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Elvis Presley was a singer who inspired fans from all over the world with his rock ‘n’ roll anthems. Not only did he inspire fans, but also superstar fans like John Lennon, Michael Jackson and countless others. Many have come together to discuss The King in new documentary Elvis: The Man That Rocked The World – but did the critics like him?
While Elvis Presley was a major hit with fans, critics were not so keen when he burst onto the music scene.
The King is not the only performer to have this happen, as it is often the case that those with whom the fans are obsessed do not chime as well with the critics.
As chronicled on Vox.com, one reporter, Mac Reynolds of the Vancouver Sun, said of Elvis’ show in the August 31, 1957 edition: “It is a frightening thing for a man to watch his women debase themselves… [girls who] screamed, and quivered, and shut their eyes and reached out their hands to him as for salvation…
“It’s hardly original, but if any daughter of mine broke out of the woodshed tonight to see Elvis Presley in Empire Stadium, I’d kick her teeth in.”
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The shocking sentiment about his parenting aside, it is clear critics were not keen on the way Elvis seemed to take over the music scene, turning young women into screaming, obsessed fans.
Another reporter, Herb Rowe of the Miami Daily News, wrote on August 4, 1956: “Elvis can’t sing, can’t play the guitar, and can’t dance.
“Yet two thousand idiots per show yelp every time he opens his mouth, plucks a guitar string, or shakes his pelvis like any striptease babe in town.
“What’s happening that makes these girls scream, faint, pay lavish devotion for these musicians?”
For Mr Rowe, evidently it was not just the fandom that frustrated him, but his perception of Elvis’ lack of talent.
Paul V Coates, for the Los Angeles Mirror, went even further to say he would “smack that sneer off his face” if he was to get close to The King himself.
He wrote on October 31, 1957, days after an Elvis performance: “Let me admit at the outset that I don’t like Elvis Presley.
“He’s the kind of a child that other children are traditionally ‘not allowed to play with.’ He’s a sullen, ill-kempt-looking youth.
“If he was my kid (and I was a helluva lot better shape than I am), I’d smack that sneer off his face and send him out for a haircut.
“In all, I consider him a very distasteful individual.”
These kinds of reactions made those close to Elvis very unhappy, including his short-term lover, actress Ann Margret.
Speaking to US broadcaster Charlie Rose in November 1994, she said: “He was extremely special; he was very strong.
“Our relationship was very strong and very serious and very real.
“We were together for one year. And he trusted me and I do not want to betray his trust even in death.
“I knew him very, very well. There’s been so much written which has been negative – I want to celebrate his life, the man that I knew.”
She shared how she wanted him to know how well-loved he was, and spoke of her frustration of how many spoke of his genius after his death rather than during his life.
She continued: “He was so gifted and it makes me extremely angry that all of a sudden all these people who made fun of him right near his death, all of a sudden, posthumously, right after he passed on, where writing reams and reams of stories on him how gifted he was.
“Why didn’t they do that when he was alive?”
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