By Thomas Sellers Jr.
It was 41 years ago on Aug. 16 that an icon of music, Memphis and entertainment passed a-way at Graceland. Elvis Presley has left a huge mark on the work through his sweet tunes, contributions to pop culture and even some of those movies he made.
Thousands from around the world celebrate and remember the King of Rock ’n’ Roll by making a pilgrimage to the Bluff City for seven days of events centered around Elvis.
While Graceland is the Mecca for many, I’m a native Memphian who has visited the home once. I often drive pass the venue wondering why people from all over come to the Whitehaven portion of my hometown just to see a big house.
Then I am reminded of how awesome Elvis was when I listen to “Kentucky Rain” or his version of “My Way.” The man had the “It” factor. His charm was magnetic. That’s why those looking to make a quick pay day placed the man in movies as his songs ruled the charts.
This leads me to my countdown this week in honor of Elvis. Below will be my top 10 Elvis Clones. What is an Elvis Clone? Let me explain. An Elvis Clone is a public figure known for achievements in entertainment industry but takes on another avenue in the industry simultaneously.
Some poor examples of an Elvis Clone are actors like William Shatner, Eddie Murphy and Don Johnson. I’m still looking for a “Heartbeat” because my girl like to “Party All the Time” with that crazy “Rocket Man.”
Hey, some singers try to get into movie and television, making me laugh for all the wrong reasons. Beyoncé, Dolly Patron and Rhianna are not very believable in most roles.
So let’s show some love to those who do it well. There were many who did dual entertainment before Elvis. But Elvis became the face of it and left a library of movies and music for his fans to enjoy forever.
This group of 10 have done it as well. Honorable mention goes to Jennifer Lopez with two successful albums and a string of movies in the late 1990s. Also NFL legend Jim Brown for becoming the all-time leading rusher and doing “The Dirty Dozen,” and Ellen DeGeneres for acting and hosting an Emmy-award winning talk show.
10. LL Cool J, Ice Cube and Ice-T
This trio of hip-hop legends are now known for their acting in dramas and movies like “NCIS: Los Angeles,” “Law & Order” and “21 Jump Street.”
But in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Ice-T was still doing albums while making “Ricochet” and “New Jack City.” LL Cool J was on top of the charts in the late 1990s while lending his acting talents to “Any Given Sunday” and “Halloween H20.” But the man who made it trendy to place rappers into films was Ice Cube with his iconic role as Doughboy in “Boyz N The Hood.” He was also Craig in the legendary “Friday.”
Now all three men are seasoned actors, producers and content creators in the film industry. And their music lives on through sampling and remakes.
While Jim Brown did it for a short time, the NBA’s Shaquille O’Neal was a triple threat for several years. While playing at an MVP level in the 1990s and 2000s, Shaq took a stab at making movies and music. I used the word “stab” because he left a lot of us feeling wounded from his acting and rapping. He did put out a couple of jams like “You Can’t Stop the Reign” and “Skillz.” While Kazaam, Steel and Blue Chips are the subjects of many jokes and Razzie retrospectives, Shaq has mastered the guest appearance in movies and television now. After four NBA championships, he is in the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame. Glad he’s stopped trying to reach that mark in hip-hop but as for acting, give the Diesel some time.
8. Gwyneth Paltrow
Gwyneth Kate Paltrow is an American actress, singer and writer. I put her brains before her beauty. This gorgeous entrepreneur made her first impact through movies and television. Then she invested in herself through her writing. Since 2008, she’s pinned some informative and entertaining books. I love cooking, so her tales from the kitchen are awesome. “Shallow Hal” is a classic for those who are seeking inspiring on self-esteem.
OK, her duo with ’80s legend Huey Lewis is passable. I get my groove on to “Cruisin.”
7. Justin Timberlake
This Millington native and Memphis figure brought “SexyBack” with lyrics and blew up “The Social Network” on many occasions with his acting. I am not a big fan of JT’s music, although I love “Suit & Tie.” But he has produced many megahits on the Billboard. His acting gets better and better, especially in comedies. His live work on shows like “Saturday Night Live” and “The Jimmy Fallon Show” are amazing and memorable. His natural wit comes to life with every performance.
