The 100 most inspiring musicians of all Time

Elvis Presley: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time

Elvis Presley: the 100 most inspiring musicians of all time

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    American popular singer Elvis Aaron Presley, widely known as the “King of Rock and Roll,” (b. Jan. 8, 1935, Tupelo, Miss., U.S.—d. Aug. 16, 1977, Memphis, Tenn.) was one of rock music’s dominant performers from the mid-1950s until his death.

    Presley grew up dirt-poor in Tupelo, moved to Memphis as a teenager, and, with his family, was off welfare only a few weeks when producer Sam Phillips at Sun Records, a local blues label, responded to his audition tape with a phone call. Several weeks’ worth of recording sessions ensued
    with a band consisting of Presley, guitarist Scotty Moore, and bassist Bill Black.

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    Their repertoire consisted of the kind of material for which Presley would become famous: blues and country songs, Tin Pan Alley ballads, and gospel hymns. Presley knew some of this music from the radio, some of it from his parents’ Pentecostal church and the group sings he attended at the Reverend H.W. Brewster’s black Memphis church, and some of it from the Beale Street blues clubs he began frequenting as a teenager.

    Presley was already a flamboyant personality, with relatively long greased-back hair and wild-coloured clothing combinations, but his full musical personality did not emerge until he and the band began playing with blues
    singer Arthur (“Big Boy”) Crudup’s song “That’s All Right Mama” in July 1954. They arrived at a startling synthesis, eventually dubbed rockabilly, retaining many of the original’s blues inflections but with Presley’s high tenor voice adding a lighter touch and with the basic rhythm striking a much more supple groove.

    This sound was the hallmark of the five singles Presley released on Sun over the next year. Although none of them became a national hit, by August 1955, when he released the fifth, “Mystery Train,” arguably his greatest record ever, he had attracted a substantial Southern following for his recordings, his live appearances in regional roadhouses and clubs, and his radio performances on the nationally aired Louisiana Hayride. (A key musical change came when drummer D.J. Fontana was added, first for the Hayride shows but also on records beginning with “Mystery Train.”)

    Elvis Presley’s management was then turned over to Colonel Tom Parker , a country music hustler who had made stars of Eddy Arnold and Hank Snow. Parker arranged for Presley’s song catalog and recording contract to be sold to major New York City-based enterprises, Hill and Range and RCA Victor , respectively. Sun received a total of $35,000; Elvis got $5,000. He began recording at RCA’s studios in Nashville, Tennessee, with a somewhat larger group of musicians but still including Moore,
    Black, and Fontana and began to create a national sensation with a series of hits: “Heart break Hotel,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Love Me Tender” (all 1956), “All Shook Up” (1957), and more.

    From 1956 through 1958 Presley completely dominated the best-seller
    charts and ushered in the age of rock and roll , opening doors for both white and black rock artists.

    His television appearances, especially those on Ed Sullivan ’s Sunday night variety show, set records for the size of the audiences. Even his films, a few slight vehicles, were box office smashes.

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    Elvis Presley became the teen idol of his decade, greeted everywhere by screaming hordes of young women, and, when it was announced in early 1958 that he had been drafted and would enter the U.S. Army, there was that rarest of all pop culture events, a moment of true grief. More important, he served as the great cultural catalyst of his period. Elvis projected a mixed vision of humility and self-confidence, of intense commitment and comic disbelief in his ability to create frenzy. He inspired literally thousands of musicians—initially those more or less likeminded
    Southerners, from Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins on down, who were the first generation of rockabillies, and, later, people who had far different combinations of musical and cultural influences and ambitions. From John
    Lennon to Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan to Prince, it was impossible to think of a rock star of any importance who did not owe an explicit debt to Presley.

    Beyond even that, Presley inspired his audience. “It was like he whispered his dream in all our ears and then we dreamed it,” said Springsteen at the time of Presley’s death. You did not have to want to be a rock and roll star
    or even a musician to want to be like Elvis—which meant, ultimately, to be free and uninhibited and yet still a part of the everyday. Literally millions of people—an entire generation or two—defined their sense of personal style
    and ambition in terms that Elvis first personified.

    As a result, he was anything but universally adored. Those who did not worship him found him despicable (no one found him ignorable). Preachers and pundits declared him an anathema, his Pentecostally derived hip-swinging stage style and breathy vocal asides obscene. Racists denounced him for mingling black music with white (and Presley was always scrupulous in crediting his black sources, one of the things that made him different from the Tin Pan Alley writers and singers who had for decades lifted black styles without credit). He was pronounced
    responsible for all teenage hooliganism and juvenile delinquency.

    Yet, in every appearance on television, he appeared affable, polite, and soft-spoken, almost shy. It was only with a band at his back and a beat in his ear that he became “Elvis the Pelvis.”

    In 1960, Presley returned from the army, where he had served as a soldier in Germany rather than joining the Special Services entertainment division. Those who regarded him as commercial hype without talent expected
    him to fade away. Instead, he continued to have hits from recordings stockpiled just before he entered the army.

