Elvis Presley: Misogyny, Racism and Yoga
I have no memories of my Uncle Bill. He died of a heart attack in 1978 when I was two, so that made him a bit of a mythical person to me, and yet I always felt a sort of kindred connection to him because of his collection of Elvis Presley vinyl. At 9 years old, through his record collection, I began to fall for Elvis and all things 1950-60s. I became obsessed with listening to the oldies radio station and watching any Elvis movie I could rent from Wherehouse Videos.
Not all the vinyl survived my Holly Hobby record player, but recently I stole what my parents had left.
“Rip it Up”- Seems like a song kids would listen to while getting ready to go out in the 1950s…amazing guitar sound.
“Love Me” - A sad Elvis, begging to be loved. I can hear the thousands of girls screaming his name while fainting in the aisles of the concert auditorium.
“Ready Teddy”- I imagine girls and guys dancing on a gym floor surrounded by crate paper decorations with the “cats going wild.”
Loving You (1957)
Elvis at his best. This is the album I remember the most.
“(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear”- Maybe it was because I really liked teddy bears at that point in my life, but I just loved that song.
“Mean Woman Blues” - classically simple and wonderful.
“Got a Lot O' Livin’ to Do!”- soooo good.
“(Let’s Have A) Party”- I could picture myself in a poodle skirt with loafers listening to that song.
“Blueberry Hill” - I remember feeling so special for actually knowing this song. Of course I knew it because "Happy Days" referenced it several times, but who cares.
Almost In Love (1970)
“A Little Less Conversation”- The only song I can really stand on the album, but it’s about sex and satisfying your man….sung by a man. A sample lyric, "Shut your mouth, open your heart and satisfy me." Wow. Classic.
“Rubberneckin” - I love the background singers.
“U.S. Male” - This has got to be one of the most misogynistic songs I have ever heard..threatening some guy who is “watching his property”…in this case is his “woman.” Half sung, half spoken word, and actually uses the phrase “sock it to me.” What the WHAT?
I Got Lucky (1971)
The red braided belt Elvis wears on the cover is enough to make it worth checking out.
“Yoga is as Yoga Does” - This song is as ridiculous as it sounds. What on EARTH is this noise? It sounds like a Weird Al Yankovic parody. I think I need to print t-shirts because "yoga is as yoga does."
Burning Love (Hits from his movies) Vol 2 (1972)
Everyone knows “Burning Love” but they definitely scraped the bottom of the movie musical barrel with the rest of the songs.
“Guadalajara” from "Fun in Acapulco" (1963)- Sung completely in Spanish …complete with “Ai-ai-ai,” the song sounds so completely racist, I actually laugh out loud every time I hear it. “Ai-ai-ai mis hermanos” indeed.
“No More” is from the classic 1961 “Blue Hawaii” so it can’t be that bad. Not very Hawaiian, but decent…throw in some “ai-ai-ai,” sing it in Spanish, and it could be just as racist to the Hawaiian people as the song Guadalajara is towards Mexicans. But I guess that was the point with the manufacturing of the Elvis movie brand.
“Santa Lucia” - We have been to Mexico and Hawaii, so why not Italy? This is the classic Italian song heard in every Bucca Di Peppo…Elvis’ version is as cheesy as possible.
Welcome To My World (1977)
A compilation album, I think this might have been one of the last Elvis album’s my Uncle Bill bought since he died in 1978. Nothing too spectacular here…lots of screaming fans picked up on the recording, which I think is sort of cool to hear.
Listening to the albums again made realize three things. First, Elvis was a musical stud then and he would be one now. Second, despite his studliness, Elvis Presley recorded some really horrible songs. And third, the record labels and movie studios that owned the hit churning stud, created a brand they could manufacture and sell. And, much to my recent shock and bewilderment, that brand sang songs about oppressing women, doing yoga, and casual racism.
Given the changes in the music industry today, I can’t help but wonder what Elvis 2016 would look like with full control of his music, movies and youtube channel. I hope that some of the misogyny and racism was in spite of him and not because of him. That hope will have to be enough.