I can’t quite remember when it was that I first heard an Elvis Presley song, but in my mind my love of that general era of music is inextricably linked and intertwined with memories of my father. I remember he used to sit in our kitchen and listen to the ‘oldies’ station as he’d nod his head and croon along, loud and off-key.
I have one clear memory of the two of us singing ‘Hound Dog’ along with the radio and my dad getting a kick out of me shimmying my shoulders back and forth to the sound of Elvis’ guitar. Such a tiny, insignificant few minutes in the span of my lifetime, but it’s stuck with me.
When you’re young and you lose someone, you spend a good bit of the next few years of your life collecting whatever pieces of them that you can carry with you as a way to hang on. For me, it was that image of my father singing in the kitchen, because here I am, twenty years later, with Elvis tattooed on my arm, and I still can’t listen to his music without thinking of it. In fact, the hubby and I got engaged a few years ago on a bucket list trip to visit Elvis’ hometown of Memphis, TN, so it’s safe to say that the sentimental attachments I have to his music are numerous.
In honor of the King’s birthday today, here are a few mementos from that Memphis trip, as well as my top five favorite Elvis Presley Songs.
5. That’s Alright Mama: This was actually Elvis’ first single at Sun Records. After a long, somewhat fruitless, day of recording with guitarist Scotty Moore and Bassist Bill Black, Sun’s owner, Sam Philips, was getting frustrated with seeing the potential in Elvis that he couldn’t quite tap. They took a break, and it was during the down time that Elvis actually started messing around on his guitar with an old song by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup. From that little jam session, this bluesy hit emerged.
4. Mystery Train: One of the Last recordings that Elvis did with Sun Studio’s before his contract was sold to RCA, Mystery Train’s simplicity and tempo are truly rooted in the blues he loved and often emulated in his early career.
3. Love Me Tender: At number three for very sentimental reasons – this is the song my husband and I danced to at our wedding. We didn’t really have a first dance in the traditional sense, as our wedding was teeny tiny. But we’d put together an iPod playlist with our favorite tunes, and when this song came on Eric pulled me aside to sway in a circle (you know, kinda like you did at a middle school dance). It was one of my favorite parts of the day; Elvis just brings out the romantic in me.
2. If I Can Dream: This song just kills me every time, especially when you consider the context of the time in which it was first released – just two months after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Elvis’ hometown of Memphis, TN.
“We’re lost in a cloud with too much rain.We’re trapped in a world that’s troubled with pain. But as long as a man has the strength to dream he can redeem his soul and fly.”
1. Hound Dog: While musically this song is not Elvis’ best, it is the song for which he’s most popularly remembered, and for good reason: it’s fun, it’s catchy, and it epitomizes that era of rock n’ roll. For me, it’s one of the first songs of his I heard, and the one I link most closely to learning an appreciation for that era of music from my father.
What are some of your earliest musical memories?