5 Life Lessons from Elvis Presley

A cropped picture, showing a headshot of Elvis...Image via Wikipedia

Today, Elvis would be 75 years old. (Or, if you believe he’s still alive and hiding out in some secret bunker at Graceland, then he “is” 75.) I’ll admit that I’ve never been a huge Elvis fan. Not that I don’t like Elvis’s music, but I just didn’t grow up with any Elvis albums in the house, and my parents weren’t really big rock-and-roll fans anyway. So I’ve always just kind of pictured him as the cliché entertainer in his sequined jumpsuit, moving his hips and curling up his lip.

In fact, the only memory I have of Elvis from when I was growing up is when he died. And that’s only because my middle sister’s response to hearing about Elvis’s death has become legendary in our family. After hearing about it on the news, Pam, who was 3 ½ at the time, cried out, “First George Washington, and now Elvis Parsley!”

When I started dating Husband, I found out that his parents (his mom, especially) are huge Elvis fans. In fact, they even have a home movie of Elvis that they shot when they smuggled a camera into one of his concerts. (I’m hoping that ends up being worth a fortune and they can retire on it in a few years.) But it was after Husband and I got together that I actually started listening to some of his music and learning about the man behind the hairdo.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be Elvis Presley, to go from truck driver to king of rock-and-roll, basically overnight. To have girls sobbing in the front row of your concerts, and preachers condemning the way you move your body (which makes me laugh considering what entertainers get away with saying and doing today).

So in honor of Elvis Presley (and Elvis Parsley), I’ve come up with 5 life lessons that I think Elvis would have wanted to pass on to the younger generations, if he’d have lived to see his 75th birthday.

  1. Set a Good Example.

Despite his pelvic gyrations, I do think that Elvis wasn’t trying to sell sex to kids or represent the “bad boy” image. He was often quoted admitting that it’s just the way his body responded to music—he moved all over (Yes, including there). Here are a couple quotes from the man himself about setting an example:

“I don’t think I’m bad for people. If I did think I was bad for people, I would go back to driving a truck and I really mean this.”

“I’ll never feel comfortable taking a strong drink, and I’ll never feel easy smoking a cigarette. I just don’t think those things are right for me.”

“I’ve tried to lead a straight, clean life, not set any kind of a bad example.”

2. Give Back.
I think Elvis was a generous soul. Although he grew up relatively poor, he said he never felt like he was lacking anything. And through his success, he made a point to share his wealth with the needy. Here’s what he said about generosity:

“Money is meant to be spread around, the more happiness it helps create, the more it’s worth.”

“I’m so lucky to be in the position to give. It’s really a gift to give.”

3. Stay Humble.
Humility is usually a companion to generosity, and Elvis did his best to remain humble by remembering where he came from and sticking to his roots.

“I’m trying to keep a level head. You have to be careful out in the world. It’s so easy to get turned.”

“Just because I managed to do a little something, I don’t want anyone back home to think I got the big head.”

4. Be True.
This was perhaps the most tragic part of Elvis’s life—the fact that when he became a superstar, he was no longer in control. He played the part of Elvis the King of Rock-and-Roll but in doing so couldn’t stay true to Elvis the Man. Here are just a few of the many quotes where Elvis alludes to his longing to be true to himself and others:

“I like to sing ballads the way Eddie Fisher does and the way Perry Como does. But the way I’m singing now is what makes the money.”

“I sure lost my musical direction in Hollywood. My songs were the same conveyor belt mass production, just like most of my movies were.”

“Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away.”

5. Follow God.
Now I’m not one who believes that Elvis still lives and breathes on this earth. In fact, I’m pretty sure that he’s entertaining the Lord right now with his rendition of “How Great Thou Art,” backed up by a choir of angels, of course. (After all, the only Grammy Awards he won in his lifetime were for his gospel recordings.) Of all the life lessons Elvis could leave behind, I’m confident that this would be the one he’d choose first. What impresses me about Elvis is how he wasn’t afraid to share his faith but he wasn’t overbearing with it either. He lived his life the best he could, and I’m sure keeping Jesus at the center of it wasn’t easy given all he was exposed to. Read what Elvis said about his faith:

“I believe in the Bible. I believe that all good things come from God. I don’t believe I’d sing the way I do if God hadn’t wanted me to.’ ”

“Whatever I will become will be what God has chosen for me.”

And my favorite:
“I am not the King. Jesus Christ is the King. I’m just an entertainer.”

Happy birthday, Elvis!

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