare these statements with the ones in the source G and the message that they are all giving out and you will see the vast contrast in attitudes.

One of these sources was a general threat and this was on the basis that Elvis had sung Rhythm and Blues and that he didn’t agree with their view on coloured people. There were a number of reasons why attitudes towards Elvis were beginning to change and the two main ones were his music and his film career. Elvis’ manager Colonel Tom Parker controlled Elvis and the decisions that he made, almost to the extent that he lived Elvis’ life for him.

Elvis may seem the controversial character but behind all of his controversial character was that of Colonel Parker and Elvis knew that he couldn’t question any of the Colonel’s decisions but the Colonel also knew that he could not afford to lose Elvis as he was prised asset. Elvis had a great amount of trust in the Colonel for him to control his life in such a way and the Colonel also felt that Elvis believed in him to shape his career into the right direction and tell him if he was going wrong, as that was his job.

Regarding Elvis’ music career Colonel Tom Parker felt that the rock and roll scene would soon die down and also knew that if he changed Elvis’ style of music to pop then he would definitely be gaining more hit singles from all the charts, not just the country ones. Colonel Parker wanted to take Elvis’ career to the next level and he did this by introducing the Hollywood movie business to him and thought that he could be a huge success in that also which would mean more income. This then lead to more of the older generation buying Elvis’ records and this meant more success for him.

Many people didn’t approve of Elvis because of the style of music that he was singing and the things that he was encouraging in this via his lyrics. Colonel Parker knew that if he somehow dealt with this situation, he and Elvis could gain more success. He felt that changing Elvis’ music from rock and roll to pop could solve the situation. Elvis’ main group of fans during the mid 50’s were young teenage girls and the Colonel knew that by changing his music Elvis could also gain support from adults along with the young teenage girls who the Colonel would adore him no matter what style of music he was singing.

Also the Colonel wanted to get rid of the image of Elvis being controversial and rebellious which would attract more positive publicity rather than negative. By transferring Elvis into a pop act Colonel Tom Parker thought that that particular image of Elvis being controversial would be put to bed. The Colonel had hoped that the new film business, which Elvis had just got involved with, would also help promote his music career. With Elvis being able to star in movies, he would be able to input his songs which had began to change into the film soundtracks which would also be bought and mean more money.

The Colonel knew that with getting Elvis to make movies he would be gaining more supporters even if Elvis didn’t want to make movies, he had to, as the Colonel was his manager and controlled him. All of Elvis’s films were very similar and had the same storyline which could have bored audiences and led them to leave but probably didn’t as for some Elvis making music was brilliant but for him to start making movies was even more exciting as they could see their idol in a movie as well.

Elvis Presley’s films were mainly about love romances although there were a few dramas and these romances appealed to a wider audience, which meant that Elvis would be gaining more supporters. With Elvis mainly concentrating on making movies now, there could be an argument that the Colonel was killing two birds with one stone, as Elvis was able to perform his songs during his movies where he was also able to show off his acting skills. It could be argued that one of the main reasons why Elvis’ controversial character was put to bed was because of the change in power of presidency around the time of 1958.

With President Eisenhower in power Elvis had the chance to express views that he knew Eisenhower would not have expressed himself. Especially with the matter of racial equality, Elvis knew that he was probably one of only a small majority that supported the debate of racial equality. Elvis probably thought that if he didn’t promote then who else would? I don’t think that Elvis wanted to be a rebel by doing this but he must have known that he would have caused uproar by promoting racial equality, as he was also a white man.

When President Kennedy came into power though one of his policies was promoting racial equality and this caused a thought-provoking situation for Elvis. The reason for this is because Elvis now had no reason to be a rebellious character as a person in an even higher position than him was promoting racial equality and the public would have taken more to his views than Elvis’s views. The reason for this is because some would argue that the way in which Elvis expressed his views was in the manor that he wanted to prove a point and not to their liking basically.

On the other hand a person such as the United States president would have their views heard by all of society and taken into consideration whereas Elvis would have found it hard to convince the older generation. Many would argue that Elvis did not purposely decide to change himself and this happened because of the death of his mother. Elvis’ mother to him represented the only person that knew him 100 per cent and someone that he could turn to for advice and help. She didn’t though approve of some of the things that Elvis did and one of the main ones was promiscuity.

With Elvis’ mother was the person that brought him up and his success it could be argued was mainly down to his mother’s support from telling Elvis that he could be anything that he wanted to be. I think Elvis appreciated this and would admit to this every time when asked. At the time when Elvis had left Colonel Tom Parker, he felt that the only person that he could turn to and trust was his mother. At this time Elvis was very depressed and was almost having a nervous breakdown as he stated that he was lonely and found it hard to sleep.

His mother was the only reason for him to live as he had succeeded as an artist already and when his mother died he had no reason to live basically. Elvis needed support and he decided to keep as close to his father as possible and his father then found a woman and decided to marry her, only for Elvis not to attend the wedding according to a source by Lea Frydman on the Elvis Presley news website. This shows that Elvis though that nobody could replace his mother especially not a stepmother.

Overall I think that attitudes towards Elvis were beginning to change by 1958 and this is mainly because of the factors that I have stated above which were the change in his music and his films. With his pop style music people saw his a lesser threat to society with the influence that he had on young teenagers when he was making rock and roll records, as with the lyrics involved, it can seem as if he is trying to influence people’s ideas which he probably was, but this didn’t go down well with the older generation.

As he changed his style of music because of the Colonel, the image of the ‘controversial’ and ‘rebellious’ character of Elvis had been banished and he was seen more as an entertainer later on as he also starting to get involved with the movie business. 5) Study all the sources. ‘The impact of Elvis Presley on US society during the 1950’s was more the result of television coverage of his performances than of his music. ‘ Use the sources, and your own knowledge, to explain whether you agree with this view of the career of Elvis Presley.

(14) Elvis Presley had a huge impact on US society during the 1950’s as he was seen as a very controversial character. The reason for this is because Elvis crossed barriers that no one had dared cross before and was very open in his opinions, not fearing so much for how he would be perceived by a minority as he knew that he would always have a fan base that would stay loyal to him and he found this in young teenagers, mostly girls. For young teenage girls Elvis possessed characteristics that they adored.

The rebellious, controversial and out-spoken character of Elvis Presley that was the new trend with young teenagers during the mid 1950’s because of the new rock and roll era. For young teenagers Elvis represented a role model and a leader for the new rock and roll style of music. The evidence to prove this is shown in Source D of the assignment where it can be seen that a large majority of young teenagers, especially girls are enthralled to see their idol in the flesh and this is shown by the way they are reaching out to try and touch Elvis Presley.

Elvis wasn’t afraid to say what he felt and an example of this was when he stated that he did not have a problem with a coloured people at all. The reason for this was because he felt he could be associated with coloured people because of the fact that along with him they were mostly struck by poverty. On the other hand though Elvis also had a negative impact on US society in the sense that even though a lot of people loved him and bought his records, there was a minority that also disapproved of him and hated his character and the influence that he was having on society at that time.

The older generation didn’t like the fact that Elvis was influencing young teenage girls to do certain things through his lyrics. The evidence for this is shown Source E when Billy Graham, an evangelical preacher stated that he would not let his daughter cross the street to see Elvis Presley. This shows that a person in a high position disapproves of the fact that Elvis has committed promiscuity, which is an act, which an evangelical preacher would definitely not approve of and also that Billy Graham didn’t like under age sex, which he felt Elvis promoted.

This was a start of a new period where young teenagers would test their parents with their ‘youth rebellion’ and Elvis and other artists almost promoted this through his songs didn’t help at all as he was the topic on every teenager’s lips. For example Eddie Cochrane’s song ‘C’mon Everybody’ promoted the idea of having a party while your parents are out of town, which may not seem like a crime as such but the song has a deeper meaning, which cannot be put into the song. Eddie Cochrane’s meaning behind this was basically to do whatever you wanted without thinking of the consequences.

The media also promoted Elvis’ impact on US society, as magazines and newspapers were obviously going to write about him because of the controversial character that he was and the barriers that he crossed because which was the type of stories that would probably sell and does in this day and age. Whether it was positive publicity or negative doesn’t really matter when considering the impact that Elvis had but mainly during the beginning of his career his publicity was mostly negative but as he changed his style of music it would have got better as he was almost doing what a minority of society wanted due to Colonel Tom Parker’ demands.

He gained appearances of television chat programmes and also started to make films along with persisting with his music career. There were many reasons for the impact of Elvis Presley on US society during the 1950’s but some of the main ones were his music and television coverage of his performances. There could be an argument that his impact on US society during the 1950’s was more the result of television coverage of his performances than of his music.

A reason for this could be that when someone is watching an artist perform they are also able to see the body language of the artist and not just listen to the record and hear the voice where your only criticism could be the person’s voice compared to the artist’s live performance where you can also judge the body language. In Elvis’ case his body language was a huge part of his performance compared to other artists where they tended to concentrate on just their voice. The fact that Elvis also made 31 movies is a huge factor to support the view that his television coverage mostly made the impact on US society.

It could be argued though that had Elvis not made an impact with his music on US society during the 1950’s he would not have been able to make movies and make television appearances because he would not be a marketable asset. Elvis’s TV coverage seemed to be a higher priority than his music at one time in Elvis’ career compared to at the beginning when Elvis only had his music to work on. All of Elvis’ TV coverage and films came down to one person and that was Colonel Tom Parker. Had it not been for his higher ambitions than for Elvis just to carry on making pop music Elvis probably himself would have not got into the film business.

This was Colonel Parker’s main ambition though, to make as much money as possible out of Elvis Presley until he was started to be unsuccessful. Elvis himself though was a very ambitious man and even though he didn’t enjoy making the films he knew that they made money, so he persisting with them, even though Colonel Parker probably wouldn’t have allowed him to quit. When making films Elvis was able to wipe out the negative image that he had when he was making his rock and roll music to an image that suited the audiences that watched the films.

Colonel Parker also had a part to play in this as he felt that if Elvis made films then he would be attracted more audiences and therefore they would probably take an interest in his music. Elvis’ film work proved to be key in winning over US society as he made romance stories and was a comedy character also in some films. This is a side to Elvis that many of US society probably wouldn’t of imagined seeing whilst he was working on his rock and roll music.

Cite this essay

Elvis Presley’s impact on US society in the 1950’s. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/elvis-presleys-impact-us-society-1950s-11632-new-essay

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