Elvis Presley: An American Innovator

Elvis Presley passed away on this day in 1977. He was an artist, musician, singer, entertainer, businessman, and true American icon. 

Most people know Elvis for his string of hits in the 1950s or his long list of movies (in which he starred and wrote the soundtracks) from the 1960s. Or perhaps they remember Elvis from his appearances in the 1970s, dazzling crowds in Las Vegas in his famous sequined jumpsuits, playing power ballads like one of my favorites, “Kentucky Rain.” 

When I think about Elvis, though, I think of his extraordinary innovations, creating the genre of Rock & Roll and establishing himself as one of the most resilient brands in American music history. 

Elvis achieved worldwide fame as the “King of Rock and Roll,” a music style he helped usher into existence in the 1950s, blending Country & Western music with R&B to create an entirely new sound. Elvis was so extraordinary, he topped the charts almost immediately, becoming the first true rock star. His “TCB” or “Taking Care of Business” motto (along with the signature lightning bolt) represents not only the name of his famous touring band but his mantra.

Elvis believed in taking care of business “in a flash” and not leaving critical things unresolved. He was a big believer in personal responsibility and took pride in his considerable accomplishment. He was  born of modest means and became one of the most famous people in the world. Although he achieved worldwide fame and tremendous financial success, his most heartfelt desire was always to provide for his momma, who could no longer work because of an injury.

Elvis was raised poor but used his talents to achieve lasting fame and to create an empire. After his death, his wife Priscilla, then his daughter Lisa Marie, took the reins of the business, helping keep it and Elvis’s spirit alive. Today, Elvis Presley Enterprises, which oversees his famous Graceland Mansion in Memphis, Tennessee, and the various businesses with his name attached, is worth approximately $500 million.

You can see the proof of Elvis’s success (and the fruits of the ladies’ labors) at Graceland which has been lovingly preserved as a museum for all things Elvis. There they keep his gold records, his gun collection, and even a fair number of those sequined jumpsuits. Elvis himself is even interred there, resting in a serene spot near the pool.

Music fans and artists from around the world look up to Elvis because of his many contributions to the world of music, his many hits, and his larger-than-life personality. I look up to Elvis because of what he created: An empire, which has survived long after the man himself passed away.

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