Nobody Cares About Elvis Anymore

Don’t fret: They’ll eventually not care about Taylor Swift or Drake either.

Will Leitch

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My kids have no idea who Elvis Presley is.

Isn’t that crazy? Elvis Presley died about two years after I was born and yet I can’t think of a moment when I haven’t known who he is. Elvis Presley has been at the center of American life essentially from the time he initially broke through in the mid-1950s up until … well, up until fairly recently. Kurt Russell was playing Elvis in high-profile TV movies two years after Elvis died, most of the ’80s featured various supermarket checkout rags insisting that Elvis was still alive, Nicolas Cage was playing Elvis in various forms throughout the ’90s (including the ever-underappreciated Tiny Elvis). Any movie in which any character spent any time in Las Vegas at all was soundtracked almost exclusively by Elvis. Elvis was everywhere.

(Elvis needs boats! Elvis needs boats!)

Sometime in the last few years, this mostly stopped. Partly this is because rock music itself — a genre of which Elvis a founding principal — has lost considerable cultural influence over the last decade, for a variety of reasons. Partly this is because, to many, Elvis is a problematic cultural figure himself, a white man who appropriated Black music and made it into something mainstream white audiences would accept … at the expense of those Black artists.

But I’d argue the primary reason is much simpler than all that: The vast, vast majority of people who remember Elvis Presley at his most popular and influential are dead. If you were one of those screaming teenagers fainting upon witnessing Elvis’ hip-shaking in the mid-’50s, you are now nearing your ninetieth birthday. If you followed his draft-and-haircut travails in the ’60s, you’re likely in your late seventies. If you old enough to drive a car the day he died (and if you were, you probably saw Elvis has an overweight, slightly pathetic has-been), you are, at the minimum, 60 years old.

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Will Leitch

Author of six books, including “How Lucky” and "The Time Has Come." NYMag/MLB.. Founder, Deadspin. https://williamfleitch.substack.com