The late, great Elvis Presley would have turned 83 this week. On January 8, to be exact.
He is a legend in the field of music and crossed boundaries in a segregated America.Ben Portsmouth
It has been 40 years since the King, as he was known, died but his legacy lives on through his music, his movies – and the many impersonators who celebrate his talents.
Some are truly cringe-worthy.
Ben Portsmouth, though, is one of the professionals. It is more accurate to refer to him as a tribute artist – and one of the best in the business, too.
The UK singer was the first non-American to win the Ultimate Elvis Tribute artist contest in Memphis in 2012 and has gone on to travel the world and perform as Elvis on television programs including David Letterman’s Late Show.
Portsmouth grew up listening to Elvis – his father was an avid fan – and in 2005 started performing his songs to an audience. He looked like Elvis, sang like Elvis and, unlikely many imitators, had that unique on-stage charisma. Audiences were spellbound.
“I’ve always been fairly good at mimicking people throughout my life, either people I know personally or the famous,” Portsmouth tells Weekender.
“Performing as Elvis is something that I'm constantly developing and trying to get better at.”
Portsmouth recalls singing Elvis songs at the tender age of six but his musical tastes included everything from Guns n Roses and Iron Maiden to classical, Latin and blues.
“I like all kinds of music. But when it comes to Elvis, I like the fact that he came from a very poor background and become a legend,” he explains.
“His voice was amazing and he seemed to be a very charismatic and generous man on and off stage.”
Portsmouth’s latest world tour, The King is Back, takes the audience on a memorable musical journey.
The first half of the show traces his career from Sun Studios in the 1950s where it all began, including poignant parts of his career and personal life.
The second half is a recreation of what it would have been like to see Elvis perform live in concert in the 1970s.
“Elvis is a legend in the field of music and crossed boundaries in a segregated America. He is still loved and missed so much by fans,” Portsmouth says.
“His music is a mixture of all different styles and appeals to many people from around the world. Elvis had everything.”