Did you know that Elvis Presley was nominated for 14 Grammy Awards, winning a total of 10 Grammys with three for his Gospel music?
He won two of these Grammys for his sacred albums and one for a live performance of How Great Thou Art.
Elvis was heavily influenced by Gospel music
Gospel music pervaded Elvis’s personal life and his musical career; he was deeply rooted in Pentecostalism, appreciating both black and white Gospel music. If you know anything about Elvis’s career, you can easily see that he kept returning to his Gospel roots time and time again – recording, singing and performing Gospel songs. Much of his music was heavily influenced by his early Gospel upbringing and he often sang Gospel songs to warm up before recording or performing.
He regularly invited friends and other performers or members of his band back to his home or hotel room to sing Gospel songs well into the night and he particularly liked the harmonies in quartets. In fact, you can often hear the influence of Gospel quartets in the choruses of his songs. Terry Blackwood, a member of The Imperials, often sang with Elvis and recalls when the young Elvis slipped into the First Assembly of God in Memphis, sitting in the back row so that his presence wouldn’t cause a stir.
Elvis’s performances irked religious leaders
Despite being deeply religious on a day-to-day level, his performances stood in stark contrast to his beliefs. With fans worked into a frenzy by his music and his sexy hip thrusting moves on stage, religious leaders were not happy about his performances. His obvious enjoyment of female company, sex symbol status and prescription drug use were all at odds with his overt Gospel beliefs. Nevertheless, he was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame after his death and three of his Gospel albums went on to achieve platinum or multiplatinum status.
Maybe Elvis’s best legacy was to show that there are no barriers between Gospel and main stream music with both benefiting from each other’s influence.