Elvis: alive at 75.

Today marks the seventy-fifth birthday of Elvis Presley, a fellow I too often overlook in my rock & roll ruminations. (I tend to favor revolutionaries like Chuck Berry and Little Richard who broke the mold with their strikingly original tunes in the mid '50s.)

But given the biases of those times it took a white guy to make this new music acceptable to a wider demographic swath, and Elvis was the one who lit up the pop world with his bluesy singing and pelvic swagger.

He was also the lightning rod for bizarro attacks against "the devil's music" from religious conservatives, many of whom assumed Elvis was black until they saw him on TV. (Also who knew R&R was a KGB-engineered Stalinist conspiracy?)

But Elvis persevered and by 1957 had put rock & roll on the culture map. Though Elvis died (allegedly) only twenty years later, he remains a force in the entertainment business today. Hell, he made $55 million more than I did in 2009 and I like to think of myself as alive (at least on a good day).

A business lesson here is the importance of earning "passive income" —revenue that just keeps rolling in whether or not you're rocking out.

If Elvis is buried at Graceland, you can't get much more passive than that. (The recent report that Elvis is alive and chairing the Trilateral Commission is still unconfirmed, though our crack investigative team at BLFR is all over the story.)

But the man was a giant in his day and deserves our gratitude for the rock & roll spirit of freedom, fun, and creativity that he helped launch over five decades ago—a spirit that's still alive in our pop culture… and still missing in our business culture.

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  1. Today also marks the 63rd birthday of David Bowie.

    I don't want to take away anything from Elvis and I agree that he was a phenomenal talent. We can argue the toss about who or which or whatever was better, greater, more important, taller or wore better shirts. Today, that's irrelevant. Let's just celebrate two gigantic talents.

    Copy this link and enjoy:


  2. GREAT clip, Mark. I first caught Bowie on the Spiders From Mars tour, with Mick Ronson on guitar. What a paradigm-busting recording & tour THAT was. I always got the impression he was one business savvy dude. (And he wore better shirts than Elvis.)

  3. Just saw video, John. I LOVE Elvis! And, what an incredibly handsome and heartfelt performer. The dude's got moves too. His hymns are also great. Thanks for posting this.

  4. Yes, Judith, Elvis had the moves. I was just old enough to remember the scare he threw into middle America in the 50s. They wouldn't televise him from the waist down on one of his early performances. There are great clips of his appearances on Steve Allen & Ed Sullivan on YouTube.

    And his brand is increasing in value as time goes on. $49 mill in 08; $55 mill in 09.

  5. Yes, Beth, it appears Lisa Marie Presley (Elvis's daughter) and Priscilla Presley (his wife) have played major roles. Elvis Presley Enterprises is now owned by CKX, Inc.

  6. Speaking about the wonders of passive income, Elvis's ex sure made good money with Graceland! She was so savvy at using the rock and roll cache to bring in the bacon!

  7. Gerri, I haven't followed the story closely but it appears Priscilla Presley got the job done during her tenure as co-executor of Graceland and CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises. Sinking major dollars into Graceland in the early 80s was a gamble - but WHAT a pay-off.

  8. Never mind just the recordings. the movies (33 in total) were a big deal also. My wife knows all the songs from the movies because when she was a kid the family (her and four closely aged sib's) use to watch the movies together. How many other families grew up around the TV on a Sunday afternoon watching "Love Me Tender". And of course they are still shown today.

  9. Ah yes, Elvis's movies. I was just beginning to feel like I was undervaluing the fella (numerous critics have been rightly praising Elvis this last week for the innovative force that he was) and you had to remind me of his movies. Elvis was probably too young and inexperienced to know better, but his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, knew. Parker didn't care if his artist's film products were drek as long as the gravy train kept rolling. (Contrast that with Brian Epstein's guidance of the Beatles and their films.) Also, thanks in large part to Parker, Elvis turned into a sappy crooner after he came home from the Army in 1960. And his Las Vegas reinvention was the death knell of the R&R upstart - who was the mightiest force in music in the 1950s. Sadly, the Elvis that left the building in 1958 never returned.

  10. Elvis was cool until he got pumped full of pills and lost his edge. But my support for Elvis went out the window the day that, when high as a kite, he shook the hand of the late Richard Nixxon (yesh, with 2 x's)! I do NOT budge on this sentiment ever!


  11. Even worse, Nick, Elvis told Nixon (according to Nixon aides' notes) that he was concerned about the anti-American sentiment in the US whipped up by the hippies and communists and singled out the Beatles as a bad influence. Elvis, who was addicted to prescription drugs at the time, offered himself up to be an anti-drug spokesman and requested (and received) a federal narcotics badge, making him an undercover narc—a narc who died of a drug overdose 7 years later. Only in America.

  12. Just to end this thread on a more positive note. To Elvis's credit, he did try to take control of his career later in life. He threatened to fire his manager (Tom Parker) on many occasions but backed down each time, reportedly because he shied away from confrontation.

    With wiser guidance and direction from management - beginning in the late 1950s - Elvis's career arc might have taken a radically different turn. I always got the impression that Elvis was working for Parker rather than the other way around. In ANY business that's a critical misunderstanding of the role of "management" - a point I will continue to hammer away at.

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