A few days ago marked what would have been Elvis Presley's eighty-fifth birthday. I witnessed the by-now standard display of virtue signaling, from people who know nothing about music--or any subject--in which, in this instance, one is lectured that Presley was merely a copycat of black musicians, a cultural appropriator, glory thief, lesser, white man product.
For instance, I saw this: "Elvis Presley's music came from mostly black music influences. Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Big Joe Turner, and Little Richard are the true pioneers of rock and roll music."
Do you know what that means, at the level of the sentence? It means that Presley was not a true pioneer. So, he is a fraudulent one, a thief, what have you.
Firstly, in terms of chronology, Chuck Berry and Little Richard were not doing what they did before Elvis was doing what he did. Further, I would say that Berry, circa 1954 (in fact, his first single, "Maybellene," did not come out until July 1955), was more of a rhythm and blues artist than whatever Elvis was--more on that for a second. And Little Richard was a secular gospel artist who happened--save on a gospel album like God Is Real--not to sing about God, and instead pervy old uncles. (By the by: my upcoming Sam Cooke book discusses Little Richard's microphone technique in relation to Sam Cooke's.) Fats Domino and Big Joe Turner predate Presley, but saying Presley is not legit but they are would be akin to saying that they themselves are not legit because of Fats Waller and Count Basie bands. That's the tradition they come from.
The reality with Presley is that no one sounded like him in 1954 with those Sun sides. They are as Modernistic--perhaps more so--than James Joyce and Ulysses, Stravinsky and Rite of Spring. Listen to "Milkcow Blues Boogie." You think anyone was doing music like this? It's insane music to do. What would you even term it? Electric yodeling futuristic ghost music returning back to the past?
One tires of people who only and ever talk from their ass acting like their voice has equal weight. I hear Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Elvis Presley, and I hear disparate strands of music, and it is Presley's music that is unique, with those Sun sides. Yes, he listened to what were called race records, and so much gospel, and also so much country, and I would bet you anything, given some of his rhythmic approaches, that he also absorbed a lot of Shaker music, but Sam Phillips must have heard this dude at Sun and thought, "What the fuck is this?" The Sun sides sound otherworldly, and of this world entirely; they sound like they could be musical sci-fi, they sound older than the Republic itself, as old as time itself. And also from Neptune.
But he's not a true pioneer, right? Because he's white? Stop the endless racebaiting. Know things. Or don't know them. If you know the things, say them. If you don't, say nothing, or learn them. Do not engage in endless ass talk. I hate when people do nothing but speak from the ass, while also tsk-tsking others, virtue signaling, whoring for likes from the Woke.
There is no one in America who writes more on black music than I do. There is no one who knows more about many forms of black music than I do. Go read the pieces. And the idea that Presley is not a "real pioneer" is just gallingly stupid. It's gallingly racist.
And Presley's music came from mostly other people? Which means that little of his music came from who he was, his talent, his genius. God that is offensive. I don't know what is much worse than a combo of ignorance, entitlement, and sententiousness.