Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley (Elvis Aaron Presley), 1935–77, American popular singer, b. Tupelo, Miss. Exposed to gospel music from childhood, Presley began playing guitar before his adolescence. He first recorded in 1953, became a national sensation by 1956, and dominated rock music until 1963. Presley sang successfully in three popular idioms: country and western, rock 'n' roll, and rhythm and blues. Although he had a pleasant baritone voice and a sincere delivery, it was his pelvic gyrations, considered wildly sexual by an entire generation of teenagers and their appalled parents, which skyrocketed Presley to fame. Among his most successful songs were "Heartbreak Hotel," "Love Me Tender," "Hound Dog," and "Don't Be Cruel." His success spawned a spate of B movies and from 1956 to 1972 he appeared in 33 motion pictures including Love Me Tender (1956), Jailhouse Rock (1957), and Follow That Dream (1962). Presley remained a popular and influential performer through the 1960s and 70s. His death was attributed largely to substance abuse. Since his death, popular interest in Presley has remained high; his home, Graceland, in Memphis, Tenn., has been turned into a highly successful tourist attraction and pop culture shrine.

See account by his former wife, Priscilla, Elvis and Me (with S. Harmon, 1986); J. Hopkins, Elvis: The Final Years (1986), L. Cotten, Elvis Catalog (1987), R. Gibson and S. Shaw, Elvis (1987); biography by P. Guralnick (2 vol., 1994, 1998); documentary dir. by T. Zimny (2018).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Elvis Presley: Selected full-text books and articles

Elvis Presley, Reluctant Rebel: His Life and Our Times By Glen Jeansonne; David Luhrssen; Dan Sokolovic Praeger, 2011
Rock and Roll: A Social History By Paul Friedlander Westview Press, 1996
Librarian's tip: Discussion of Elvis Presley begins on p. 42
Dead Celebrities, Living Icons: Tragedy and Fame in the Age of the Multimedia Superstar By John David Ebert Praeger, 2010
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "The Weird and Fantastic Tale of the Pixellation and Disintegration of Elvis Presley"
Jazz and Pop, Youth and Middle Age like Young By Francis Davis Da Capo Press, 2001
Librarian's tip: "Elvis Presley's Double Consciousness" begins on p. 246
Colored White: Transcending the Racial Past By David R. Roediger University of California Press, 2002
Librarian's tip: "An Elvis Retrospective" begins on p. 214
The Sound of Light: A History of Gospel Music By Don Cusic Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1990
Librarian's tip: Chap. 17 "Elvis and Gospel"
Bit Parts: Dismembering Elvis in Recent Hollywood Films By Carlson, Thomas C Film Criticism, Vol. 24, No. 1, Fall 1999
Practicing Religion in the Age of the Media: Explorations in Media, Religion, and Culture By Stewart M. Hoover; Lynn Schofield Clark Columbia University Press, 2002
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "Believing in Elvis: Popular Piety in Material Culture"
Just My Soul Responding: Rhythm and Blues, Black Consciousness, and Race Relations By Brian Ward UCL Press, 1998
Librarian's tip: "A Forgotten Interlude: Elvis and Reverse Crossover" begins on p. 134
The Evolution of Elvis Presley Enterprises By Honey, Jean N Business Perspectives, Vol. 14, No. 3, Summer 2002
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