Stop, Look and Listen, Baby! The King Goes Rubberneckin’

I realized the other day that we’ve talked far too little on this site about […]

David Zahl / 2.9.10

I realized the other day that we’ve talked far too little on this site about Elvis Presley. I hereby pledge to do my best to rectify the situation. After all, we do believe that God became (Tiger) Man…

Elvis has one of the more powerful and extensive (and underrated) Gospel catalogues around, but that’s not the focus of this post. This post is about “Rubberneckin’,” the song off the record From Elvis In Memphis. Some may call it sacrilege but I consider those sessions to have produced his greatest recorded work. They fully capture his brief revitalization at the end of the 60s, where the greatest singer in rock n roll finally had the band and the material (not to mention the belief and producer) that his talents deserved. He had the monkey on his back again, for a year or so.

My third favorite tune from that era (behind “Wearin’ That Loved On Look” and “Suspicious Minds”) is “Rubberneckin’,” which features in his final film, the cleverly titled Change Of Habit, where Elvis plays alongside Mary Tyler Moore as a doctor who falls for a plainclothes nun. Most of the movie sees Elvis fulfilling the Law of Cool in various scenarios – in the way that only he could – but the Christian overtones at the end of the film, where the camera flashes between the King crooning to a bunch of sick children and the King of Kings hanging on a Cross, have got to be seen to be believed.

“Rubberneckin” comes at the beginning of the film and offers a brilliant apology for what Dr .Mark Mattes, paraphrasing Martin Luther, termed in Pensacola “the receptive life”, also known as the passive life (vita passiva) of a believer: “God is the active subject and the Christian is the object of God’s action. The Christian life therefore is passive in the sense that it suffers, it undergoes God’s work and so passively receives it.” Of course, Elvis makes non-interference sound downright sexy… He even addresses the charge of antinomian irresponsibility – People say he’s wasting time, but he doesn’t really care. So without any further introduction, I give you Elvis’ take on Psalm 46:10…:

For good measure, the ending scene in question, featuring the most happening worship leader ever: