by Doug “Uncola” Lynn:
A few months ago, one of my offspring texted and asked if I had read or heard anything about the new Elvis movie that was playing in theaters at the time. When I said “no”, they responded back that they had seen the film, that it was very good, and these words: “I didn’t know Elvis was that big of deal back then”.
So allow me some latitude as I’m going somewhere with this…
In my mind, I thought: “Really? How could my kid not know? Elvis Presley was considered the “king of rock and roll”.
On the other hand, maybe it wasn’t so odd. After all, Elvis music was not played around my kids when they were growing up; and I, personally, have only considered the man, vaguely, as an American historical icon.
I considered my own cognitive associations involving Elvis:
– My dad had some Elvis gospel and Christmas albums.
– I have heard most of Elvis Presley’s songs at one time or another.
– I eventually learned that many Elvis songs were first performed by other musicians and blues singers.
– I had seen portions of various Elvis movies while surfing through TV channels, as well as some segments of an early 1980s (or late 1970s?) documentary which ran years later on HBO (or another premium cable TV channel like HBO).
– My sister-in-law was always a huge Elvis fan, even to the point of placing Elvis figurines and pictures in her home. She is fifteen years older than me and once when the topic came up, I asked her if she had ever seen the aforementioned documentary and the segment where Elvis was in the back of a limousine referencing his after-show “adventures” with a female fan the night before. My sister-in-law replied: “Yeah, I saw that too. I know he was like that but I don’t choose to remember him that way”.
– When I was in my early teens I would sometimes stay at my cousin’s house. He was my age and lived in a large American city. One day, during a week I was there, his older sister (i.e. my female cousin) and her two teenage girlfriends had tickets to attend an Elvis concert. They spent most of the day getting ready, trying on outfits, putting on make-up, and monopolizing the bathrooms. I remember my Aunt giving me a wide-eyed look of exasperation and exclaiming: “It mystifies me how those girls can spend seven hours getting ready for a two-hour concert!” And I’m fairly certain that was the first time I had ever heard the word “mystifies” spoken in a sentence.
– Then the relatively large impact on American society after Elvis died in 1977.
– And, finally, the bizarre performances of Elvis impersonators. I can understand why cover singers would perform some of the Elvis songs, but do they really need to dress, talk, and act like him too?
If that’s all that came to my mind when I thought of Elvis, then I suppose it is understandable that today’s young adults might not fully realize the emotional impact Elvis made on the generation(s) preceding mine.
A short time after the text exchange with my kid, I read that Elvis Presley’s previous wife, Pricilla, and his daughter, Lisa Marie, liked the film. I found that interesting and was actually a little surprised. In fact, I was now somewhat curious about the movie knowing it was produced and filmed in such a way that it earned the endorsement of Presley’s ex-wife and daughter.
After doing some cursory research on the film, I learned it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2022, it was released in the U.S. the following month, and was said to be a critical and financial success.
Knowing all that, but primarily upon the recommendation of my progeny, I decided I would see the film and asked my wife to join me when we found the time. Unfortunately, we never did find the time to see the movie in our local theater before Elvis had left the building, so to speak.
As luck would have it, however, National Cinema Day occurred over this past Labor Day weekend and a nearby theater was playing a re-release of the film. Even better, the tickets were only $3 each.
Sold. We saw the show.