Elvis Presley Probably Wasn't A Racist
Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Elvis Presley is so pivotal in the development of modern pop music that everyone knows who you're talking about if you simply refer to him as "Elvis" (to the likely ire of Elvis Costello). But fans will always fall into uncomfortable silence when you bring up how Elvis was kind of a racist asshole. The belief is so prevalent that Mary J. Blige once mentioned being conflicted about covering "Blue Suede Shoes" because she knew it was written by a racist. His bigotry even gets a shout-out in Public Enemy's "Fight The Power" (though here we guess they could actually have been referring to Elvis Costello).
Plus, he stole all that music from black musicians. (But so did Elvis Costello).
Classic music fans can breathe easy on this one. Although some worrying criticisms against Elvis might hold some merit, racism probably isn't one of them. Most frequently, people bring up a quote by Elvis from the '50s, something along the lines of "The only thing Negroes can do for me is shine my shoes and buy my records."
We say "something along the lines of" because nobody knows exactly where the quote came from or how it was worded -- most likely because it was completely made up by someone spewing bullshit. The furthest anyone can trace it back is to a 1957 article in Sepia magazine, which apparently got it from an interview with an "anonymous person on the street."
Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
"Man, the only color I care about is blue."
Elvis himself vehemently denied ever having said anything even remotely like that when he was confronted about it, and his many black friends backed him up on it. And we know what you're thinking -- "Oh yes, the black friends defense, very original." But honestly, Elvis had many, many black friends. So many that he attended a black church headed by celebrated civil rights activist Rev. W. Herbert Brewster. If the notorious quote was accurate, that philosophy doesn't seem to have made its way into Elvis's everyday life at all.