The one-time king is now more often the (big) butt of jokes (See?).
But his musical and cultural imprint remains huge and will forever be impossible to escape from. This is, for the most part, a good thing. Just consider the number of musicians who have covered, copied and imitated the Great White Hype, I mean Hips. In part because hype and purloined material aside, the man was, well, kind of a big deal.
In honor of the day he absconded his throne (while on the throne… see? One can’t help oneself), here are ten artistic invocations of Elvis, ranging from the good to the bad to the very ugly. In all seriousness, the range of genres, cultures and eras represented just in this small sample should put the King’s enduring influence in appropriate perspective (perhaps too much perspective; see #1).
1. In one of the great scenes from one of the all-time great comedies, here is Spinal Tap saluting the King (argh: the full scene is not possible to embed. Go to YouTube and look at up “Spinal Tap Elvis grave” for a bit too much perspective):
2. The immortal Bill Hicks keeping it (un)real:
3. A more reverential tribute from the guitar god Danny Gatton:
4. Speaking of “Mystery Train”, here’s some love for (and from) Jim Jarmusch:
5. You think that’s weird? Ever seen Wild at Heart? (Nic Cage when he was only pretending to be crazy…mostly):
6. No list would be complete without Public Enemy’s eviscerating ‘dis. “Motherfuck him and John Wayne” is one of the great slams in rap history. I’ve never heard a song that could hurt and heal all at once quite like this one:
7. Okay. Some comic relief, STAT. Enter personal hero, Tortelvis. If you are not down with Dread Zeppelin, you should be. If you have never heard them, listen to what your life has been lacking all these years (from the enthusiastically recommended—no, really—album 5,000,000):
8. From Dread to Led. Recently discussed from the all-time album that supposedly sucks (but does not), “Hot Dog” is the hilarious and genuinely reverential and rocking Elvis tribute from Led Zeppelin’s In Through the Out Door:
9. And another Elvis-inspired number, this one from the magnificent Freddie Mercury. Rockabilly plus Mercury doing Elvis plus Brian May = epic:
10. Last and far from least, a song that sort of ties it all together, courtesy of Living Colour: guest vocalist Little Richard (!) gets the definitive last word, as well he should. Great vid (attention to detail always making the nice little differences: note the peanut butter and bananas in the shopping cart: RESPECT!):