DEEP PURPLE Frontman: ELVIS PRESLEY 'Was The Greatest Singer That Ever Lived'

DEEP PURPLE frontman Ian Gillan recently spoke to Classic Rock magazine (web site) for its latest issue in which the stars of rock (plus some assorted rock-loving comedians, sportmen, MPs and other riff raff) nominate their "rock icons." The following is Gillan's explanation for why Elvis Presley belongs on the list:

"I lost interest in Elvis Presley after he made the 'Blue Hawaii' film [in 1961] and went to Las Vegas, but in his prime nobody could touch him.

"Michael Parkinson once asked the famous New Zealand soprano Kiri Te Kanawa about the greatest voice she'd ever heard, probably expecting her to name [Luciano] Pavarotti or Maria Callas, but she said, 'The young Elvis Presley, without any doubt.'

"Elvis's voice was unique. Like so many others, he had natural, technical ability, but there was something in the humanity of his voice, and his delivery. He was very influenced by Southern blues, and he helped to prove that you could have this bizarre mixture of country 'n' western, blues and folk music. Recordings were very honest in those days, and they stand up remarkably well.

"I was an avid collector of Elvis' early stuff; for a young singer he was an absolute inspiration. I soaked up what he did like blotting paper. It's the same as being in school — you learn by copying the maestro. His personality was also extremely endearing. The shaking of his hips was deemed sensational back then, but unlike Little Richard or Chuck Berry, his interviews were very self-effacing. He came over as gentle and was generous in his praise of others.

"It was immaterial to me that Elvis didn't write his own songs. Those were very different days, and he selected whatever suited him best from material supplied by publishing houses and teams of writers — all of whom were extremely conscious of his style of delivery.

"Although he appeared in some awful movies, Elvis could also be pretty damn good as an actor. 'Love Me Tender' [1956] and 'Jailhouse Rock' [1957] were both really good but 'King Creole' [1958] was my all-time favourite. Gradually, though, his youthful vigour and uninhibited style began to ebb away. For me, he sang the last time in the movie 'GI Blues' [1960].

"Along with the rest of DEEP PURPLE I once had the chance to meet Elvis. The rest of the guys went along, but I couldn't stand seeing my hero after he'd changed so much. Those early records are still incredible, though. They can re-mix them and make them hits for the younger generation, and Elvis will always be the King. The reason is simple: He was the greatest singer that ever lived."

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