    Upon his return to the States, he picked up pretty much where he had left off, churning out a series of more than 30 movies (from Blue Hawaii to Change of Habit) over the next eight years, almost none of which fit any genre other than “Elvis movie,” which meant a light comedic romance
    with musical interludes. Most had accompanying soundtrack albums, and together the movies and the records made him a rich man, although they nearly ruined him as any kind of artist.

    Elvis Presley did his best work in the 1960s on singles either unconnected to the films or only marginally stuck into them, recordings such as “It’s Now or Never (‘O Sole Mio’)” (1960), “Are You Lonesome Tonight?,”
    “Little Sister” (both 1961), “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” “Return to Sender” (both 1962), and “Viva Las Vegas” (1964). Presley was no longer a controversial figure; he had become one more predictable mass entertainer, a personage of virtually no interest to the rock audience that had expanded so much with the advent of the new sounds of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Dylan.

    By 1968 the changes in the music world had overtaken Presley—both movie grosses and record sales had fallen. In December his one-man Christmas TV special aired; a tour de force of rock and roll and rhythm and blues, it restored much of his dissipated credibility. In 1969, he released a single having nothing to do with a film, “Suspicious Minds”; it went to number one. He also began doing concerts again and quickly won back a sizable following, although it was not nearly as universal as his audience in the 1950s.

    For much of the next decade, he was again one of the top live attractions in the United States. Presley was now a mainstream American entertainer, an icon but not so much an idol. He had married in 1967 without much furor, became a parent with the birth of his daughter, Lisa Marie, in 1968, and got divorced in 1973. He made no more movies, and his recordings were of uneven quality. Hits were harder to come by—“Suspicious Minds” was his last number one and “Burning Love” (1972) his final Top Ten entry. But, thanks to the concerts, spectaculars best described by critic Jon Landau as an apotheosis of American musical comedy, he remained a big money earner.

    However, Presley had also developed a lethal lifestyle. Spending almost all his time when not on the road in Graceland, his Memphis estate, he lived nocturnally, surrounded by sycophants and stuffed with greasy foods
    and a variety of prescription drugs. His shows deteriorated in the final two years of his life, and his recording career came to a virtual standstill. Finally, in the summer of 1977, the night before he was to begin yet another concert tour, he died of a heart attack brought on largely by drug abuse. He was 42 years old.

    Elvis Presley Best Songs

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    Jazz & Rock Play Along

    The Contemporary Jazz Pianist, by Bill Dobbins, vol. 1 to 4

    Table of Contents
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    Bill Dobbins: A Comprehensive Approach to Keyboard Improvisation. Available at YOUR online Sheet Music Library.

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    Bill Dobbins

    Pianist Bill Dobbins is a professor of Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media at the Eastman School of Music. He has been the recipient of jazz composition grants from the Ohio Arts Council as well as the National Endowment for the Arts. Dobbins was instrumental in designing the graduate and undergraduate curricula for Eastman’s jazz studies program, and many of his students have become successful recording artists, having been heard in the big bands of Maynard Ferguson, Chuck Mangione, Buddy Rich, Count Basie, Woody Herman, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, and Maria Schneider

    Dobbins has performed and recorded with such jazz artists as Clark Terry, Al Cohn, Red Mitchell, Phil Woods, Bill Goodwin, Dave Liebman, Paquito D’Rivera, Peter Erskine, and John Goldsby.

    This invaluable series is designed as a comprehensive method to help jazz pianists learn and refine their improvisation skills. The set covers topics including harmony, voicing, melody, rhythm, musical development, and various jazz styles, as well as providing transcribed solos for the students to study and imitate.


    Volume 1 Chapter Contents: I. Diatonic Seventh Chords and Their Corresponding Modes II. Voicing the Five Basic Seventh Chord Types for the Left Hand III. Diatonic and Chromatic Embellishing Chords IV. Building a Chord Line for the Left Hand V. Basic Chord-Scale Relationships VI. Understanding Jazz Rhythm VII. Basic Principles of Accompaniment for the Left Hand VIII. Basic Principles of Harmonic Substitution IX. Diatonic Exercises X. Pentatonic Exercises XI. Diminished Exercises XII. Chromatic Exercises XIII. Melodic Embellishments XIV. Principles of Melodic Development XV. Special Effects XVI. Exercises for Beginning Improvisation XVII. Transcribed Solos XVIII. Tunes for Further Study Conclusion Appendices and Discography

    Volume 2 Chapter Contents: I. Preface II. Two-hand Voicings III. Building a Tow-hand Chord Line IV. Two-hand Embellishing Chords V. Technics for Melody Harmonization VI. Blues in Major Keys VII. Blues in Minor Keys VIII. Rhythm Changes IX. Popular Song Forms X. Contemporary Ballad Styles XI. Jazz-Rock Styles XII. Contemporary Jazz Forms XIII. Free Jazz XIV. Comping XV. Improvisation as Communication Conclusion Discography

