How Elvis Secretly Lives on in Your Favourite Music Today

| © Culture Trip/Alex Mellon
| © Culture Trip/Alex Mellon
Photo of Ann Lee
Music Editor12 June 2018

It’s been 40 years since Elvis left the building, but his influence still lives on.

The King created rock’n’roll, brought sex to the music industry and inspired pure hysteria in his fans – the likes of which had never been seen before. He passed away on August 16, 1977, at the age of 42, from a heart attack after many years of prescription drug abuse.

His legacy endures even to this day and to mark the anniversary of his death, we explore how his secret (and not so secret) influence on the many musicians that we love today.

David Bowie

Bowie was a huge fan of Elvis. The pair shared a record label – RCA – in the ‘70s and even the same birthday. Country star Dwight Yoakam claimed that Elvis wanted to Bowie to produce one of his albums, and it was rumoured the Starman may have named his last LP after a rare Elvis song called ‘Black Star’.

Alex Mellon / | © Culture Trip

One Direction

They may be ‘on a break’ now but whatever Harry Styles and co. get up to, millions of fans are following their every move with the slavish devotion of a newborn puppy dog. Sure, teenage fans were nothing new before Elvis, but he was the first real sex symbol in the music industry. Without him, 1D would never have existed.

Arctic Monkeys

Singer Alex Turner’s most recent reinvention saw him being labelled as ‘Sheffield’s Elvis’ after he slicked back his hair into a glorious quiff and went all rockabilly. His newfound swagger culminated in this glorious/staggeringly arrogant/delete as appropriate speech at the Brits about the glory of rock’n’roll.

Lana Del Rey

Her look may be more ‘60s Priscilla Presley but her nostalgic sound and use of American iconography was all Elvis. Hell, she even sings about him in ‘Body Electric’ labelling him as her ‘daddy’, and croons about his ‘blue suede shoes’ in ‘Hollywood’s Dead’. She also has an unreleased track called ‘Elvis’.


Kasabian once confessed that the track ‘Fire’ was influenced by Elvis along with, erm, ‘bondage and whipping’. Incendiary stuff, indeed.

Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse had her own distinctive sound but her retro soul influence and bad girl image were borrowed from The King especially the way she unafraid to bring sexuality and desire into her work.

Alex Mellon / | © Culture Trip

Justin Timberlake

JT may have the nickname ‘Trousersnake’ but the original dancer was the one and only Elvis. Why do you think he was called ‘Elvis the Pelvis’? His hip shaking and gyrating on stage was considered so sexually-charged that he was even slapped with a ban on hip wiggling after a show in Los Angeles by police.

Bob Dylan

Dylan idolised Elvis as a teenager. The singer played in several rock’n’roll bands while he was in high school until he realised that he had the best chance of making it big going solo. Bob’s 1970 song ‘Went to See the Gypsy’ is believed to be about a meeting between the two singers. He also revealed that he and George Harrison bailed on a recording session with Elvis.

The Beatles

‘Without Elvis, there would be no Beatles,’ John Lennon once said in an interview. The singer admired his idol so much that he decided to form The Quarrymen, the group that would evolve into the Fab Four. The bandmates were also taking notes when it came to his rebelliousness, sex appeal and musical talent.

Justin Bieber

Just like Elvis harnessed the power of TV to get his name out there, Justin Bieber has done the same with the internet. Sure, he may have gone off the rails a bit now he’s all grown up, but Bieber’s roots have always been his church and his family – much like The King’s.

Taylor Swift

Elvis Presley was the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll but he also dominated country music too. The star was raised on it along with gospel and blues. Taylor Swift’s roots were also in country, and just like Elvis she used it to leverage a move into mainstream pop.

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