Social media is abuzz with the rumor that statues honoring Elvis Presley are about to be all shook up by angry protesters.
If you’re a Black Lives Matter protester, know that I am not unsympathetic to the cause; don’t step on my blue suede shoes.
Why would anyone want to dethrone The King?
The story claims protesters want Presley statues removed from Memphis, Tenn., and Tupelo, Miss., because Elvis appropriated black musicians’ style on his way to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Say it ain’t so, Joe!
That’s according to USA Today, which based its conclusion on numerous, credible media sources.
The false “news” story also claims that the Presleys faked being poor so they could live in a predominantly black poor section of Tupelo where Elvis could learn to imitate black artists!
Good golly, Miss Molly! That makes as much sense as believing that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya and his parents were clever enough to hide a fake birth certificate in Hawaii in case Obama ever ran for U.S. president.
Of course recent protests that arose from the egregious killing of George Floyd have been aimed at some statues, generally those associated with slavery or other cultural atrocities.
Take, for example, Confederate General Braxton Bragg. Now, the Confederacy declared war on the United States. That makes Bragg and other Confederates – by definition – traitors. Why is a federal military installation named in honor of a traitor?
And where is Fort Benedict Arnold?
Now, if you believe in the Lost Cause mythos, that still leaves the problem of honoring someone who fought on the losing side.
How often does that happen?
Here’s a baseball example: the “Shot Heard Round the World” that decided the 1951 National League pennant. That refers to Bobby Thomson, who hit the home-run that won the game. It doesn’t honor Ralph Branca, who gave up the famous home-run.
What I’m saying is that there are some statues or memorials that you can make a reasonable argument for removing or renaming. A Kanye West statue? Tear that sucka down!
But you can’t help falling in love with Elvis. I mean, the man made peanut butter and banana sandwiches famous! And there was the whole rock ’n’ roll thing, too.
For now, at least, Elvis seems protected by a good luck charm. The mayor of Tupelo, a spokesperson for Elvis’ Graceland estate and other reliable sources say there is no truth in the rumor that the Elvis statues will be returned to sender.
The most famous outdoor Elvis statues are in his original hometown of Tupelo and his adopted hometown of Memphis.
The Tupelo “Homecoming Statue,” erected in 2012, recreates a famous pose captured by a photographer during Presley’s Sept. 26, 1956, “Homecoming” concert at the fairgrounds, when he reached down from the stage toward a fan in the crowd.
A complementary pair of Elvis statues were erected in Tupelo in 2015, near the singer’s childhood home, which is Tupelo’s most popular tourist attraction. Collectively titled “Becoming,” the statues symbolize Elvis’ evolution from country boy to international entertainer: The smaller statue depicts 11-year-old Elvis seated on a milk crate, a guitar in his lap, while behind him looms the world-famous adult Elvis in a bell-bottomed jumpsuit, spreading his cape like the wings of an eagle.
Also near the Elvis birthplace is a statue of a guitar-toting 13-year-old Elvis in overalls. The oldest of the Tupelo statues, it was unveiled in 2002.
The most-visited Memphis statue is on the west end of Beale Street. Erected in 1997, it depicts Elvis as a rock ‘n’ roller, with bent knees and a guitar hoisted in the direction of his pompadour.
The statue replaced an earlier and more upright (literally) Elvis bronze from 1980, which was removed because of, yes, vandalism: Tourists couldn’t resist breaking off pieces of fringe from his Western-style shirt. That statue is now inside the Downtown Welcome Center.
It may be unlikely, but some day there may be a statue of me sitting behind a desk – wearing my Elvis pajamas – and writing a column for the Four Corners Free Press. You can tear that one down if it helps ease your suspicious mind.
John Christian Hopkins lives in Sanders, Ariz., with his wife, Sararesa. He is a veteran journalist – but never an enemy of the people – and a former nationally syndicated columnist for Gannett News Service. He is the author of many books, including “Carlomagno: Adventures of the Pirate Prince of the Wampanoag.” He is a member of the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island.