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Rock n’ Roll Radio

With the recent passing of musician David Bowie, his hits and wide-ranging career have been brought to the center of our minds once again. His ever-changing persona and music have made him a rock and pop icon, from “Life on Mars” to his latest single, “Lazarus.”

Many years before David Bowie was on our radio, the “king” of rock n’ roll, Elvis Presley, was hitting the top of the charts. Exactly sixty years ago today (January 28, 1956), he made his national television debut on the Dorsey Brothers’ Stage Show, where he performed “Shake, Rattle, n’ Roll” and “I’ve Got a Woman.”

Although at first it may seem that these two artists don’t have much in common outside of their connection to rock n’ roll, they have a curious and entwined relationship.

For starters, they have the same birthday, January 8. Bowie alludes to this and its significance to him in an interview with Q magazine in 1997, stating (in a somewhat cynical tone) that “he was a major hero of mine. And I was probably stupid enough to believe that having the same birthday as him actually meant something.”

On top of these “cosmic” occurrences, they had also encountered each other professionally. Bowie had offered to Elvis his song “Golden Years” (a single from his 1976 album Station to Station), but Presley turned it down. Later, 6 months before Presley’s death in 1977, he asked Bowie to be his producer. Sadly, that request was not acted upon before Presley’s death.

Although we do not have a large number of titles in our collection with music from these two artists, we have enough to satisfy the musical appetite for those curious to learn about these musicians and their music. So here are some music books and appreciation titles you may want to check out about David Bowie and Elvis Presley.

First, we have a braille sheet music collection of four of David Bowie’s biggest hits, arranged for voice and piano:

“All the Young Dudes” (BRM24178)
Although this song was made most famous by the band “Mott the Hoople,” it is an original Bowie composition, and appears on a few of his live albums.

“Drive-In Saturday” (BRM23114)
One of the singles from his 1973 album Aladdin Sane. This album was the immediate predecessor to Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

“Space Oddity” (BRM24105)
This is the song that propelled Bowie into the spotlight. It was released on his self-titled album David Bowie  in 1969.

“Life on Mars” (BRM23071)
A single from the 1971 album Hunky Dory.

Exhibit with Elvis Presley's Personal Belongings in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Exhibit with Elvis Presley’s Personal Belongings in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2000. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/highsm.11946

If you’re interested in learning more about Elvis, or even learning how to play some of his songs on guitar or piano, we have a number of audio talking books that will suit your needs.

Books about Elvis:

Portrait of Elvis Presley by Mike Whorf (DBM00814)
This talking book gives a brief look at the life and music of Elvis over the course of his career.

Rock N’ Roll by Center for Cassette Studies (DBM00251)
This book discusses rock n’ roll from a number of different angles and discusses the role of its important contributors (including Elvis Presley).

Songs to learn on guitar:
“Hound Dog” instruction by Talking Tabs (DBM03078)
“Don’t Be Cruel” instruction by Talking Tabs (DBM03049)
One Night” instruction by Bill Brown (DBM03006)
Heartbreak Hotel” by Bill Brown (DBM03277)

Songs to learn on piano:
Teddy Bear” by Bill Brown (DBM03325)

Bowie and Elvis were two of the most important musicians and innovators in rock n’ roll. Let’s keep their spirit alive by learning more about them and their music.

If you would like any of the above material, please get in contact with the Music Section!

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