January 09, 2009

Elvis Shows Even Springsteen is a Reactionary

I caught a bit of an Elvis Presley documentary on television last night and it occurred to me how Elvis was in some ways like the beat poets; he and they rebelled against the perceived strictures of the '40s and '50s with abandon. Free love, drugs, New Age spirituality, banana and peanut butter sandwiches. (Well, that last was an Elvis tic.) And Elvis's tragic end involved reclusiveness and paranoia, drug-taking and spiritual books. How similar was Jack Kerouac's final days!

According to Wikipedia, Elvis's hairdresser Larry Geller was interested in New Age spirituality and Presley voraciously read books that Geller supplied. The emptiness of materialism and the vapidness of Hollywood led Elvis to long for mysticism, and Geller became something of a spiritual mentor. The King's favorite books besides the Bible were said to be: "The Prophet" by Kahil Gibran, "Autobiography of a Yogi" by Paramahansa Yogananda, "The Impersonal Life" by Joseph Benner (of which Elvis was said to have given away hundreds of copies) and "The Infinite Way" by Joel S. Goldsmith. Jerry Schilling and Priscilla Presley said that Elvis was attracted to the Self-Realization Fellowship of Paramahansa Yogananda.

So the pattern seems to be: reaction against the strictures of the '40s, then reaction against the indulgence in the purely material by a longing for the mystical. Elvis was also quite lonely and would often just want to talk to, rather than have sex with, the models he dated. The reaction to this might be seen in the role of therapists among the current rich and famous.

Elvis was the idol of many, including a young Bruce Springsteen who consciously reacted against the example of the '70s-era version of the King of Rock 'n Roll. Springsteen would stay away from drugs and weight gain, and apparently traded the Presley's Eastern philosophy for left-wing politics in his search for meaning. But just as Elvis reacted in response to the time he grew up, so did Springsteen. In fact our very existence is a reaction to our parents' and God's will. And if we love, "we love because He has first loved us." (1 Jn 4:19)

1 comment:

jenn said...

Hey I really enjoyed this post. Most people don't discuss him in this light and just focus on the glam side of Elvis. Anyway, in honor of his birthday I decided to have Elvis week on my site. We featured a bunch of people who collect all things Elvis and interviewed them. Check it: http://www.collectorsquest.com/featured-week/Elvis.html