Folk musician Phil Ochs once said, “If there’s any hope for America, it lies in a revolution, and if there’s any hope for a revolution in America, it lies in getting Elvis Presley to become Che Guevara.”
Ochs tested his theory, and it didn’t work for him.
It was only a matter of time until someone else would decide to pick up the torch. This man was Robert Lopez, aka El Vez: The Mexican Elvis.
He’ll be appearing at the Trocadero this Saturday (Sept. 15) in support of his first new album in five years, Boxing With God, which is perhaps his best to date.
Go and you’ll be guaranteed not only to experience Elvis tunes with a renewed energy, but revolutionary thought and Mexican history as well. Not to mention at least half a dozen costume changes.
Temple News recently caught up with El Vez via e-mail and talked about his new album, his music, and his political and religious beliefs.
TN: Why did you choose Elvis as a platform?
EV: I like to use Elvis as a metaphor. Poor man from a shotgun shack in Tupelo working his way up to become the richest, most successful, most loved entertainer of all time. A real king. He is the American Dream. What I like to show is that immigrants (be they Mexican or other) coming into America can work their way up to be successful, to fulfill their American Dream… I like to use icons such as Elvis Presley, his mythology, his music, and super impose my culture onto these All-American images. I put a mustache on them, so to speak.
TN: Some people compare your political opinions with those of Rage Against the Machine. Do you see any similarities?
EV: Power to the people. But I use a different door. Perhaps the back door. Infiltrate the house by surprise. I endear myself and make myself part of your family. Plant my seeds and move on. They knock down the front. Both methods can work. Mine is more sneaky perhaps.
TN: Elvis only ever won GRAMMYs for his gospel recordings. Was this your reason for recording a gospel album?
EV: It’s an old rock and roll standard. Little Richard, Bob Dylan, Al Green, etc. Every artist touches these points if they hang around long enough. It’s part of being a well-rounded Elvis impersonator. He was interested in the world’s theologies. My impersonation… or translation rather… Your arm’s too short to box with God. It’s a moot point. He wins. But you still need to do the boxing dance around it. Fighting it or questioning it can make it stronger sometimes.
TN: What do you hope to accomplish for Latinos?
EV: I just want to open up the door so people can do it for themselves. But it’s just not for Latinos, it could be El Vez the (blank) Elvis. Fill in your cause, race, nationality — that’s the main idea.
TN: Your songs are very satirical — you take stereotypes about Chicanos and turn them around. Has anyone ever found you to be offensive?
EV: Because I use an accent? Latinos don’t have accents? Japanese don’t? Russians don’t? French don’t? Americans don’t? Because I use a mustache? … Because I sing “viva la raza” which translates to “hurray for the Latino race,” singing, “Say it Loud! I’m Brown and I’m Proud!”? … Because the University of Arizona, UC Davis and the University of Washington State have all used my CD “Graciasland” as required text for three separate, unrelated Chicano studies classes? … Because I am a Latino impersonating to fill a white man’s white boots? … Because I wear gold lamé or a jumpsuit? Hundreds have before me, and not just in the impersonator category. Yes, I might sing about a Chihuahua. Was it offensive for Elvis to sing about a hound dog? Chihuahuas, serapes, sombreros and gritos exist in Mexican culture; there is nothing offensive about using them. So where might the offense be I ask …
TN: Where would you like to see yourself in five years?
EV: In the entertainment biz. I’ve been in the biz since I was 16. I know I will always be in it in some form or another. I have no grand scheme plan so I’m always willing to change … at least my costumes.