Elvis Chestnut

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It's been long time since Chuck D made it clear where Elvis and the Duke stand in the minds of many American blacks: "Elvis was a hero to most/ But he never meant shit to me you see/ Straight up racist that sucker was simple and plain/ Motherfuck him and John Wayne."

That was in "Fight the Power," a rallying anthem of self-empowerment from 1989.

Last year, Cyrus Chestnut (above left), a wonderful and charming pianist from Baltimore, released Cyrus Plays Elvis, 12-track CD that may signal the return of pragmatic black view of Elvis: the King as merely a man rather than the King as avatar of racist White America. Chestnut is billed to play a concert at Spoleto's Wachovia Jazz Series called "Jazz Goes to Church," but I'm hoping he'll throw in some Elvis tunes. Presley was as much as gospel singer as rock 'n' roller. And besides, the spirit of gospel is trans-racial. Take a look at these pictures. A rollicking holy ghost at work?

Click here to hear an interview with Chestnut on NPR.

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