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YMMV / Elvis Presley

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  • Base-Breaking Character: No one will deny that Elvis was one of the greatest singers in music history and was a one of a kind performer, but at the same time, many believe his success and fame was unwarranted due to him effectively making a career out of singing other people's songs while leaving the original versions in obscurity.
  • Covered Up:
    • "Hound Dog" was written by Leiber and Stoller and first recorded by blues singer Big Mama Thornton, though it was the version by white vocal group Freddie Bell & The Bellboys on which Elvis based his rendition.
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    • "Blue Suede Shoes" is another one; it was actually a big hit for Carl Perkins before Elvis' own version was successful.
    • Presley was also late to the party in recording "Shake Rattle and Roll"; his version actually combines elements of the previous hit versions by Big Joe Turner and Bill Haley (Turner's lyrics, Haley's arrangement, though alternate takes with Haley's lyrics have been released, too). Possibly too late to the party as it was the first (new) Elvis RCA single to underperform on the charts.
    • Later in his career there was "Suspicious Minds" (originally written and recorded by Mark James), "Burning Love" (first recorded by Arthur Alexander) and "Guitar Man" (originally a minor 1967 hit on the Country Music charts for Jerry Reed, who went on to play guitar on the Elvis version).
    • The holiday standard "Blue Christmas", first popularized by Ernest Tubb a decade before Elvis's version.
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    • "Always On My Mind" is a messy situation. B.J. Thomas was the first to record it, but it didn't get released for another 25 years. Gwen McCrae released it first, but Brenda Lee recorded it before her and released it shortly after. Elvis had the first hit version in 1972 (though it was a bigger hit in Britain than the US). Willie Nelson's version became a major crossover hit in the US in 1982. 5 years after that, Pet Shop Boys had a huge worldwide hit with it. These days, Nelson's is the most popular version in North America, with the Elvis take mainly being a fan favorite. In the UK, Elvis' rendition still gets regular airplay but the Pet Shop Boys version is much more popular.
    • Another example of Elvis having the better-known version of a song outside the US is "Polk Salad Annie". The original by singer-songwriter Tony Joe White was a Top 10 hit in America in 1969, but it didn't chart in the UK, while Elvis' cover was a hit there and in Ireland in 1973. In the British Isles it's considered an Elvis song first and foremost, while in America it's a fondly-remembered One-Hit Wonder moment for White, with the Elvis rendition as a footnote.
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  • Critical Dissonance: During his lifetime, Elvis won three Grammy Awards - but not a single one for any of his rock and roll or country music. Instead, all three recognized his Gospel recordings: the 1967 album How Great Thou Art, the 1972 album He Touched Me and a 1974 live performance of "How Great Thou Art" from Recorded Live on Stage in Memphis. Among his snubbed works (the Grammys having been established in 1959): the critically acclaimed Elvis is Back, Comeback Special, From Elvis in Memphis, Elvis Country and That's the Way it Is albums, and singles such as "It's Now or Never", "Guitar Man", "Suspicious Minds" and "Burning Love".
  • Dork Age:
    • The peak of his career ended when he was drafted into the US Army in 1958, but when he completed his service in 1960, he seemed poised for a comeback. Unfortunately, his manager Colonel Tom Parker pushed him into a film career, which saw him star in a long string of Strictly Formula musical comedies that, while mostly successful at the box office, were almost universally panned by critics. Worse, the heavy production schedule (he was making two or three movies a year for the whole of The '60s) was cutting into his music career. Most of the hits he had in the '60s came from the soundtracks to his movies, which were met with diminishing returns starting mid-decade as The British Invasion caused his style of Rock & Roll, already quite sanitized by then compared to the edge of his Glory Days, to feel increasingly out-of-date. Until his televised comeback special in 1968, he did not perform live after 1961 and only recorded one album of non-soundtrack music after 1962. By the time his career bottomed out with the failure of the film Clambake and its soundtrack in 1967, music enthusiasts saw him as a joke and his former fans saw him as a has-been. His comeback special inspired a Career Resurrection, and while he never again enjoyed the mega-stardom he had in The '50s (John Lennon, upon Elvis' passing, remarked that Elvis "died when he went in the Army" and that the rest of his career was a "living death"), he still found success as a country and adult contemporary musician. By the time he died in 1977, he had regained his position as pop music royalty and the King of Rock & Roll.
