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Wednesday Jukebox: King-Sized Covers

April 27, 2011

Last week Snarky’s Jukebox post on covers was so popular, we decided to have a couple spin-offs that focused only on covers of one artist, particularly ones where 1) the original music is considered legendary or classic by many, but 2) the cover reinvents the song into something as good or better than the original. This will obviously tread on some hallowed ground for some, hearing people lauding a cover over the original, but hey, get over it. Think of it a different manner: previously alienated audience members are having their hearts softened to the music you love so much, they just needed an intermediary musician to help them hear it.

Today we consider the reinvented canon of the famous and infamous American icon, Elvis Presley. Both of my parents are fans of his, my father especially, so I’ve been around his music all my life, but never really connecting to it directly. When Chuck D first said Elvis didn’t mean isht to him, I at least got the generational aspect of what he was saying. To me, Elvis was just always there, in the background, in every discussion of music and rock and roll and pop culture, whether you loved or criticized him. It wasn’t until I heard these covers of certain songs that I was able to enjoy the music itself for the first time.

Note: Elvis himself was a covers artist, more so than a songwriter. Many of these tunes probably weren’t written by Presley either, but generally they all fall into the category of “songs made famous by Elvis.”

Willie Nelson – Always On My Mind

Well first off, Elvis’s version was a cover of Brenda Lee’s version that he made more famous, but to be real, I love Willie’s best of them all.

Trisha Yearwood – Devil in Disguise

The original had a nice bass line and guitar trill, but for some reason he seemed whiney talking about some devilish. Then I heard Trisha Yearwood sing it and I decided I liked the song better when she did it. Here’s a sweet live version from the early 90s where she rolls up on stage in a fake Cadillac!

Sananda Maitreya – Heartbreak Hotel

Maitreya – the artist formerly known as Terence Trent D’Arby – had a late 80s hit with a cover of Heartbreak Hotel that I like because of how raw and breaking his voice is. Elvis walk a line of mimicry and earnestness, and his version of Heartbreak Hotel by the end of his career felt like a bombastic parody of 12-bar blues. This one helped me understand better the original intent of the song.

Norah Jones – Are You Lonesome Tonight?

I didn’t exactly know what to do with Norah Jones when she first came out, but this cover, along with her version of Roxy Music’s More Than This, brought me over to her team.


What are your favorite Elvis songs done-up by other musicians?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. April 27, 2011 12:56 am

    OMG, a TTD reference! TTD is probably my favorite singer. Or was. I’m not crazy about his new stuff.

    In any case, Julio Iglesias was one of my grandmother’s favorites, and for some reason, when I was in my late teens, I was listening to a best of compilation of his, and this song was my favorite. The video – which I’m seeing for the first time tonight – is unintentionally funny. “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You.”

  2. April 27, 2011 1:07 am

    Oh but my favorite cover of a song Elvis made famous is DEFINITELY Dwight Yoakam’s “Suspicious Minds” released on Last Chance for a Thousand Years album. Dwight Yoakam is pretty tops in my musical book (in the Country chapter). Geez, I hope this link works. I can’t seem to embed anything anymore.
    Dwight Yoakam – Suspicious Minds

  3. April 27, 2011 2:17 am

    This is my favorite version of “Can’t Help Falling in Love”

    And Shawn Colvin’s version of “Viva Las Vegas” as heard over the credits of The Big Lebowski

  4. IrishUp permalink
    April 27, 2011 9:07 am

    Wow! What a great idea!

    I always loved Little Richard’s “Hound Dog” – hell, love LR to death. As raymondj noted, Elvis’ HD is a cover of Big Mama Thornton. LR did HD on “Little Richard is Back” (post first Xtian conversion), and Jimi Hendrix was part of his band then.

    While trying to find that, I stumbled across Jimi doing Hound Dog, apparently impromptu.

  5. IrishUp permalink
    April 27, 2011 9:10 am

    @hsofia, with you on the love for TTD. I had no he’d reinvented himself. The wiki was really interesting reading!

  6. April 27, 2011 12:36 pm

    Ooh great post Raymond! My favorite Elvis Presley song is probably Suspicious Minds and I really like the cover by the Fine Young Cannibals – I can’t get enough of Roland Gift’s voice.

  7. evmaroon permalink
    April 27, 2011 1:19 pm

    Great cover of HH! How did I miss it? Only that could improve this version would be a little B.B. King on guitar. Excellent post, Raymond!

  8. Q.V. permalink
    April 27, 2011 3:56 pm

    @hsofia, I’m with you on the Dwight Yoakam and with @redlami on the “Suspicious Minds” favourite, though I know the cut from the Honeymoon in Vegas soundtrack circa my-family-got-a-CD-player. As the whole family enjoyed the not-by-the-original-artist compilation, it was on heavy rotation. Also, it was our only CD.

    I’m going to plug the whole artist list into google now to see if any of them are touring.

  9. April 27, 2011 5:23 pm

    I love “Jail House Rock” so much. Thanks to “Sweatin’ to the Oldies 2”

  10. April 28, 2011 12:16 am

    @hsofia @redlami @q.v. I was so close to posting one of those covers of Suspicious Minds, but ultimately couldn’t decide which one I preferred, I like both! luckily y’all got me covered.

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