Elvis Presley adopted Mario Lanza-inspired romantic pieces, Arthur "Big Boy'' Crudup's down-and-dirty blues, pop tunes from Brill Building wiseacres Leiber and Stoller, Jackie Wilson-style R&B and several shades of country — and spit them out as rock 'n' roll.
Along the way, there would be cool Christmas songs, blue-eyed soul, soundtrack snoozers and enough schlock to make you Do the Clam. Plus, he knew gospel, chapter and verse. Lord, could Elvis sing gospel.
He was Americana before we knew the word.
That's why, when assessing the more than 750 songs Elvis recorded, it's more useful to appreciate his mastery of multiple styles rather than quibble over whether How Great Thou Artwas, well, greater than Hound Dog.
So put your suspicious minds at ease and savor this survey of the best of his breadth, from the Sun sessions to the sunset years: 20 essential Elvis songs and the moments in them that make you turn your head (and pelvis) toward the speakers.
USA TODAY's Elvis Presley special edition celebrates the 60th anniversary of his first recording, a $4 acetate of 'My Happiness' that he cut as a gift for his mother. The 48-page keepsake, on newsstands July 9, covers the King of Rock 'n' Roll's influence on music and society.
source: USA Today