"Hound Dog" was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller for blues singer Big Mama Thornton in 1953. The original lyrics contain a sexual connotation, and Thornton belted out her version in a gritty, slow blues style. Elvis' humorous interpretation was borrowed from Freddie Bell and the Bellboys.
Elvis recorded two versions of the Dave Bartholomew-Pearl King blues tune "One Night of Sin," which had been a hit for Smiley Lewis in 1956. On January 24, 1957, he recorded Lewis' version, and a month later he recorded the song as "One Night" using cleaned-up lyrics. In Lewis' risqué original, the singer is praying for "One night of sin," while in Elvis' more hopeful rendition, he is hoping for "One night with you..."
Tin Pan Alley songwriters Lou Handman and Roy Turk composed "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" ("To-night" on original record sleeve) in 1926, and it was originally recorded by Al Jolson the following year. Supposedly the only song Colonel Tom Parker ever urged Elvis to record, "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" was released by Elvis in 1960 and was nominated for three Grammys.
"Bridge Over Troubled Water" was composed by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel and recorded by the folk-rock duo in 1970, becoming a number-one hit for them. Elvis recorded his version, which had a larger sound and a more dramatic vocal rendering, during the filming of Elvis -- That's the Way It Is.
Eddy Arnold, "the Tennessee Plowboy," had a hit record with the soft-sounding ballad "I Really Don't Want to Know" in 1954, just as Elvis was barn-storming across the South with his rockabilly style. Composed by Howard Barnes and Don Robertson, the song was released by Elvis in 1970 with another country tune, "There Goes My Everything," on the flipside. These songs represent Elvis' rediscovery of contemporary country music during the 1970s.
Originally arranged and recorded by country singer Mickey Newbury, "An American Trilogy" is a medley of "Dixie," "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," and "All My Trials." The integration of two Civil War songs (one a Southern anthem, the other a Northern anthem) with a traditional spiritual suggests the curiously Southern tradition of blending diverse cultural elements. Elvis' 1972 version of the piece offered an operatic interpretation that matched the breadth of the song's meaning.
Elvis sang James Taylor's 1970 composition "Steamroller Blues" in concert during the early 1970s, but his gritty rendition during the Aloha from Hawaii television special stopped the show. The version from the special was released as a single in April 1973.
In 1968, country singer Marty Robbins wrote "You Gave Me a Mountain," a wrenching ballad about life's hardships. Though pop star Frankie Laine was the first to release it, Elvis began singing the song in concert during the early 1970s and released it in 1973. Elvis' interpretation is generally considered autobiographical in that it paralleled his breakup with Priscilla Presley.
"My Way," an anthem of independence and individuality, was written by Paul Anka for Frank Sinatra and originally recorded by him in 1969. Elvis sang "My Way" on the Aloha from Hawaii television special and in concert during the 1970s. A recording of this song by Elvis was released shortly after he died, making it almost a biographical statement.
To learn more about Elvis Presley, see:
- Elvis Presley
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- Elvis Presley Biography
Many of Elvis' biggest hits were creative
interpretations of old standards.