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July 18, 2019

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Newseum chronicles Elvis’ meteoric rise

The Washington Post's Paul Farhi writes about a new exhibit at Washington's Newseum, "Elvis! His Groundbreaking, Hip-Shaking, Newsmaking Story."

Farhi writes, "Timed to the 75th anniversary of Elvis's birth, the exhibit says as much about the moral framework of the time -- and the mainstream media's reflected guardianship of it -- as it does about the rise of the 'sideburned hillbilly' singer, as one journalist described him.

"Then as now (and possibly more then than now), newspapers were instruments of middle-class propriety, deeply invested in the status quo. Then as now (and especially now), they were edited by and for adults, not the teenagers who were wild for Elvis. While not every story about Elvis was damning, the press generally knew whom it was writing for. "

Farhi's story includes quotes from news outlets of the time, including:

"'Presley is a 21-year-old young man who makes more than $40,000 a week for rockin' from his heels and rollin' his suggestive songs,' scoffed the New York Journal American in the second part of a series on 'the controversial rock n' roll craze' in June 1956. 'He puts on the kinds of shows that make young girls violently excited and adults violently angry. 'He ought to be banned!' is a frequent suggestion among shocked members of the older generation who have observed his seductive gestures on stage and TV.'"

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