Priscilla Presley, ex-wife of Elvis Presley, has spoken out against claims that the singer star was racist.
Elvis, a biopic on the legendary musician, released last month, exploring his life and fame. The release of the film has reignited discussions regarding Elvis’ role in the racism of the 1950s music industry at large, the argument being that that many of his early hits were covers of songs by Black artists, and his stage presence and singing style was inspired by Black rock and roll singers, bringing the sounds of Black music to a much wider audience, one that would have avoided music actually recorded by Black artists.
The allegations are not entirely unfounded. For example, before the biopic’s release last month, an interim report from California’s Reparations Task Force revealed historic theft of black art and culture, singling out Elvis Presley’s appropriation of the work of black musician Arthur Crudup. With this in mind, however, it is important to consider the distinction between Elvis as a person and the music industry of 1950s America that he found himself in.
In an interview with Piers Morgan on TalkTV, Presley shared her opinion on the biopic, giving her approval of actor Austin Butler’s portrayal of the musician before addressing the aforementioned discussion, saying: “He was not a racist – he’s never been a racist… Elvis had friends, black friends, friends from all over. He loved their music. He loved their style. He loved being around, you know, Black musicians.”
She continued, “He wouldn’t believe it. He was a die-hard American; he was America.”
She noted her ex-husband’s friendships with Fats Domino and Sammy Davis Jr, stating that they would “always come into the dressing room” and that Elvis was “very concerned” over the government of the US.
Watch the full interview below: