What if the occupants of Graceland and Neverland had met as adults and had a wide-ranging conversation?
Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley certainly would have a lot to talk about. The King of Pop and the King of Rock â€˜n’ Roll both were born poor and raised polite, then changed the face of popular music. Both were shy offstage and costumed dynamos in front of an audience. They had unprecedented success as entertainers from an early age, were targets of harsh criticism — “Wacko Jackoâ€ and â€œElvis the Pelvisâ€ had strident detractors — and struggled with personal demons in later years. Their premature deaths shocked the world.
The connections between the two ran deeper than the many similarities. Michael Jackson bought the rights to many of the songs that Elvis Presley made popular. He married Presley’s only child. On Lisa Marie Presley’s blog after Michael Jackson’s death, she wrote that Michael had compared himself to her father, saying to her “I am afraid that I am going to end up like him, the way he did.”
The two singers even met in Las Vegas when, according to a recollection by Jackson, Presley would bring his daughter Lisa Marie to see the Jackson family’s shows. â€œIt was a real family show, the only family show that allowed children to come,â€ Jackson explained to Ebony. In the entry on Jackson in the Internet Movie database, he is quoted as saying: “When I was 16, we were doing Las Vegas every night, and Elvis Presley and Sammy Davis Jr. would sit me and my brothers in a row and lecture us. ‘Don’t ever do drugs,’ they told us. I never forgot it.” This seems so unlikely as to be almost comical.
In any case, when Presley died, Jackson was only 18 years old. It is unclear that they ever talked to one another at length, and surely not as peers.
What would they have said to one another? The following uses only verbatim quotations, selected from interview transcripts.
Straight-Living Regular Guys
Elvis Presley: I’ve tried to lead a straight, clean life, not set any kind of a bad example.
Michael Jackson: I will never stop helping and loving people the way Jesus said to.
Elvis Presley: I’d just like to be treated like a regular customer.
Michael Jackson: I’m just like anyone. I cut and I bleed. And I embarrass easily.
Michael Jackson: I would never harm a child.
Elvis Presley: I’m not trying to be sexy. It’s just my way of expressing myself when I move around.
Michael Jackson: I sing about things that are loving, and if people interpret it as sexy, that’s up to them. I never use bad words like some of the rappers. I love and respect their work, but I think I have too much respect for parents and mothers and elderly people. If I did a song with bad words and saw an older lady in the audience, I’d cringe
Elvis Presley: I don’t do any vulgar movements.
Michael Jackson: Why do I grab my crotch? I think it happens subliminally. â€¦ [I]f I’m doing a movement and I go bam and I grab myself it’s… it’s the music that compels me to do it, it’s not saying that I’m dying to grab down there. …I’m a slave to the rhythm.
Elvis Presley: I don’t know anything about music. In my line you don’t have to.
Michael Jackson: My mother’s wonderful. To me she’s perfection.
Elvis Presley: My mother was the most wonderful person in the world.
Michael Jackson: I didn’t have friends when I was little. My brothers were my friends.
Elvis Presley: I always felt a little bit lonely — maybe a better word would be ‘incomplete’ — when I was little.
God-Given Talent And Hard Work
Michael Jackson: I just remember from my mother who is very religious always telling us to always thank God, to thank Jehovah God for your talent, your ability. â€¦It’s not our doing, and it’s from above.â€
Elvis Presley: The Lord can give, and the Lord can take away. I might be herding sheep next year.
Michael Jackson: You try to be as original as you can be without thinking about statistics, just you go from the soul and from the heart.
Elvis Presley: Talent is being able to sell what you’re feeling.
Michael Jackson: I knew I wanted to do something wonderful all of my life and to help people and I never clearly really thought about it when I was really little. I just sang and danced and didn’t understand why people were applauding and clapping and screaming
Elvis Presley: The first time that I appeared on stage, it scared me to death. I really didn’t know what all the yelling was about. I didn’t realize that my body was moving. It’s a natural thing to me. So to the manager backstage I said, ‘What’d I do? What’d I do?’ And he said, ‘Whatever it is, go back and do it again’.
Michael Jackson: I don’t remember ever being afraid to go on stage
Elvis Presley: I go on stage and then I relax, after I start singing.
Michael Jackson: Physically, touring takes a lot out of you. When I’m on stage, it’s like a two-hour marathon. I weigh myself before and after each show, and I lose a good 10 pounds. Sweat is all over the stage. Then you get to your hotel and your adrenaline is at its zenith and you can’t fall asleep. And you’ve got a show the next day. It’s tough.
Elvis Presley: When I came off that stage, I look like I’ve been through a meat grinder.
The Downside Of Fame
Michael Jackson: When I give a concert, I like to have as many people who would like to come can come and enjoy the show. [But] there’s a time when you like to be in private, when you put on your pajamas and go to sleep, cut the light and you lay down, that’s your private space.
Elvis Presley: I’ve been scratched and bitten and everything.
Michael Jackson: I can’t go to the local movie theater down the street or the local park down the street or go pick up ice cream at the market, at the corner store. So, you want to create that world behind the gates and that’s what I try and do
Elvis Presley: You can’t go places like other people. You can’t go to ball games. You can’t go to the local theater and things like that. Like, back at home, whenever I want to see a movie, well I have the theater manager show it to me after the theater closes up at night. We have a fairgrounds there, and I rent the fairgrounds after it closes up sometimes.
Michael Jackson: I want to keep it on the music and the art. I think about some of my favorite people who ever lived. If I could stand face to face with Walt Disney or Michelangelo, would I care what they do in their private life? I want to know about their art.
Elvis Presley: I can take ridicule and slander, and I’ve been called names you know right to my face and everything â€“ that I can take. But I’ve had a few guys who try to take a swing at me and naturally you can’t just stand there, you’ve got to do something.
Michael Jackson: I am bewildered at the length to which people will go to portray me so negatively.
Elvis Presley: You can’t breathe or even go to the bathroom without them knowin’ about it.
Michael Jackson: All of Hollywood has plastic surgery. I don’t know why they point me out. The press exaggerated it. It’s just my nose, you know. They want it to be everything. Just the nose isn’t enough.
Elvis Presley: It’s very hard to live up to an image.
Life And Death
Michael Jackson: If you enter this world knowing you are loved and you leave this world knowing the same, then everything that happens in between can be dealt with.
Elvis Presley: I don’t feel I’ll live a long life. That’s why I have to get what I can from every day.
Michael Jackson: I’m happy to be alive, I’m happy to be who I am.