Just about my only disappointment with Public Enemy's performance at the Santa Fe Muzik Fest last night was the fact they still have that verse, "Elvis was a hero to most" in the song "Fight the Power" and they still call him a racist.
I had read a couple of years ago that Chuck D no longer believes this. That fact is brought up in this excellent New York Times opinion piece by Peter Guralnick that Jim Terr sent me this morning.
So what's the deal with Elvis as racist? There's this nasty rumor, repeated for decades as fact that Elvis had once said something to the effect of "“The only thing Negroes can do for me is buy my records and shine my shoes” in some interview somewhere.
I first heard this back in 1976 when I was doing student teaching at Albuquerque High School. I was talking music with one of my students, a Black girl. When I mentioned Elvis her whole demeanor changed. "Why don't you like Elvis?" I asked. She told me the awful thing he supposedly said, using a stronger word than "Negroes."
As Guralnick points out, this "shine my shoes" statement never has been documented and Elvis specifically denied it.
So come on, PE, if we can forgive Professor Griff for anti-Semitic statements he really did make, let's give Elvis a break for something he likely never said.
UPDATE: I just read a 2002 interview with Griff denying he said that Jews are "responsible for a majority of wickedness in the world" or whatever he was quoted saying. I'm not sure of the truth of the matter. But he apparently doesn't agree with the alleged statement. Maybe we all should take a step back from rushing to judgement.
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