The sight of white jumpsuit-clad men sporting side-burns, in all their hip-swivelling glory, in Graceland is fairly common around the year— more so around this time as they gather to pay tribute to Elvis Aaron Presley.
The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll would have turned 86 on January 8, 2021, and his posthumous popularity has shown no signs of abating even after four decades of his death. If anything, it reaches fever pitch around his birthday when 6-7 lakh people make the pilgrimage to Graceland, his former mansion and now resting place spread over 14 acres in South Memphis.
Legendary composer and conductor of the New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein, had once called Elvis Presley “the greatest cultural force in the 20th century”. On his birthday, here’re 5 songs that you should listen to right now:
Jailhouse Rock, 1957
This was one of the songs during his golden period — between 1956 and 1960 — when his dance routines induced a trance-like euphoria. This was penned by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller for Elvis’s upcoming movie, then titled “The Hard Way”. Later, the movie was retitled to “Jailhouse Rock”. Elvis plays a wrongly-accused convict who becomes a star on being released. In the song, Elvis makes prison sound like the place to be — a warden who throws parties, and flirting jailbirds. A line in the song, “Number 47 said to number 3, you’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see,” is said to be a sly reference to prison sex. However, it didn’t create any controversy.
Can’t Help Falling in Love, 1961
This song was featured in the 1961 Elvis movie “Blue Hawaii”. At concerts, it was a reminder to his fans that it was time to go. One of his most lasting love ballads, Elvis ended most of his concerts with this song. It was the perfect way to wrap up the night. However, though a love ballad, Elvis didn’t sing this song to his love interest in “Blue Hawaii”. Instead, it was sung to his grandmother on her birthday.
Love Me Tender, 1956
Elvis performed this song for his first movie that went by the same name. Elvis recorded the performance of the song in two takes. Originally, Elvis had a small role in the movie. However, during filming, as his popularity soared, his role was expanded. The song borrows the tune from “Aura Lee”, a classical piece from 1861. “Aura Lee” had gained popularity during the Civil War. As “Love Me Tender”, the movie, was set during the Civil War, this song from that era was adapted. The song became a sensation even before the movie’s release, and went on to become one of his most popular songs.
Suspicious Minds, 1969
This song was Elvis’s final No.1 hit before he died. He tackled real relationship issues in this single, which was about a dysfunctional relationship, and how the couple need to move on to survive. American songwriter Mark James had initially written and recorded the song. However, it fared miserably. Later, when Elvis heard the song, he fell in love with it immediately and decided he to turn it into a hit. On January 23, 1969, “Suspicious Minds” was recorded between 4am and 7am. When James heard the full version, he was “blown away”.
Heartbreak Hotel, 1956
This song turned Elvis into a mainstream star. It was reportedly written by high school teacher Mae Boren Axton and singer-songwriter Tommy Durden after hearing about a man who killed himself by jumping from a hotel window. Elvis performed this song for the first time during a television appearance in January 1956. The song was at the top of the pop charts for eight weeks and became the best-selling number of 1956.