Robbie Williams & Elvis Presley

Elvis is America. There is absolutely no question about it. But Elvis is also rock’n roll, which is one of the United States’ most valuable contributions to human civilization. Make no mistake about it: even if you aren’t that much into his music, Elvis has touched your life in some way – or many ways! Specially if music is an essential part of your life. It makes absolutely no difference if you’re just a music buff, an Elvis fan, a rock’n roll fan, a sociologist, a professional musician or a pop/rock icon yourself. Elvis is imprinted on our skin.

As a Robbie Williams fan, it didn’t surprise me at all when he got that tattoo on his arm; you know, the lion with the inscription reading “Elvis, grant me serenity”. I am no psychologist but it didn’t take much for me to figure out what kind of bond Robbie had established with Elvis Aaron Presley, the myth, the man, the rock star, the sex god, the tragedy. We all have our idols, even our own idols have idols of their own! But then again, knowing very little about the actual life of Elvis Presley – except, of course, for what I’d seen on the telly or read on some articles and such – I don’t think I ever really analyzed the impact of Elvis not being here for the past 30 years. And what would this mean to Robbie? Because he’s definitely given it some thought; one just has to listen to Advertising Space.

No dignity in death?

Did you know that Elvis has sold over a billion records? I, for one, wasn’t aware of this. And to think that most artists would kill to sell just half a million! A large part of those records, by the way, were sold after he passed away. There seems to be a strange kind of creepy vindication or dignity in his death, after all. This reminds me of what Bono once wrote: “Death is a career move”. A cynical take on the subject, no less, but it gets you thinking. Of course it’s a dark subject: death and its consequences, especially since we are not the ones who actually experience them – only our loved ones and/or the people who love us and we leave behind will have to go through the difficult stuff.

Robbie Williams has walked on the very edge of the platform of life, and he doesn’t deny it. One step further may have taken him away, just like that. Pfft. Gone. Pop star dies of painkiller overdose. The brit who put the BRIT in celebrity follows the path of the great. After his death, Robbie Williams’s record sales experience a boost. British pop idol’s home in L.A. to be turned into a museum. Ex- girlfriend so-and-so publishes book about her intimate memories with the king of british pop charts…Eerie, isn’t it?

Up to your neck in darkness

Trying to grasp the complexity of Elvis Presley’s personality and problems in one single article would be too ambitious, but there seem to be a few facts that would’ve made the difference for him. First of all, he lived a life feeling that he had to live it for 2: for himself and for his twin brother, who died right after being born. This put him in a strange position, with a foot in the world of the living and another one in the world of the dead. (Salman Rushdie even based one of the main characters of his novel The ground beneath her feet on Elvis in this aspect.) I can only imagine how weird it must have been, how unfathomable, that sensation of half of you being dead. Robbie Williams and Elvis Presley are only alike, in my opinion, when you focus on the professional and public aspects of their lives.

Their careers are larger than life, their sexual appeal is off the charts – long lists of gorgeous women prove it – , and they even share a common idol: Dean Martin. Elvis is said to have listened to a lot of Martin’s music as a kid growing up in Tupelo, Mississipi. But when you scratch the surface, it’s not very complicated to understand why Elvis’s life went down in flames, as the world watched, in front of his family and friends. Whereas, on the other hand, Robbie’s future looks…well, alive. One must consider, for instance, how little was known back then about the terrible effects of drugs on the human body. According to Johnny Cash, while he was touring with Elvis all across the US, Elvis was already using cocaine, heavily. Now, even way into the 60’s, coke was still seen as a safe, harmless, recreational drug, and was even featured on photo shoots as a ‘glamorous’ thing. Well, this was obviously a key factor in Elvis’s self-damaging lifestyle, the one which would prove to be the ultimate physical cause of his death.

Drugs were just not taken as seriously in the U.S. as they are now. Elvis’s drug dependence was a mere manifestation of many inner, deep emotional problems he had – such as his inability to establish healthy romantic relationships with women (his widow, gorgeous Priscilla Presley, has even gone as far as to state that, while she was pregnant with Lisa Marie, she tried as hard as she could to gain the smallest amount of weight, and that after Lisa Marie was born, Elvis rarely acknowledged her as a sexual being, because he could only see her as ‘the mother of his child’), his insecurities and the sense that he was, more than an artist or even a man, only a brand name which provided employment and fame for his many employees/’friends’. Nobody was there to guide him, actually. Maybe very few true, honest friends were straightforward about the situation and told him he should take better care of himself. Maybe some even suggested that he should quit popping pills and put a stop to the booze. But Elvis Aaron Presley from Tupelo, Mississippi, was long lost. At that time, all that existed was Elvis Presley, The King. And The King needed his remedies, just so he could carry on being The King. And, sadly, it’s very unusual that a king would listen to his subjects.

