Tuesday, March 9, 2010

If I Can Dream

Thanks to a commercial for the awful-looking show If I Can Dream, I've become obsessed with the Elvis song of the same name. Just look at his moves in this 1968 Comeback Special. If I ever have a comeback, or a coming to, for that matter, I want my name in big red lights behind me.

The song was an ode to Martin Luther King, Jr., assassinated two weeks before, which calls into question that classic "Fight the Power" lyric:

"Elvis was a hero to most / But he never meant shit to me / Straight-up racist that sucker was / Simple and plain."

Growing up a huge fan of Do The Right Thing, I took Public Enemy's word as gospel and more or less dismissed "The King of Rock 'n Roll" as one more symbol of white appropriation of black culture. But while I still think it's true that Elvis, like so many other white artists, are given sole credit for artistic production that has a long established history in black culture, the more I learn about him personally, the more I think he understood his roots, and gave due credit - even if media didn't follow suit.

R&B/soul singer Jackie Wilson even said that "A lot of people have accused Elvis of stealing the black man's music, when in fact, almost every black solo entertainer copied his stage mannerisms from Elvis." Though I love my man Jackie, I can't really agree - except, maybe, in the case of Blelvis: