Eminem’s iconic song “Without Me” he sings, “I am the worst thing since Elvis Presley, To do black music, so selfishly, and I used it to make myself wealthy.” Reflecting on his words, I already understood a few things:
- THE king of Rock and Roll is, has been, and always will be Chuck Berry, without a doubt.
- Chuck Berry was black
- White kids enjoyed Rock and Roll music
- Elvis was inserted to replace Chuck Berry as the face of Rock and Roll because he was a “safe” alternative to than any black man
- Rap, hip-hop, dance, and much “pop” music has been pioneered by black musicians.
- White kids like rap, hip-hop, dance, and “pop” music
- Eminem is a white man who is a rapper
I still felt uninformed, so I looked up some things. Here is what I discovered:
Elvis Presley was racist and a pedophile.
Eminem, like with most of what he writes, was responding to being criticized by the record producers for being selfish in the marketing of himself as a product. Good for him for not being a fraud to what he claims to me and a sheep of the “machine”.
Although I accepted this information about Elvis as accurate and worthy I was troubled by the consideration that Elvis was a racist and pedophile. The more and more I thought about it, the less and less I was able to accept these assertions on face value. I began considering how else I might consider these character flaws.
Elvis was immersed into stardom in his early 20’s. He was talented, attractive, and charismatic. He appreciated the rhythm and blues aspect of Rock and Roll and moved his style away from that of Country; a style that was vastly more accepted by the white majority. Elvis, from the South, was a great advocate to merge black music, Rock and Roll into white homes. Keep in mind, this is predating the British Revolution of The Who, The Stones and Beatlemania and such.
My grandparents were from this time. If I were to have been asked if I felt my grandmother was racist when I was a teenager I would have said ‘yes’. She would refer to young black kids as “pickaninnies”. There were no specific incidents I can refer to, but the feeling was that of her thinking herself superior to blacks. My grandfather, her husband of 60+ years, died a few years before she did. He lived in a nursing home before he died; she would get a ride to visit with him often in the nursing home. An orderly from the nursing home who spent a lot of time caring for my grandfather came to the calling hours. My grandmother, all 4’10” and shrinking, who had been sitting for a long time in a state of catatonic mourning sprung up to embrace this black man. It was this moment I realized she, like Elvis, became desensitized to the racist world in which they lived. They, being white, were privileged to be living in an era and place where their complexion immersed themselves into a world where the language they heard, beliefs they were taught, and security they embraced was not acceptable; it was racist. Should they have been activists against racism? Yes. However, not being an activist doesn’t make you racist; it makes you something else. That will be the topic of another post.
I appreciate that Eminem has selected to not allow the producers to shape him into another Elvis. I have always admired his independence and willingness to take on a duplicitous image. Eminem however, is not an activist, he is hardheaded and independent. In the action of not allowing the “machine” to mold his work toward a racist intent as the young Elvis did has done no work toward speaking out against racist actions. Elvis seemed content to allow the producers to utilize their racist agenda with his music and image. This does not make Elvis racist. In fact, looking into it more, it seems Elvis was racial accepting and tried to encourage and embrace the Civil Rights Movement of the 50’s and 60’s. Not an activist, but certainly a lot better of a man than I had the knee jerk reaction to accuse him of being.
Debunking Elvis from the accusation of being a pedophile, that looked to be more difficult. I’m concerned that a lot of inflammatory webpages often use things as “clickbait” to increase their numbers and therefore get paid advertising. However, even though there seemed to be a common thread that Elvis enjoyed hanging around with younger girls (14-17 ish). Although I couldn’t find confirmation that he had intercourse with a minor, and he respected and was fascinated with virginity (especially that of Priscilla, who was 14 when she began dating the 24-year-old Elvis). Perhaps love knows no age. I don’t know enough about what needs to happen to make it pedophilia, at least it may be a little creepy?
I recall my feeling about Michael Jackson. In my opinion, the greatest entertainer to ever live, enjoyed spending time around younger kids. He was never convicted of anything, and I feel the parents were looking for a payday. Having a 13-year-old daughter, I would NEVER consider allowing her to hang out at a 40-year-old “friend’s” house no matter what the circumstances were. Being a teacher and having a 13-year-old daughter, I do love being around kids. There are certain freedoms and inexperience kids have that you cannot be duplicated with adults who have the burden of having lived life. As a teacher, I know that perception can be damning and therefore I am protective of my image.
Michael Jackson and Elvis, as superstars, had people, adults, and children throwing themselves at them. I saw a documentary on The New Kids on The Block, and there were mothers who would offer sex to bouncers so their daughter could “hang out” with the band. In all three situations and that of the “British Invasion”, to be sure, parents need to be the stopping force against adolescence being stupid. I didn’t find anything that criminalized Elvis or left him without blame. As a teacher, the blurry line between 14-24 is frightening. Anyone who knowingly advances upon a minor is wrong. Watching how parents allowed their 8-15-year-old daughters to dress to attend a Taylor Swift concert was appalling; I can only imagine the irresponsibility upon the heads of the parents who allow their young daughters to have contact with Elvis!
Please do not hold onto the information in this post as gospel or an extensive study on Elvis in order to base your opinions of his life upon. I’m sure you can see that the misinformation I exposed myself to has altered my opinion. Like with the parents who were permissive regarding Michael Jackson, The New Kids on The Block, Beatlemania, and I would presume Elvis, encourage everyone to look further than the headline and really think about what the message is that is being presented. Care for your children and teach them what is and is not appropriate.