Elvis Isn’t the King of Rock ’n’ Roll

White artists should pay for the music they got rich off of

Jeffrey Kass

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February 13, 1975: Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin perform at Nassau Coliseum on their 1975 North American tour.
Image: Bruce Alan Bennett/Shutterstock

Even in 2022, people still dress up as Elvis Presley for Halloween. Vegas strip visitors still pay to get their pictures taken with Elvis impersonators.

“Honeymoon in Vegas” featured the flying Elvises:

Elvis Presley, after all, is the famous King of Rock ’n’ Roll, who, by some estimates, sold over 1 billion records worldwide. His widow Priscilla is a very wealthy woman to this day in part because of Elvis. Her net worth is $50 million.

Elvis’ daughter Lisa Marie, likewise, would be worth around $295 million had her inheritance been better managed and she’d been smarter about spending.

But what most of us don’t know is that Elvis’ music wasn’t as “Elvis” as you might think.

Black musicians had been creating the kind of rock ’n’ roll music Elvis played long before Elvis ever hit the scene. But society wasn’t going to allow those musicians to flourish on the same level as Elvis. People like Ike Turner, Bo Diddley, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Chuck Berry.

Tharpe, Willie Mae Thornton, Mahalia Jackson and Arthur Crudup all were original Black vocalists behind many of Elvis’ most famous songs.

Thornton in particular, widely acknowledged as the architect behind Elvis’ “Hound Dog,” is almost never credited for Elvis’ hit song.

Little Richard, likely the true inventor of rock ’n’ roll, isn’t shy about reminding us that if Elvis was Black and Little Richard was white, Richard would be dubbed the King of Rock ’n’ Roll.

Alabama, circa 1956, underscores just how much white America wasn’t going to…

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Jeffrey Kass

A Medium Top Writer on Racism, Diversity, Education, History and Parenting | Speaker | Award-Winning Author | Latest Book: Black Batwoman V. White Jesus | Dad