Variety Claims Rock and Roll Was Invented by Elvis but Gets a Lesson From Twitter

Elvis Presley poses for a portrait circa 1955.
Getty Images
Elvis Presley poses for a portrait circa 1955.
Getty Images

There are a lot of things Elvis Presley may have “invented,” like that little shimmy with his hips for which he became popular, although there are some who don’t even want to give him credit for that. But who would have thought that Presley was responsible for inventing rock and roll?


According to a recent article in Variety, Graceland’s own was responsible for a whole genre of music. Never mind that it existed before he did.

Of course, anyone with any common sense and knowledge of history realizes that Presley didn’t invent jack. What he did was profit from other influences that were around him. Needless to say, some on social media took Variety to task. The hashtag #varietyheadlines was created to mock the title of the article:

Variety did get wind of the backlash and updated its article with a new title and the following “apology”:

The word “invented” in the original headline has stirred an angry response from some readers who argue that it diminishes the contributions of many African-American musicians. As the story notes, Presley and Phillips were greatly influenced by a range of musical styles and artists. Crediting a single “inventor” of rock ‘n’ roll is as hard as determining who invented television or the automobile, and the headline on this story was not meant to indicate an absolute in this regard. The July 5, 1954, recording session detailed here marked a turning point in musical history, but in deference to the concerns raised by readers we have adjusted the headline to better reflect the nuance of the story.

I guess one can’t expect Variety to be truthful in its headlines. “Elvis Stole Music From Black People and Made It Popular” would be too much of the truth. 

Yesha Callahan is editor of The Grapevine and a staff writer at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.