6. Jamie Foxx
The year 2005 belonged to comedian actor Jamie Foxx. Also known as Eric Bishop, this Terrell, Texas, native had a couple of hit songs on the chart with “Unpredictable” and “Do What It Do.” Around the same time, DVD sales of “Collateral” and “Ray” were solid. His portrayal of Ray Charles in “Ray” nabbed Foxx the Oscar that year for Best Actor. The man is talented and pretty funny. Just go back and watch some episodes of “In Living Color” or “The Jamie Foxx Show.”
In 25 years of living, Tupac “2Pac” Shakur got a lot of work done. His movies include “Poetic Justice,” “Above the Rim” and the urban classic “Juice.” Before his death in September 1996, Pac compiled a hit list with songs like “Brenda’s Got a Baby,” “California Love,” “Dear Mama,” “I Get Around” and “I Ain’t Mad at Cha.”
The rapper/actor took both professional seriously through his dedication to both crafts. He was a comet in this lifetime. He flashed for a second but made a bright, lasting impact.
4. Will Smith
When NBC gave charismatic rapper the Fresh Prince a television show back in 1990, who could have seen Will Smith blowing up into a great actor? His music career was pretty solid at the time, teaming up with DJ Jazzy Jeff to make “Parents Just Don’t Understand” and “Brand New Funk.” In 1991, while he was having a top 25 TV show, the release of the eternal hip-hop classic “Summertime” hit No. 1 on the U.S Billboard Hot R&B Singles.
“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” was steady and became a hit across America with endearing theme song (Born and raised … now you have the ear bug). The chemistry on the show allowed Smith to get his acting muscles stronger and stronger. Now Smith is a top Hollywood actor after films like “Men in Black,” “Independence Day,” “Bad Boys” and “The Pursuit of Happyness.”
Smith taking on the role in “Ali” to portray The Greatest Muhammad Ali illustrated his dedication and commitment. That transformation he made to play Ali was no surprise if you remember an episode of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” when Will’s father left out of his life for a second time. Just watch the final scene.
3. Janet Jackson
How can anyone in the Jackson family top Michael? Make music that rivals his and get some success through acting. His baby sister Janet has five Grammy Awards to her name and several nominations. From the 1990s to now, Janet makes hits and works with some of the best names in the music industry.
But my introduction to Janet came off reruns of “Good Times” when she played Penny. The charm of the cute girl mixed with a sassy attitude made me fall in love as a 10-year-old. Then my mom informed me the girl I had a crush on just released “Rhythm Nation.” My affection grew for the lovely songstress.
Through the years she has kept her acting going with projects like “Poetic Justice,” “Why Did I Get Married Too?” and “The Nutty Professor.” Definitely the second most iconic Jackson.
2. The Rock
Hulk Hogan tried to make this list through the ’80s and ’90s. But he always played Hulk Hogan. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has displayed range through his acting over the years. For a brief moment he was tackling the competition in the WWE and making films. He was so good in the roles and cameos that the demand grew for Johnson to take on acting full time. It had been a brilliant move with him being one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood. To see Johnson called on to participate in movies like “Skyscraper,” “Rampage,” “Jumanji,” “Central Intelligence” and the “Fast & Furious” franchise, just go back and watch some of his classic WWE promos. The man is hilarious.
1. Oprah Winfrey
Better known simply as Oprah, this media mogul wrote the book on how to become successful. She’s also good at making others rich and powerful (see Dr. Phil).
Oprah was welcomed into homes across the United States with her talk show back in the mid 1980s. For 25 seasons, she tackled hot topics and crucial issues and let her hair down with fun shows. She even gave away a bunch of cars. As her empire grew, she took her talents to Hollywood for movies like “The Color Purple,” “There Are No Children Here” and the miniseries “The Women of Brewster Place.”
We’ve grown to know Oprah as an actress with more recent projects like “Selma” and “The Butler.” She has managed to entertain us for decades by taking on real subject matter. Now she’s worth $2.8 billion. Numbers even Elvis “Can’t Help Falling in Love” with. His estate is worth only $300 million.
THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for Journal West 10 Media LLC. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.