He came out of nowhere, performed a miracle, and then became an inescapable legend: this time, Baz Luhrmann has made a film about the life of Elvis, which is in cinemas from this week.
Elvis Presley’s turbulent life and unparalleled career are full of legendary stories and untold tales. The latest Elvis film follows the iconic singer through more than 20 years in the 50s, 60s and 70s, from his childhood, his sudden rise to stardom and his slow, drawn-out decline. The film focuses on her career as a rock and roll and film star and her marriage, this time from the perspective of her manager Tom Parker, played by Tom Hanks.
The numbers relating to Elvis’ illustrious musical career are nothing short of astonishing. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has certified more than 150 of his albums and singles gold, platinum or multi-platinum in the United States, 149 songs have charted on the Billboard Hot 100 and 18 have reached No. 1. The King has of course defined contemporary music worldwide, with over 40% of his sales coming from overseas. Elvis Presley’s total sales exceed 1.5 billion units, making him the most successful singer of all time. Elvis’ Christmas Album (1957) remains his biggest-selling holiday album ever, with over 20 million copies sold worldwide. He became one of the most influential stars of all time by not scoring songs, but by shaping almost anyone’s compositions in his own image with his unique performance style. Despite Presley’s success, he won only three Grammy Awards and was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at the early age of 36.
The Elvis story really began when the 19-year-old boy walked into Union Avenue Studios in Memphis in the summer of 1954. Between July 5, 1954, and July 11, 1955, Elvis sang nineteen songs on record, from Harbor Lights to Mystery Train. Bob Dylan later recalled the moment he first encountered these songs.
Elvis signed with RCA on January 1, 1956, but whatever his star status, he was drafted shortly after his breakthrough in 1957, serving in West Germany, where he met the love of his life, his future wife, Priscilla Beaulieu, the daughter of a US Air Force captain, who was only 14 years his junior by ten years. They married a few years later, in 1967. Presley finally retired in March 1960 and earned a black belt in karate that same year, but he only showed off his skills on stage and in his films for a few moves. After the 1956 hit Love Me Tender, he made a total of 30 more films, including classics such as Girls! Girls! Girls!, G.I. Blues and Jailhouse Rock.
Elvis continued to break records after his death in 1977… in the last two decades alone, the Elvis legacy has grossed around $1 billion, and this success is unlikely to diminish in the years to come.