Aug. 26, 2007.
I wonder how many people, and of what age groups, have been hearing and seeing Elvis on many TV shows this month?
I gather in memory of his death. And if the older people who grew up on his music and remember how he changed music have thought about this in relation to music and politics and religion today. And if they realize, as I believe, that Elvis and Mattachine/ONE and Playboy affected this nation in a major way. Below are some mixed thoughts, in no order, but I believe are important for anyone trying to understand where America is today in viewing music, sexuality and even religion.
First, do people remember how much the religious nuts and politicians and in fact lots of “artists” attacked Elvis? Watching the upbeat shows made at the time, showing his concerts, and some personal life ignore the constant harassment in the early days he got from white people in the south over his singing black music, shaking his booty, etc. Some DJs actually broke his records, as people still burn books, as if that will hold back the tide of history.
I think we can compare Elvis and his world wide popularity as a major event in history, but it is in a way the same as saying that he was rock and roll’s Stonewall. Think about it. There were, we now know, major black artists/singers who did the same thing as Elvis, as he acknowledged and honored. But it took Elvis to get on TV and get the music to all groups of people, and the media was willing to support him where they had not supported earlier black artists. And again, not many tv shows show the terrible hardships black artists had to suffer, not only in the south, but even in las Vegas, to do what they wanted to do, just sing and entertain people.
And history has to give credit to ONE magazine, and Playboy, for getting the legal right to publish about sexuality. There had been Kinsey before, and others, but perhaps it was just the time that was ready, but ONE’s U.S. Supreme Court victory, as Playboy’s, changed publishing forever. But it took Stonewall for the media to finally get to covering our movement/cause. (And don’t forget the problems Playboy had with distribution, censorship, etc.)So any history classes in any university that tries to cover America since the ’50s has to give space to ONE, Playboy, and Elvis. And when we hear religious nuts still attacking homosexuals today, we must remember that their ignorance is the same as the ignorance of earlier “religious” people when they used the Bible to support slavery, racial segregation, hatred for Jews, hatred for homosexuals, prohibition, and most of the bad things that have happened in America on our way to being the nation envisioned by the founders of equal/civil rights for everyone.