December 12, 2007
Was Elvis a Christian?
Greeting one and all,
As we approach the Christmas and New Year season, may you have peace in the midst of the frenzy.
Now on to the subject at hand which has little to do with Christmas: Elvis Presley.
This boy/man from Tupelo, Mississippi, shook the world up and down in the 1950s and early '60s. Popular music and culture are still feeling the effects today. As a matter of real fact the Elvis Presley estate is generating more money today with dead Elvis than it did when he was alive. As somebody once stated, “Dying was a good career move!”
Another musical icon, Bob Dylan, once said of Presley that he was a man, “who walked the path between heaven and nature…not as the whitewashed golden calf but the incendiary musical firebrand loner who conquered the western world.”
But there was another side to Elvis that is rarely explored; his roots and life in his church upbringing and gospel music, and Joe Moscheo, once a member of the renowned gospel group, The Imperials, backed Elvis up not only in concerts but also in his recordings that sold in the multi millions.
As a confidante to Elvis, Moscheo reports in his book, The Gospel Side of Elvis, that Elvis found great solace in having constant access to the music he loved. He often gathered friends, including Moscheo, and family, and celebrity admirers in his suite after shows to unwind through singing gospel and times of prayer. It was his “church.”
As I was researching this story, I came upon this insight into Elvis spiritual state in 1958. After, selling millions of records, and becoming a movie star Elvis found himself still unfilled, and in a self described spiritual malaise. He returned to his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, and attended his First Assembly of God home church. There he confessed to his pastor Reverend James Hamill:
“Pastor, I am the most miserable young man you have ever seen. I have got more money than I can ever spend. I have thousands of fans out there, and I have a lot of people who call themselves my friends, but I am miserable. I am not doing a lot of things you taught me, and I am doing some things that you taught me not to do. But no matter what I do, I don’t forget about God. I feel He’s watching every move I make. And in a way it’s good for me. I’ll never feel easy smoking a cigarette. I just don’t think those things are right for me…I just want to let a few people know that the way I live is by doing what I think God wants me to. I want someone to understand.” (From, Last Train to Memphis, Peter Guralnick, Back Bay books)
Perhaps my interview with Joe Moscheo airing Friday on The 700 Club will help us understand another side of Elvis.
Contact Scott Ross