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The Life and Career of Elvis Presley

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Born January 8th, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis Presley turned his early passion for music into an unforgettable rock and roll career. With his smooth voice, good looks and never-before-seen dance moves, Presley forever changed the look and sound of rock music. The American singer complimented his musical skills with acting roles that spawned many of his classic hits. In this video, we take a look the life and career of the one and only king of rock and roll, Elvis Presley.

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Early Love of Music

Elvis Aaron Presley was born on January 8th, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi. His love for music began in elementary school after he received a guitar for his eleventh birthday.

A White Artist to Play Black Music

Following high school, he caught the attention of Sun Records after recording a few songs. The label was looking for a white artist to successfully capture the feel of black music. Elvis proved to be that man during a recording session with two local musicians in 1954.

Chart-Topping Debut

The trio then performed on radio and television, and worked on rockabilly recordings. Presley signed with RCA Victor in 1955. The next year, both his first single, “Heartbreak Hotel,” and his self-titled debut topped the Billboard charts. Elvis Presley became the first rock and roll album to reach this position on Billboard.

Television Performances

This was followed by a sexually suggestive performance of the song “Hound Dog” on the “Milton Berle Show” and the 1956 best-selling single “Don’t Be Cruel”. Presley became a nationally recognized star after appearing on the “Ed Sullivan Show” that fall. His performance of “Love Me Tender” led to another number one hit and became the title of his first film later that year.

Number One Efforts

Presley also released his number one sophomore effort Elvis in 1956. The next year, he released three number one singles, and supported them with live dates that generated near-riotous reactions. He continued to act, and released the number one soundtracks Loving You and Jailhouse Rock EP. 1957’s Elvis’ Christmas Album became history’s best-selling holiday record.

Army Time

1958 began with the number one hit “Don’t.” A few months later, Presley was admitted into the U.S. army, and he served for almost two years. During this time, his label released previously recorded material, and the film “King Creole” hit theaters.

Acting and Gospel Music

Presley returned to the U.S. in 1960 and issued several best-selling singles. Then came the number two album Elvis is Back!, the romantic comedy “G.I. Blues” and its number one soundtrack. Later that year, he found top-twenty success with the gospel record His Hand in Mine and returned to number one with the country-rock sound of the Something for Everybody LP.

Musical Comedies and Successful Soundtracks

The majority of the films Presley made during the 1960’s were commercially successful musical comedies. Many of these were also accompanied by soundtrack efforts that spawned several Presley classics.

Grammy Award and Family

During this period, Presley also won his first Grammy for the gospel LP How Great Art Thou and married Priscilla Beaulieu, who later bore him his daughter, Lisa-Marie.

'68 Comeback Special

Both the quality of his music and sales began to decrease as his artistic output increased. Things turned around after his successful 1968 television performance “Elvis,” where he was back at the top of his game. The special yielded a top ten soundtrack album and was followed by the critically praised effort From Elvis in Memphis.

Live Shows and Movies

In 1969, Presley acted in the musical drama “Change of Habit” and released the double LP From Memphis to Vegas/From Vegas to Memphis. Then came the concert documentary and album “Elvis: That’s the Way It Is”.


After releasing three non-movie albums in 1971, Presley recorded the Grammy-winning gospel LP He Touched Me. He continued touring, and released the successful live effort Elvis: As Recorded at Madison Square Garden. 1972’s “Burning Love” was his last U.S. top ten pop hit.

Personal and Health Problems

1973’s Aloha from Hawaii: Via Satellite was Presley’s last number one pop album during his lifetime. Meanwhile, an impending divorce and a prescription drug addiction began to affect his health and performances.

More Touring and Album Releases

He continued to tour however, and even won another Grammy for the concert album Elvis: As Recorded Live on Stage in Memphis. Presley released several more albums before his death, many of which found success mainly on the country and adult contemporary charts.

Death and Posthumous Releases

On August 16th, 1977, Presley was found dead at his Graceland mansion. Shortly thereafter, his current single “Way Down,” hit number one on the country charts. Numerous posthumous releases followed, including 2002’s ELV1S: 30 #1 Hits.


With his good looks, musical talent and rebellious image, Elvis Presley defined rock and roll and left an immeasurable impact on popular culture.

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