Elvis Presley in the South African musical imaginary

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This paper derives its impetus from a question an elderly American woman once asked me: “Do people in South Africa know Elvis?” “Of course we South Africans know Elvis!” I replied. Or do we, really? Using a historiographic approach, this paper is an attempt to explore how Elvis Presley’s image was first imported into South Africa, especially during the Apartheid era when there was no television and media censorship was a fact of daily life. Additionally, this essay will reflect on the impact of the media – then and now – in creating images, fantasies and illusions in constituting the subjectivity of the Elvis of real life and the Elvis of sound, stage and celluloid in the South African musical imaginary.