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Elvis and Nixon

Mother Jones publishes a letter Elvis Presley wrote to Nixon.
They say Elvis apparently loved Nixon. Elvis and love, isn’t that something?
I made a comment on the site comparing Elvis and Dean Martin or Tony Bennett, both
romantic singers. I saw a commercial the other night for Dean’s comedy hour. They
were calling it the greatest variety show ever. Didn’t they remember Andy Williams? For
sure that Moon River would give Everybody Loves Somebody a run for its money and Tony
Bennett’s I Left My Heart in San Francisco was a big hit among those who were not
tripping and smoking dope for fear they would lose everything they had.
Elvis was not a drinker like Dean and Sinatra or the rest of the Rat Pack. Maybe that was
the point. Maybe he wanted to compete with the crowd that Nixon liked to identify
himself with.
In the documentary Elvis: His Best Friend Remembers there is a description I believe of
Elvis’ wanting to be a narc. Could be Elvis hadn’t tried any dope by then. Many of us
could be a little strange about dope before we ever tried it. I am still to this day wary
of hypodermic needles. Many of my friends considered the needle just another way to
get high.
I don’t know the total circumstance and MJ does little to elucidate the whole scene.
I remember the King being submerged beneath the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones
as well as Frank, Dean, Sammy and the other ancient crooners who didn’t wiggle their
hips when they sang a tune. There is a lot of competition in the world and it seemed there
was little to praise in Elvis in the 60’s. That you can get a picture of him with Nixon doesn’t
seem unusual when nobody (no critics) could be thankful to have him in the world.
It’s a shame that his physical beauty that caused women to go mad with lust kept his
beautiful voice and ability with a song to go unnoticed. In the sixties he took those queer,
ugly, country songs and made them sound like something professional, something slick, something
with talent. Your Cheatin’ Heart or Guitar Man were not number one hits but great interpretations
of traditional country music.
When do we stop demanding that our performers make the charts. The Beatles were likely wise to
get out of the record business when they were expected to make the kind of music that made money instead of music that they liked.
I liked Elvis. I would have liked him to be as big as Jimmy Stewart, nominated for oscars for his performances in those movies that nobody liked but made a lot of money, like Follow That Dream or Blue Hawaii. He could have done more with some help. I can imagine what kind of concert films he could do if he could be featured with other big names instead of just his own.
Elvis wasn’t a political thinker. MJ mentions his inability to write. He wasn’t an educated “boy.” Didn’t he drop out of high school? What can they expect? Do they think Marlon Brando was a genius, too?
It is too bad that Elvis couldn’t have taken a page out of Brando’s book with his embrace of the American Indian movement, but maybe you had to be an actor to do that.
I saw that film on Bobby Darin that Kevin Spacey did. Was it real that Darin had a heart defect all his life or was it the life he led that destroyed his heart. He seemed to be on both sides of the fence in the sixties as well. Swinging and folk-rock.
Of course it wasn’t my generation. I was only 3 years old when Elvis hit the stage at Ed Sullivan theater.
I did impressions of Elvis singing Hard Headed Woman for my family when I was 5. You couldn’t really call him my idol. That was Bugs Bunny, I think. He was popular to a generation of war babies. I was a boomer.

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