Elvis Presley was a Christian

Elvis PresleyGod swing your hips

"Elvis comes from the deep south, the Old South, and was a pious man. There are gorgeous recordings, both sound and film, of him singing gospel songs with his buddies. I think it's this religious tradition for him the white and black gospels of the south are very strongly associated with his own childhood, with feelings of security, home, belonging to his mother, whom he loved more than anything. That was and has always been the place of retreat for him, "says Heinrich Detering.

This recording of "Just a little talk with Jesus" was made during a jam session in which Elvis Presley and his colleagues Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis were also involved in December 1956. The gospel piece comes from Cleavant Derricks, born in 1907, who was active as a pastor and choirmaster in many black Baptist churches in the southern United States. As a child, Elvis Presley was interested in the religious music of the black parishes in his hometown of Tupelo, in the US state of Mississippi. Heinrich Detering says:

"His mother Gladys had to earn money as a cotton picker and of course worked with black people. And we know from very credible, reliable, well-researched statements how early he left the white churches, with their white gospel music and walking over there to the black ones, to either sit there or at least look through the door or window and hear how people sing there and see how people dance and move there, what kind of staging of physicality there is. "

His role model: Martin Luther King

Elvis Presley was born on January 8, 1935. His parents are simple people, white lower class, Protestant, very religious. Your home church is part of the evangelical association "Assemblies of God". Elvis regularly goes to church services and sings in the church choir. The relationship with gospel music will be with him for a lifetime. Even when he is a world star, earns his money with rock'n'roll and his lascivious hip swing has become his trademark, religious songs remain an important part of his concerts. He praises God, celebrates the hope of eternal life ...

Unlike many of his white evangelical brothers and sisters in the southern United States, Elvis Presley is an opponent of "racial segregation" and discrimination against the black population. The black Baptist preacher and civil rights activist Martin Luther King becomes a role model for him. Since he is not a great speaker himself, Presley relies on the effect of the music and uses the concert stage as a podium to spread his religious and social views.

Heinrich Detering: "You saw a black, female gospel ensemble, a male gospel ensemble, you saw a large swing orchestra and you saw a rock'n'roll band. That means that the visual arrangement on the stage was complete represents different representatives of race, class, gender. Elvis spends his stage show mediating between these groups, between these parts of the stage. "

In the "American Trilogy", Elvis Presley's concerts combine the southern and northern hymns from the American Civil War, "I wish I was in Dixie" and "Glory Hallelujah", with the religious song "All my" from the black community trials ". Elvis Presley understands this musical connection as a message of peace with which he wants to bridge the strong contrasts between north and south, between black and white. Heinrich Detering:

"That has enormous political implications if you look at the time and the places where Elvis staged it. At the same time, of course, it has something to do with the exaggeration of the artist, because the actual synthesis didn't really take place, Elvis it wasn't really possible to reconcile black and white, north and south, young and old, but in his person, in the staging of an almost messianic king on stage, the king who proclaimed his kingdom, that no longer of this world was, then this immense exaggeration of the person Elvis turned into a religious figure. "

The design of Elvis Presley's concerts, which had something religiously cultic, especially during his last great career years, also contributed to this. They began with the unearthly Richard Strauss work "Also Spoke Zarathustra", followed a fixed, solemn program like in a church service and finally ended with a climax that resembled a sacred ceremony.

Handkerchiefs as relics of touch

During the last song of his concerts, Elvis Presley crossed the stage, following a recurring ritual. Close behind him his friend and confidante Charlie Hodge. Heinrich Detering:

"A large number of white cloths are placed over his forearm. And Elvis, while he is holding the microphone with one hand and singing, grabs one cloth after the other with the other hand without looking, wipes his forehead once and throws it It is among the audience. A large number of handkerchiefs are distributed in this way. It has something like the distribution of relics of touch, or perhaps even closer, it has something of a sacramental act, a Eucharist celebration that is celebrated at the end the listeners, the listeners above all who receive such a handkerchief, now also gain a physical share in the body of this holy artist, this godlike figure. "

Although Elvis Presley seemed to have lost his Protestant, Puritan footing many times during his career, he remained true to his Baptist faith until his death. Throughout his life he had been a great admirer of the evangelical white television preacher Rex Humbard. He had also been invited as a guest preacher to Elvis Presley's funeral service on August 18, 1977. As he did later in a TV interview, Humbard recalled an encounter with Elvis Presley in the early 1970s in Las Vegas, when they both finally prayed together.