One of the many black rock and rollers who suffered financially from the cover phenomenon – in which white artists took anodyne copies of black songs into the pop charts – Richard appreciated that the whole rock and roll phenomenon, with Elvis as its epicentre, had opened up new opportunities for black artists and songwriters to reach a young white audience.
Nobody can sing that kind of music like coloured people. I know that.” With good cause, was careful to point out the disparity between Presley’s annual income of more than m and Domino’s annual earnings of 0,000 earnings.
Perhaps disingenuously, however, it did not belabour the racial coordinates of that disparity.
“Elvis and I are the only true American originals,” Brown insisted.
“There’ll never be another like that soul brother.” Four decades after his death, how can we reconcile these two apparently contradictory black responses to Elvis?
On black-oriented radio stations, black DJs routinely programmed Presley and other white rock and rollers such as Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Everly Brothers alongside Bo Diddley, Little Richard, James Brown, Ruth Brown and Ray Charles because they knew their young black core audience liked those artists.
The late civil rights leader Julian Bond recalled singing an Elvis song at an ice-breaker event at Atlanta’s prestigious black Morehouse College in 1957: “Three friends of mine and I sang ‘Teddy Bear’…and I remember thinking it not at all remarkable that we would sing this Elvis Presley song.
Furthermore, he does not shun them, either in public or private,” reported the now-defunct Presley himself was humble about his relationship with black music and musicians: “A lot of people seem to think I started this business.
But rock ‘n’ roll was here a long time before I came along.
The conventional wisdom casts Elvis as one in a long line of craven white exploiters of black musical culture for whom African Americans had nothing but contempt.
In 1989, this orthodoxy was summed up in Public Enemy’s rap anthem : “Elvis was a hero to most / But he never meant sh*t to me…
By November 1963, Billboard could no longer differentiate between white and black consumption and suspended its separate black singles chart.