Everybody loves your life but you

That line of Advertising Space perfectly sums up how Robbie and Elvis must have felt at some point of their lives. While they are both worshipped by masses of people, loved by their families, they remain alone. They are the only ones who have to go through media scrutiny, record company pressure, living up to everybody else’s expectations. It can’t be easy to stomach all that without leaning on someone, or something. Also, for you to be a star…Well, let’s just say you can’t be no saint. Robbie Williams has been blessed with a supportive and understanding family. Also, it was a blessing in disguise not to be able to crack the American market. Geez, at least there’s one country in the world where he can have a life that most people would consider normal. But in Europe it’s a different story: everybody knows who he is, who he’s dated, where he lives and what his problems are. Also from working class origins, and with a musical background considered superficial by most – including himself -, Robbie’s had to struggle with a lot of the very same issues Elvis had to struggle with. Of course, these similarities weren’t the ones that caused Robbie to admire Elvis so much and, sometimes, even try to emulate him a little or, of course, pay homage to him in a very respectful way. But, as you all know, it’s very common that, once you are drawn to a performer/artist, you start doing your research and learn about his/her life, and you are bound to find similarities. That’s what allows us to identify ourselves with music: we must feel ourselves in it. Otherwise the connection is impossible.

Maybe Robbie discovered a lot of his own issues in Elvis’s life, once he dug deeper and went past the stage persona known as “The King”. Robbie had a phase during which he felt his life wasn’t worthy of being loved. He still has those moments; I won’t even quote all the lines of his songs in which he talks about this. Nevertheless, slowly but surely, he’s making peace with the fact that sometimes, life is a ***** and that doesn’t mean he is not worth loving, or that he shouldn’t love his life. In this, I’m happy to say that Robbie surpasses Elvis. Robert Williams is a smarter man. What was there to love about Elvis, besides his music, besides the image, the movies? Few people truly know. The only sure thing is that Elvis didn’t know it himself. He only knew who he was while he was on stage, performing. That’s a terrible fact. Robbie, on the other hand, often wonders – very publicly – about this. What is it that his fans love about him? Or privately, he may also wonder what this or that girl love about him. But instead of dwelling on it, he happily searches for the answer everyday. And he’s much more open now than he was before to the possibility of true happiness and a much deserved improvement on his love for himself.

Learning from Elvis’s mistakes

There’s no earthly way of knowing what was in Elvis’s heart when it stopped going.

That’s so nicely put, I’m not even trying to change that line, Mr. Williams! But there is a way to figure out what Elvis could have decided to do, had all the circumstances in his life been better and had he been surrounded by less corrupted people. What is the meaning of life? My mother once said it all comes down to being happy. Truly happy. At that time – maybe it was about five years ago – I disagreed with her. You know why? Because I felt so sad, so empty and frustrated and mad at myself, that I thought it was impossible that life had to offer any happiness at all. It was very difficult for me to get out of that state, for many reasons. But I am fortunate enough to have some invaluable friends, who’ve been with me through thick and thin; and a mother who loves me and is the most extraordinary woman I’ve ever met. Robbie was also blessed with support from his mother, sister, nan, father, and many great friends. He also lives in a day and age in which there’s lots of help available for people who have issues that lead them to drugs, alcohol and other substances in order to deal with their problems. Knowledge is everywhere. If you are reading this article, then you are proving me right: there’s very little in the world we live in nowadays that can’t be researched.

We know much more, even though sometimes it seems we use that knowledge less and less, or maybe use it for the wrong reasons. The point is that, back in 1977, on august 16th, Elvis didn’t have all the knowledge that we have at the reach of our fingertips. Back then drug addicts were classified as plain criminals and the public in general would’ve probably not shown any sympathy towards a fallen king. And when people got addicted to prescription drugs, well, it was that ‘showbiz’ thing, not a big deal. All that was left was a hole inside his soul, hidden from everybody else. I think, at this point of his life and career, that Robbie is well aware of the lessons he must learn from Elvis. In his position, it’s not even a choice – it’s an obligation. He owes that to himself, and to no-one else. Because I bet he thinks Elvis is great and all that, but I think he’d be even more excited if Elvis were still alive so he could meet him, talk to him, attend a concert and, who knows, maybe even do a song with him…But all that’s just a fantasy, and it’s really sad that it has to stay that way. So Robbie has a sense of his own place in history, and I am quite sure he doesn’t want to be remembered in the same bittersweet way as Elvis. He doesn’t want people to form religions that worship him like he were some kind of god, or his children to live in the shadow of their father, a legend tragically lost. He doesn’t want to be turned into a hologram so that fans are able to attend a Robbie Williams concert. He doesn’t want his life to be scrutinized in countless books and tv documentaries. Robbie wants to be Robert Williams. He wants to sing. He wants to be happy. He wants to have a luminous life. Making a mark in music history, yes, but most of all, on the people who love him. A mark that doesn’t imply tears of anger, sadness or regret. Fame is a dangerous thing. It corrupts, but also comforts. It imprisons you, but it also gives you a chance to visit places you never even dreamt of visiting, not in your wildest dreams. It makes you popular, yes, but it doesn’t make you loved. Truly loved. It can also hide many important facts from you, maybe as many as the ones you have to hide from other people when you become famous. As much as it gives, it takes. It gave us Elvis, but it took Elvis away from us too. And it has given us all around the world the joy of Robbie Williams…

Does it mean history had to repeat itself? Apparently, Mr. Williams had a say on his fate: he’s here to stay.

Article by BereNice of

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