ostentatious bouquets came in from every corner of the world.
The first responders were the rock and roll community; even rivals and competitors, some with old feuds and grudges, could not contain their grief and out and out shock that the King was dead. He was only 42. His reign should have lasted for decades more.
Even the enemies of the kind of ostentatious capitalism that Elvis represented paid their respects. Soviet Premier Kosygin and Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, managed to choke out some kind words. They weren’t alone. Over 80 foreign leaders paid their respects to a man they knew would probably surpass their influence and legacy.
They were joined by hundreds of big and small city mayors and 32 American governors who either issued press releases acknowledging the singer’s death or sent something to signify their admiration.
President Jimmy Carter, who had only been in office a few months, went dangerously beyond the platitudes of most of his colleagues. The fellow southerner imbued Elvis’ career with the significance that would have embarrassed the pioneer rocker. Carter said that while Elvis had a tenacious grasp of the character of white America, he also possessed innate sense of the black rhythms, bridging the two cultures which helped lay the foundation for the popular reception of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech a few years later. Although Elvis’ strict sense of humility would never allow him to agree, but some feel that the singer did more for American race relations than any political leader, including Martin Luther King and President Johnson, champion of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Sometimes those outside of the music world were more charitable to Elvis than those in it.
Elvis’ earlier role in the history of rock and roll is clouded. Was he truly the first? If so, the first what? Contributing to this confusion was the general of the British invasion, John Lennon, an early Elvis acolyte. In biblical terms that could have been ripped out of the first page of Genesis, the Beatle said: Before Elvis; there was nothing.”
Rock poet, Gus Martin chose to sum it up like a Homerian scholar “Like a colossus, Elvis strode across the stage, his guitar casting rhythmic thunderbolts into the audience as he crooned with a voice of honeyed lightening. He was a southern Prometheus. Unlike the Greek god who captured a torch of fire from Zeus to give it to mankind, this titan crossed the abyss of musical apartheid, reaching into the darkness, grabbing the melodies, rhythms and blood spilling angst that had been echoing in the slave fields, in the slave ships and in the ancient Africa villages for centuries. The blaze he ignited has never been extinguished.”
The History of Rock is a mystery
Part of the problem of giving Elvis his due, is that the history of rock itself is muddied.
The origin of rock and roll can’t be pinpointed to a specific moment such as when Samuel Morris sent the