When it comes to sustained cultural impact, very few music artists make such an impression that they remain relevant and important 40 years on from their heyday. It takes talent akin to the likes of The Beatles to stand the test of time. The Beatles were a collective of talent, each individual holding their own appeal, which makes it even more impressive when an individual pulls off the same feat. There is perhaps no greater individual in this context than Elvis Presley, who is still a source of incredible fascination and inspiration for popular culture four decades after his death.
Indeed, looking at lists of the best ever musicians, Elvis is always in the runners and riders to be in top spot, but while his actual performances and chart records are impressive enough (with 18 number one songs on the Billboard 100 and more than 1 billion records reportedly sold), it is the fact that he manages to still find himself relevant in today’s culture that is truly incredible. Perhaps you could argue that this is because he appeared in movies or, perhaps because he famously had his own sandwich that helped him to stand the test of time, but more likely is the fact that he simply transcended the role of being a celebrity and instead became one of the first global phenomena, creating a sense of nostalgia not rarely seen in the entertainment world (unless, of course, you count the return of Atari to the world of gaming as a serious source of nostalgia!).
We Go On with Suspicious Minds
To show just how incredible the love for Elvis is from many of his fans, the majority refuses to agree that he died as such, saying instead that he followed his love of alien life and ‘went home’. This view has gained such recognition that, in the original Men In Black movie, there is a scene in which Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are listening to his song, Promised Land, and Agent K (Jones) tells Agent J (Smith) that Elvis isn’t dead; he just went home!
Indeed, Elvis in part helped to preserve his mystique by never truly embracing the rampant commercial tie-ups that occur nowadays, with celebrities endorsing brands like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and even fashion brands like Gucci just to earn some extra income. In contrast to this, Elvis only linked up with Southern Maid Donuts to record a jingle to promote the brand. In contrast to this, since his death, his Graceland estate has helped to raise over $42million in 2016 alone, showing that the appeal of visiting the famous home of Elvis and the chance to see his two private jets is still something that draws in people from all over the world, including, funnily enough, the former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi back in 2006.
More Marketable than Ever?
Despite the fact that Graceland has made a fortune for the Elvis Presley Estate since it was opened to the public in 1982, perhaps the most interesting legacy of Elvis is how others can’t stop using him nowadays to promote their brand. Indeed, while this post advises hip-hop and rap stars to listen to him, even rap icon Eminem managed to include Elvis in a music video. Books have been written quoting his fans, and, simply put, the iconic status of Elvis is only growing in 2017.
With Elvis himself still helping Cadillac retain an allure due to his legendary habit of giving away the cars (using his own wealth, once spending $140,000 on cars in a single day) and his songs still appearing in diverse lists of ‘best evers’, including the list of most popular casino music ever, Elvis clearly has a massively and unusually broad appeal across brands and across entertainment sectors. It is, therefore, no shock that brands like Audi, Pizza Hut, and many others still use his image to promote their brands in some way.
A Unique Icon
While, of course, there is a debate to be had over Elvis and his precise legacy, one thing is beyond dispute: Elvis was a unique icon who will never be replicated.
Of course, there will be other bands and individuals who have serious appeal (especially in the internet age where anyone can be a star), and who may reach legend status in the future, but the role Elvis has played in modernizing and changing the world of music means that it seems unlikely he will ever truly be challenged as the King of rock and roll. In the future, it seems likely that the love of Elvis will continue to keep going as new generations discover what was so special about his music and his legacy, meaning that it is hard not to imagine humankind still celebrating the brilliance of the King when remembering the 100-year anniversary of his death.
Garon Cockrell is the Founder and Editor of Pop Culture Beast and host of The Pop Culture Beast Show. He founded the site over seven years ago to have a place on the internet to write about the things he loved. Since then, Garon has become a best-selling author (Demonic and Other Tales), an award winning screenwriter (Best Screenplay 2013 Motor City Nightmares Film Festival), and a cast member on the top rated podcast, Never Not Funny.