Much as I like Mr. Costello, there is only one ELVIS. This year (2019) he will have been dead for as long as he was alive – 42 years.
This playlist is specifically for those who have heard of him and want to find out what all the fuss is about. You’re in for a treat. It might even change your life, as he has done for so many millions, whether they know it or not, over the past six decades.
The order is roughly chronological and starts when he was still a penniless teenager in Memphis, Tennessee. Within two years of him recording “That’s All Right” (with just guitar and bass accompaniment, no drums) he was world-famous. The early recordings – up until “Jailhouse Rock” on this playlist – each display the energy and raw emotion of a young man making a sound such as had never been heard before, crafted from his love of country and folk-blues music. Listen to “Good Rockin’ Tonight” – doesn’t it make you want to ring up your friends and have a party right now?
ELVIS had already branched out into a film career by the time he was enlisted into the US Army in 1958. Upon his return in 1960 he continued to make films, but his recording career sagged (“Viva Las Vegas” and “Spinout” are two great exceptions). He was still the greatest star in the world, but the excitement had gone from his music. This was rectified in 1968 with an exhilarating ‘comeback’ TV special.
From then, until the end of his life, he played hundreds of exhausting shows that cemented his place as the world’s greatest entertainer but took a great toll on his health. He reached a different audience in his 30s with his more mature and occasionally socially-aware songs. Which brings me to the final song. I have kept “If I Can Dream” until the end as it is ELVIS’ most important song. He wanted a big number to close his 1968 comeback special and songwriter Walter Earl Brown came up with this overnight. It’s an extraordinary song. Recorded in the year of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination its message would have been crystal clear to the singer and retains its power and message 50 years later.
There are some big hits left for you to discover beyond this playlist. I hope you’ve enjoyed this hour and want to hear more. He’s not known as "The King" for nothing!