Texto en inglés: Elvis Presley – personaje americano
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Hoy tenemos un texto en inglés sobre la historia de Elvis Presley, icono de la cultura americana.
Se trata de uno de los músicos populares más importantes de todos los tiempos – por lo menos en Estados Unidos.
En fin… tenemos una historia muy corta, en comparación con los países de Europa, y no hemos tenido a nadie como Mozart en este corto tiempo.
Elvis Presley, en cambio, hizo popular el estilo “Rock and Roll” en los años 50, y sigue siendo una leyenda para muchos americanos.
Elvis Presley’s early years
Elvis Presley was born in 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi, in the US deep south.
He moved with his parents to Memphis Tennessee when he was 13. His family didn’t have a lot of money, and lived in public housing. As a teenager he was shy, but took up the guitar. His teachers told him he had no talent for singing, and music class was the only class he ever failed.
Presley was influenced by “black music” genres like gospel and blues, and worked as a truck driver after graduating high school. In 1953 he recorded his first single as a gift to his mother. He tried to join bands around Memphis, who rejected him–advising him to stick to truck driving because he was never going to be successful as a singer.
When he was 19 he was given the opportunity to do a studio recording. The producer was hoping to find a white musician who could bring black music to a wider audience. In the Southern US, whites and blacks were segregated and many whites refused to listen to black music. In fact Presley had to go to see blues concerts on special nights reserved only for a white audience.
He recorded the single “That’s All Right, which was played on the radio and well-received by the public. He bought a new guitar for $145 and began touring with a backup band, and quickly became a minor star in the South, famous for his energetic performances in which he would convert his nervous trembling into a kind of dance that infuriated men and drove women crazy with lust.
He signed a recording contract for $40,000 when he was just 20 years old. $40,000 was an unprecedented amount of money for a young artist at the time. The year was 1955, and Elvis was about to change American culture forever
Elvis’ first years of success
In the early months of 1956, Elvis made his first recordings for RCA, which became his self-titled debut album. He gave special prominence to the guitar in songs that had been written for the piano. Unlike most white artists at the time, he didn’t soften the songs for the audience–he preferred to keep them wild. His album was the first Rock and Roll album to hit the top of Billboard magazine’s list of best-selling records.
He continued touring, through the year 1956, and also appeared on television several times. His concerts were received very well in some cities and badly in others. A critic for The New York Times made fun of him, saying that he had no apparent ability, and sang like an amateur sings in the shower. His only talent, said the review, was to gyrate his hips in the style of Marilyn Monroe.
The consensus among “respectable” Americans seemed to be that Elvis was savage and animalistic, constantly attempting to incite young people to rebel against their parents.
Even Frank Sinatra, who had had the same success and incited the same type of response from teenage girls only a decade earlier, wrote a magazine article in which he said that rock music was “brutal, ugly, degenerate and vicious.”
Audiences went wild over Elvis’ energy and dancing, and many concerts ended as riots until finally the National Guard had to send soldiers to keep order when Elvis took the stage. In 1957 he released a couple of films, which were highly successful despite bad critical reception, and continued recording.
In 1958 he was drafted into the military (military service was obligatory for young men in America until the 1970s, through the wars with Korea and Vietnam) and it looked to many as if Elvis’ career in music was over.
Army years, fall, and return to fame
Elvis Presley spent two years in the military, part of the time stationed in Germany. There he became an enthusiastic user of amphetamines (a common military practice during those days), and met Priscilla Beaulieu, a 14 year old army brat who would eventually become his wife. His record label was able to keep the Elvis myth alive by releasing compilations and previously recorded material.
When Elvis returned to America in 1960, he went immediately back to the recording studio. Much of the controversy over his dancing and sexual innuendo had died down, and reviews of his new songs were excellent. He recorded successful albums in a variety of styles: country, blues and gospel. Apart from a few charity concerts, he didn’t perform in public.
Elvis’ manager, a somewhat unscrupulous gentleman named Parker, soon convinced Elvis to dedicate himself full time to making films for the next several years. While the films were universally considered to be trash, they were always profitable for the studio. However, as they grew increasingly more formulaic, the quality of the films and songs was in decline and by 1967 he was considered to be a joke by all but his most loyal fans. It appeared as if his career was ruined, yet again.
It wasn’t. Now married to Priscilla Presley, he returned to TV and shocked everybody by returning to the studio to produce new hit records. He sold out concerts around the country, and enjoyed his new status as part of the American music establishment, who barely remembered how they had criticized him as pornographic just 10 years earlier. His records were more conservative pop songs, the kind preferred by white audiences like those in Las Vegas, where he was playing the majority of his concerts.
In 1970 he met President Richard Nixon, and expressed his patriotism and opposition to the hippie drug culture popularized by the Beatles. In those days Elvis barely drank, and became angry any time marijuana use was mentioned.
However, as his marriage began to fall apart in 1971 and ‘72, he relied more and more on prescription drugs to calm him down. He felt like he was superior to the common junkie because he got his drugs at the pharmacy.
Later, after Elvis’ death Paul McCartney recalled, “The great joke is that we were taking [illegal] drugs, and look what happened to him.”
The last days of Elvis Presley…
The beginning of the end for Elvis was when his marriage fell apart in the early 70s. Both he and Priscilla had affairs, and became more and more distant until finally filing for divorce in 1972.
Months later, when he was attacked by four fans onstage, he thought obsessively about it, imagining that they had been sent by Priscilla’s lover to kill him. He began using large doses of prescription drugs to calm down, and overdosed multiple times. His friends and those who worked with him worried: he was obviously deteriorating both physically and mentally.
He recorded a few more records and attempted to keep up with his concert commitments, but was sometimes barely able to move onstage, or even leave his hotel room due to the effects of the drugs. He gained weight and his health problems were exacerbated by the side effects of his many prescriptions.
He was found unresponsive on the bathroom floor in his mansion on August 16th, 1977, and declared dead after attempts to revive him failed. He was 42 years old.
80,000 people attended his funeral in Memphis, and his mansion, Graceland, is still one of the most visited tourist attractions in the USA.
Vocabulario del texto sobre Elvis Presley
Terminamos con un poco de vocabulario…
Aquí tienes algunas de las palabras utilizadas en el texto, con su significado en español.
take up an activity: empezar a hacer una actividad
fail: fracasar, suspender una clase
to stick to an activity: persistir en hacer algo
tour: ir de giro (v) o giro (sust)
draft: reclutar para el ejército
army brat: persona joven que vive con sus padres militares, normalmente cambiando de ciudad cada par de años.
joke: broma, bromear
sell out: agotar las entradas
fall apart: fracasar, venir abajo (una relación)
calm down: tranquilizarse
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