Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) was an American singer, actor, and musician. A cultural icon, he is commonly known simply as "Elvis", and is also sometimes referred to as "The King of Rock 'n' Roll" or "The King". Elvis Presley owed his ancestry to diverse European ethnic strains, primarily British and German; Presley's lineage also included some Native American, i.e., Cherokee descent. Presley was born in a two-room shotgun house, built by his father, in East Tupelo. He was an identical twin—his brother was stillborn and given the name Jesse Garon. Growing up as an only child he "was, everyone agreed, unusually close to his mother."
In 1954, Presley began his career as one of the first performers of rockabilly, an uptempo fusion of country and rhythm and blues with a strong back beat. His novel versions of existing songs, mixing "black" and "white" sounds, made him popular—and controversial—as did his uninhibited stage and television performances. He recorded songs in the rock and roll genre, with tracks like "Hound Dog" and "Jailhouse Rock" later embodying the style. Presley had a versatile voice and had unusually wide success encompassing other genres, including gospel, blues, ballads and pop. To date, he has been inducted into four music halls of fame.
In the 1960s, Presley made the majority of his 31 movies—most of which were poorly reviewed but financially successful musicals. In 1968, he returned to live music in a television special, and performed across the U.S., notably in Las Vegas. Throughout his career, he set records for concert attendance, television ratings and recordings sales. He is one of the best-selling and most influential artists in the history of music. Health problems, drug dependency and other factors led to his death at age 42.
In the late 1960s, composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein remarked: "Elvis is the greatest cultural force in the twentieth century. He introduced the beat to everything, music, language, clothes, it's a whole new social revolution... The 60's comes from it."
Other celebrated pop and rock musicians have acknowledged that the young Presley inspired them. The Beatles were all big Presley fans. John Lennon said: "Nothing really affected me until I heard Elvis. If there hadn't been an Elvis, there wouldn't have been a Beatles." Deep Purple's Ian Gillan said: "For a young singer he was an absolute inspiration. I soaked up what he did like blotting paper... You learn by copying the maestro." Rod Stewart declared: "Elvis was the King. No doubt about it. People like myself, Mick Jagger and all the others only followed in his footsteps." Cher recalls from seeing Presley live in 1956 that he made her "realize the tremendous effect a performer could have on an audience." Bob Dylan said: "When I first heard Elvis' voice I just knew that I wasn't going to work for anybody; and nobody was going to be my boss. Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail. [wikipedia]