Elvis, Bowie and Graham

Many people know that January 8 is Elvis Presley’s birthday. It’s fun to watch old Elvis movies and listen to his music or see tribute artists perform as the King of Rock and Roll. Some people honor the King’s memory by eating some of his favorite foods or visiting his childhood home in Tupelo, Miss., or his final resting place at Graceland in Memphis, Tenn.

Elvis glamorized rock in a way no one else could. He also brought his own twist to traditional blues music, making popular a genre that many had never thought would see the mainstream.

Elvis died August 16, 1977, a day that also is commemorated with a celebration of his life.

But today also is the birthday of a couple other rock pioneers that are worthy of noting:

• One of my most favorite musicians is David Bowie, whose flair for drama and the unique ability to reinvent himself at will made him an icon that few could forget. He was innovative with his music, too, striking out on his own path despite the trend of the day.

• Even fewer of you will have heard of Bill Graham, since he was not a musician, but he revolutionized the rock world as a major concert promoter, giving up-and-coming bands a leg up in the industry as well as bringing top acts to venues in San Francisco and New York from the 1960s until the early 1990s – when he was killed in a helicopter crash.

Each year on this day I try to spend time to honor some of the brightest stars of rock music – at least in my eyes.

Happy birthday, gentlemen. And thank you for all the gifts you have given us.

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4 thoughts on “Elvis, Bowie and Graham

  1. Bill Graham was responsible for bringing some of my favorite artists to prominence, most notably the Grateful Dead. But fans of Santana might not know that Graham insisted the then-little known group be put on the bill at Woodstock. The resulting “Soul Sacrifice” segment of the Woodstock movie helped propel Santana into the ultra-big time!

    Graham’s various Fillmore venues (San Francisco & New York) were the sites of many a great live recording, from Jefferson Airplane’s “Bless its Pointed Little Head” to the Allman Brothers’ legendary “At Fillmore East.”

    Check out Wolfgang’s Vault – so called for Graham’s real first name – for tons of live archival material: http://www.wolfgangsvault.com/concerts/

    • Thanks for the link. Ill have to go walk down memory lane! I was too young for the earlier concerts but he was a legend in his own time – I grew up reading posters everywhere: Bill Graham presents …. You knew that was the place to be if it had his name on it.

    • I grew up in San Francisco, so I benefitted from the creative way Bill Graham put together music and business so that it worked for both. As a teen and young adult I got to see a lot of bands because he had a knack for picking good ones and it was affordable. His death was a tragic loss.

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