    Volume 3 Chapter Contents: (Suggested listening follows each chapter) I. Stride Piano Styles: • Cantankerous Chromatics • Blues for Fats • Basie’s Beat • Blood Brother II. Boogie Woogie Piano Basie’s Boogie • Prickly Pete • Wobbly Waltz III. Gospel Piano Sanctified • I’m In His Hands • Holy Roller IV. Bebop Piano Styles A 624 • Red’s Blues • “T” Time • The Thing • Yardbird Conversation V. Solo Ballad Styles For Art’s Sake • Song for Bill Evans • Ballad VI. Harmonic Styles of • 1960’s and 1970’s Centrifuge • Waltz for Clare • Memories • Liberation VII. Latin and Ostinato • Styles of the 1970’s Autumn Song • Winter Song • Spring Song • Summer Song VIII. Free Jazz Bent • Vortex • Mobile • Anticipation Conclusion Appendix I Solo Piano Recordings of Interest Published Solo Piano Jazz Music Appendix II Published Solo Piano Jazz Music

    Volume 4

    All of you: Theme

    Variation I – Scott Joplin
    Variation II – Jelly Roll Morton
    Variation III – James P .Johnson
    Variation IV – Willie “the Lion” Smith
    Variation V – Earl Hines
    Variation VI – Fats Waller
    Variation VII – Teddy Wilson
    Variation VIII – Duke Ellington
    Variation IX – Art Tatum
    Variation X – Meade Lux Lewis
    Variation XI – Pete Johnson
    Variation XII – Jimmy Yancey
    Variation XIII – Thelonious Monk
    Variation XIV – Bud Powell
    Variation XV – Oscar Peterson
    Variation XVI – Erroll Garner
    Variation XVII – Lennie Tristano
    Variation XVIII – Bill Evans
    Variation XIX – Clare Fischer
    Variation XX – Jimmy Rowles
    Variation XXI – Cecil Taylor
    Variation XXII – Chick Corea
    Variation XXIII – Keith Jarrett
    Variation XXIV – Richie Beirach

    Preface of Volume 1

    The true value of jazz lies in its ability to provide the musician with a means of expressing the absolute limits of his imagination within lhe framework of certain harmonic, melodic and rhythmic principles. These principles are voluntarily agreed to by the individual or by the members of a group, but they may vary a great deal depending on the style of jazz
    which is being played.

    In this respect playing jazz is quite similar to speaking a language. There are two essential directions in which the student of jaz.z must work if he is to master this new language. The first is academic study in the form of analysis and musical exercises. This is analogous LO the study of grammar and vocabulary.

    The second is practical usage in the form of playing or experimenting
    with other musicians and listening to live performances and recordings of professional musicians who have already mastered a mature jazz style. This is analogous to speaking the language with other students while learning proper pronunciation, context and colloquial expressions from the natives. Just as there arc different colloquial expressions and dialects in different regions of the country, there are distinct melodic and harmonic characteristics which define the various styles of Jazz.

    The major difficulty facing the student is that of achieving the proper balance between the study of theoretical principles and the practical application of these principles to playing and improvising. A musician may play a scale as a technical exercise thousands of times, but be doesn’t really understand the scale until he can create melodies with it and construct harmonies from it. At the same time, a musician might search for months, by ear, for a melody which is compatible with a given chord when, by applying a simple principle of chord-scale relationships, he could invent a number of appropriate melodies in a matter of minutes.

    It is, therefore, extremely important that the mind and the ear be developed equally. The ear must be equipped to use the mind’s information with good musical sense, while the mind must be equipped to lead the ear into unexplored territory and suggest new musical possibilities. To best achieve this important balance, a musician with only minimal understanding of theory and harmony must emphasize this size of his development until he understands the theoretical basis for what he

    Likewise, a musician with a poorly developed musical ear must emphasize ear training and listening until he can use his theoretical knowledge in a truly musical way.

    Leading the analogy of improvised music and language to its logical conclusion, it may be said that the principles of Jazz improvisation reach the highest level of creative expression when a musician plays jazz as naturally as he speaks his native language. A musician who can only recreate someone else’s music is like a language student who can read clomics of French literature without being able to express his own ideas with that same vocabulary. He has the intellectual knowledge but no real
    depth of understanding.

    Improvisation provides the musician with a personal and vital experience in the laws of harmony, melody and rhythm. As in the study of a language, where the student’s basic vocabulary is largely determined by his principal teacher, the jazz player begins acquiring his vocabulary by imitating established artists. He later uses the same basic vocabulary in a more personal mode of expression. Finally, he may expand the vocabulary as he wishes until his style becomes largely his own. Few players reach this level of development but the possibilities arc limitless.

    Within this text I have attempted to outline a method of study which will ultimately enable the student 10 think for himself and to make musical decisions in an intelligent way. This book should be no more than a point of departure. When the material has really been absorbed the student should be able to extend what is here rather than merely conforming 10 it. That is the point at which real creativity begins, and the only limitations
    are the imagination and curiosity of the student.

    Keith Jarrett: The Art of Improvisation (complete)

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