‘I wanted to vandalize everything’: Ian Gillan on the moment he decided to become a rock singer

The inspiration for Ian Gillan’s lengthy career in music, one that’s included stops with Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Jesus Christ Superstar, didn’t come from his family.

It wasn’t that they weren’t musical. Quite the contrary. Instead, Gillan admits to a rebellious streak that pushed him in a direction away from the more traditional styles they preferred. All of that coalesced around the insouciant figure of Elvis Presley, and his 1954 take on “That’s Alright.”

“I grew up in a musical family,” Gillan tells Uncle Joe Benson. “My grand dad was an opera singer, a bass baritone; my uncle was a jazz pianist. I was a boy soprano in the church choir. And so, music was a big part of my life. But, like everyone else having just passed puberty, I wanted to rebel. I wanted to vandalize everything that had been created. Then I heard Elvis, the young Elvis, and that changed my life. It was really quite incredible.”

Gillan joined Deep Purple in 1969, and stayed until 1973. He’d pay tribute to Presley by covering “Trouble” on Gillan’s 1981 album Double Trouble. He then returned to Deep Purple from 1984-89, and has been with the group again since 1992. They just completed an American tour in support of the well-received Now What?! Up next for Gillan is a stop on the Rock Meets Classic 2015 tour, where he’ll be joined by members of Asia, Mr. Big and Status Quo.

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  • Brian Quinn

    Elvis influenced so many people.