There’s an art to covering someone else’s song.
Whether you stick to the original or create an entirely new arrangement, it’s up to you to put your own stamp on it.
Elvis Presley could take any song and make it his own.
Elvis’ catalog included songs written especially for him and a collection of cover songs, and no matter what he sang, he always put that special ‘Elvis’ touch on each and every song. He loved all genres of music and sang songs he loved, songs that meant something to him. If Elvis covered your song, it was like the ultimate compliment. It meant he was a fan of your work.
Elvis covered many terrific songs, but for this week’s Graceland Blog, we’ll take a look at just a few fan-favorite covers and covers that meant a lot to Elvis.
“See See Rider”
Is it C.C. Rider or See See Rider? Either way, it’s been around a while.
This traditional blues song was originally recorded as “C.C. Rider” by William Lee Conley, or as he was better known, Big Bill Broonzy, in the 1920s. Ma Rainey made it popular in 1925 as the “See See Rider Blues,” and both Ma Rainey and Big Bill’s versions are much slower than Elvis’ version.
Once rock bands took a hold of the song, they sped it up a bit. Both The Animals and Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels covered the song (as both “See See” and “C.C.” respectively). LaVern Baker’s 1962 version is sped up, too, but it’s also bluesy.
Elvis’ version is maybe the most energetic version of them all. The king took plenty of cues from Baker’s version when he and his band readied it for his tours. Elvis actually never recorded “See See Rider” for an album, but it was used in his live concerts. You can hear Elvis’ versions of “See See Rider” on “Aloha from Hawaii” and “Elvis Recorded Live on Stage in Memphis,” to name a few.
“Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”
If you think of “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” chances are you think of Elvis’ version, or Willie Nelson’s version, or both.
The beautiful country song was written by Fred Rose, who wrote a number of country hits, including a few tunes written with Hank Williams. Roy Acuff first recorded the song in 1947, and Willie Nelson recorded his slower version in 1975. It became a big hit for Willie, and that version is the one that inspired Elvis’ version. He recorded it in the Jungle Room at Graceland on February 7, 1976, and it was included in “From Elvis Presley Boulevard.” That album was released in April 1976 and it reached #1 on the Country Album charts.
The song has been covered a number of times before and since Elvis’ sang it. Artists who have covered this song include Hank Williams, Kitty Wells, Conway Twitty and Olivia Newton-John.
This show-stopping number is a favorite of both Frank Sinatra and Elvis fans.
Originally titled, “Comme d’Habitude,” the song was written by Gilles Thibault, J. Claude Francois and Jacques Revaux in 1967.
Two years later, Paul Anka used the melody and wrote English lyrics with Frank Sinatra in mind. Sinatra had a major hit with the song, and it became known as a Sinatra hit. Elvis loved the track and covered it in 1973 on “Aloha from Hawaii” and again on his 1977 “Elvis in Concert” special.
Another version, recorded on June 21, 1977, in Rapid City, South Dakota, was released as a single after Elvis’ death in November 1977, and it reached #2 on the Country Singles Chart.
Artists who have covered traditional versions of “My Way” include Julio Iglesias and Robbie Williams. Punk band Sex Pistols also made an infamous version of the song, sped up and with alternate lyrics.
“You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me”
This gorgeous, sweeping track came to us through a song contest.
It was originally written by Vito Pallavicini and Pino Donaggio in 1965 as an entry for an Italian song contest. In Italian, it was known as “Io Che Non Vivo (Senza Te)” which loosely translates to “I Cannot Live (Without You).”
English lyrics were written by Vicki Wickham and Simon Napier-Bell. Singer Dusty Springfield was the first to record the English version in 1966 on her second album, called “Ev’rything’s Coming Up Dusty,” but after the song became such a huge hit, the album was retitled to “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.”
Like everyone else, Elvis loved the song, and he recorded his own version in Nashville on June 6, 1970. It was released in October 1970 and was another hit for the king.
Other artists who have put their own spin on “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” include Cher, Shelby Lynne and Il Volo.
“Blue Moon of Kentucky”
If you listen to the original version of “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” recorded by Bill Monroe in 1947, you might notice it’s pretty different from Elvis’ version.
Monroe, known as the Father of Bluegrass, wrote and recorded the original version of “Blue Moon,” and it’s a sad song about heartbreak.
Elvis’ version is sad, too, but it has a much faster tempo, so the bluegrass tune is turned into a toe-tapping rockabilly song. Elvis recorded the track with Bill Black and Scotty Moore on July 6, 1954, as a flip side for “That’s All Right.” The guys were trying to find a perfect song to accompany “That’s All Right,” when Bill started playing around with the song in the studio. Elvis and Scotty liked what he was doing and joined in, and Sam Phillips pressed the record button. The guys recorded both slow and fast versions, but it’s the up-tempo version that’s on the flip side to “That’s All Right.”
Many artists have covered “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” including Paul McCartney, Patsy Cline, Alan Jackson and Ralph Stanley.
Which of these are you favorites, and why? What are some of your other favorite songs that Elvis covered?
If you want to learn more about Elvis’ incredible music career, visit Graceland! Not only can you tour the king’s castle, but you can also explore all aspects of Elvis’ career. Plan your visit today!