Before Elvis, only African American audiences had heard of this rhythm and blues variant pioneered by the likes of Little Richard and Chuck Berry. After Elvis, few people can remember this was ever anything but a white, suburban music genre. One can say what one will about Elvis Aaron Presley, but the truth is the man single-handedly unleashed the thwarted passions of a generation and brought the African American creation of rock and roll to the world. Yes, this smacks of hyperbole, but the facts speak for themselves.
Elvis enjoyed a What set Elvis apart from his contemporaries is the simple fact he had none. Indeed, his first recording label, Sun Records, claimed an near-exclusive roster of country and blues artists, namely Johnny Cash and the now-obscure Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats, who, incidentally, recorded the first “official” rock and roll song, Rocket 88. Elvis was, to borrow a tired cliche, the pioneer of an entire cultural shift.
A shift, by definition, requires some invisible hand of fate to set it in motion. It was the big bang resulting from a convergence of forces and factors, namely, the established curiosity of white audiences for African American rhythm and blues coupled with the emergence of a new generation of self-aware, and self-created, teenagers. The creation of the teenager, by Madison Avenue-based marketing forces eager to exploit a new economic class, provided the rich soil that would grow the rock and roll oak, so to speak.
Before Elvis could begin the new cultural war, it took James Dean to die as a martyr for the new cause. With the brooding, mercurial archetype pressed upon the consciousness of an entire generation, who better to deliver the message and unleash the animal passion than Mr. Presley? Indeed, as he is most famously crooned during the third verse of Are You Lonesome Tonight?, when he unknowingly quoted the Bard in saying, “The world is a stage and we each must play out part.” A misquote, to be sure, but an effective one.
If the Bard, and Mr. Presley, are to be believed, then indeed the world is a stage and each one of us is indeed playing a part. Some of us, however, tend to play more than one part. Some of us hope to play larger parts. Some of us enjoy playing parts other people have played. This can be done, of course, either by studying at the Actor’s Studio and embarking on an acting career — or it can be done in front of a green screen and spliced into a classic film. The former will entail a significant financial investment and years of trials and error. The latter, thanks to companies like Yoostar, will only set you back a hundred dollars and an evening’s worth of upload time.
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