Elvis Presley, a.k.a. The King of Rock and Roll, swept the feet of countless fair ladies and gents back in the day and still has a chokehold on shaping the music we hear today. The energy and soul in his work just make you want to get off your seat and jive, so it came as no surprise when a biopic was rumored to be in the making to commemorate his legendary life. To be honest, I’ve always known of the magnetizing performer but I was more familiar with Elvis’ impersonators officiating couples in Las Vegas wedding chapels (if you know me IRL, I didn’t just admit to this). Lucky for me and the many younger generation music junkies alike, though, the Elvis movie is officially coming out on June 24, giving us the perfect opportunity to indulge in the sonic masterpieces from the superstar in celebration of this moment. The Baz Luhrmann-directed movie explores the life and music of Elvis (played by Austin Butler) through the lens of his complicated relationship with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker (played by Tom Hanks).
The line-up for the film’s soundtrack has been circulating online, and it’s seriously star-studded. Eminem, Kacey Musgraves, Maneskin, Jack White, and Tame Impala are all said to pay tribute to the singer’s body of work spanning the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s while celebrating his diverse musical influences. Even Doja Cat hopped on and released ‘Vegas,’ sampling the original singer of Hound Dog, Willie ‘Big Mama’ Thornton. The mashup is so epic that it begs the question: what other songs graced by Elvis’ smooth-like-butter vocals were actually covers?
Here are the top 5 songs covered by Elvis Presley in honor of the Elvis movie release.
#1. Hound Dog – Willie ‘Big Mama’ Thornton
Elvis’ groovy “Hound Dog” has everyone on their feet but the original version, sung by Willie ‘Big Mama’ Thornton, was a lot bluer. Watching Thornton sing inspired songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller to write “Hound Dog” for her, talking about a man’s unloyalty in a relationship. When Elvis heard the song in 1956, he decided to record his version with some of the lyrics changed. For the movie project, Doja Cat revisited the original version of the song and sampled it in her single, “Vegas” pairing the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas with a sharp, cutting, signature Doja-Cat flow. The modern-day cadences add a new layer of complexity to the ‘50s classic and it is already becoming a timeless banger.
#2. “Suspicious Minds” – Mark James
One of Elvis’ most famous songs, “Suspicious Minds,” sings about a dysfunctional relationship. The song’s original creator is singer-songwriter Mark James, who recorded and released the song in 1968. Elvis took his spin at it and released a more upbeat and lively version, in contrast to Mark James’, which was mellow, airy, and gentle. Elvis’ desperate cry to make amends and save the spark between him and his lover drew listeners in and made the track one of the most successful pieces of work by Elvis. When I listened to this song for the first time, I was struck by Elvis’ incredible vocals and soulful delivery of emotion. Although the lyrics give off major red flags in today’s dating standards, it’s a good song to jive to melodically if you don’t take the meaning too seriously.
#3. “Always On My Mind” – Brenda Lee
It was typical back in the day for a song to be covered by multiple artists adding their own artistic flare to the original tune. “Always On My Mind” was initially recorded by Brenda Lee and became a crossover hit the minute it was dropped in 1972, charting in country-western and pop categories. A modern singer that comes to mind who could achieve this kind of success is Maren Morris, whose music is a beautiful blend of nostalgia, country, and electric pop. While Elvis’ version is a sincere reflection on his past love and regret, with a mix of electric guitar, delightful piano, and vocal harmony, Brenda Lee’s version is slower and more melodic with a dramatic orchestra. It’s through listening to different renditions of songs like this that makes me truly appreciate the unique musicality of each individual artist and I’m all here for it.
#4. “Burning Love” – Arthur Alexander
This might be my latest addition to my ‘Good Morning’ playlist because the vibrant and zestful sounds of “Burning Love” is just what I need to get me up early in the day. Burning Love was released by Arthur Alexander in 1972 and was covered by Elvis later that year. He had major success with this song, becoming his biggest hit since the release of “Suspicious Minds” in 1969 and his last Top 10 Hit on the American Hot 100 charts. Elvis’ burning love could truly be heard in this track and I can totally see how Elvis fans would be screaming, crying, and throwing up over this song.
#5. “I Really Don’t Want to Know” – Les Paul & Mary Ford
Les Paul and Mary Ford were a husband and wife duo, much like Sonny and Cher, and recorded “I Really Don’t Want to Know” in the summer of 1966. The song notes a man’s desire to not know about the past of the woman he loves, and the song peaked at #22 on Billboard’s Hot 100 hits the same year. Elvis added his signature Rock and Roll delivery to the track and released it as part of his album Elvis Country (I’m 10,000 Years Old) in 1970. The Elvis version is jazzy, smooth, and country-loving. “I Really Don’t Want to Know” notes another beautiful cover by Elvis, and I can already imagine myself sipping a cup of coffee in a cabin by the lake listening to this song.