    • That said, the last few years of his life, often derisively referred to as the "Fat Elvis" period (a term popularized by Lennon), are remembered as a pretty ignoble way for a legend to go out. Starting in 1973, Elvis' health went into decline due to both drug addiction and a very heavy touring and production schedule, and before long, he was stumbling out of limousines high on barbiturates; after Elvis' autopsy, his doctor saw his license to practice medicine suspended for three months due to all the sedatives, amphetamines, and narcotics he had prescribed the singer. His divorce from his wife Priscilla also took a steep toll on his finances, leaving him less able to afford his extravagant lifestyle. A 1976 show in Syracuse, New York went down in history for all the wrong reasons when the Syracuse Post-Dispatch published a scathing review calling him a "fat, puffy has-been" who seemed to be going through the motions, while numerous other shows were canceled outright due to Elvis not being in good enough health to perform. That same year, Elvis' father Vernon, by that point also his de facto manager, fired three bodyguards who had been members of Elvis' "Memphis Mafia" clique, leading them to co-write a tell-all book called Elvis: What Happened? that came out shortly before his death in 1977. As the final insult, when Elvis finally died on August 16, it was in one of the bathrooms at his Graceland estate, leading to a popular urban legend claiming that he had died while sitting on the toilet (and many jokes about "the King on his throne").
  • Fandom Rivalry: With The Beatles. The fact that they had their artistic zenith which helped transform popular music in the late 1960's while Elvis was going through his Dork Age draws a lot of unfavorable comparisons. The fact that Elvis then tried to get US President Richard Nixon to ban the band from the USA, seemingly out of sheer jealousy, even as he regularly covered their songs in his concerts also embitters fans.
  • Heartwarming Moments: Elvis was a huge fan of Fats Domino, and invited him to his first concert in Vegas in 1969. After the show, Elvis publicly called Fats "the real King of Rock N' Roll" and got a picture taken with him. 'Til his dying day, Fats said that picture was one of his most treasured possessions.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: Pretty much sums up why even the worst Elvis movies usually made money (some didn't, to be fair). Col. Tom Parker was quoted as saying that the content of the films was irrelevant, that audiences bought tickets to see Elvis on screen singing a few songs.
  • Memetic Mutation: The Jailhouse Rock one, the glittery white Vegas one, take your pick.
    • Also the black leather one from the comeback special.
    • His then-scandalous hip shaking.
    • His iconic "Uh huh huuuuh" Verbal Tic, so much so that one of the promotional advertisements for his 1968 Comeback Special was built around this (an outtake of Elvis doing the "uh huh huuuuh" numerous times can be found on one of the DVD editions of the special), and it was also built into his 1962 #1 hit, "Good Luck Charm."
      • This tic began with "All Shook Up", but "Hard Headed Woman" features it at the end of each line in the chorus. In fact, the '68 Comeback promo mentioned above sounds like it may be a self-parody of that performance.
    • "I never wrote a song in my life".
    • ”Thank you. Thankyouverymuch.”
  • Misattributed Song: Elvis never sang "Lonely This Christmas" (Despite what several uploads of the song would have you believe. One of which being on the official Elvis Presley YouTube channel!). It was actually written and performed by British Glam Rock band Mud. It's easy to see why people would think it was Elvis singing, though, since Les Gray did indeed sound a lot like The King.
    • After his death, a number of songs recorded by a singer named Jimmy Ellis (who also performed under the name "Orion") were mistaken for Elvis tunes due to Ellis' physical and vocal similarity to Elvis.
  • Never Live It Down:
    • "Fat Elvis." See Dork Age.
    • Elvis will always have a negative reputation as being a white face of black music, as he was the one to become the face of rock & roll, over the many black musicians who shaped the genre before him, like Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, among others. A particularly infamous example is how Big Mama Thornton - then an up and coming black singer from Alabama - saw her rendition of "Hound Dog" sell about 1/20th what Elvis' version sold three years later. Elvis, to his credit, was a diehard Fats Domino fan, and wondered openly why people listened to him over Fats. In general, he always gave credit to his African-American influences, compared to certain later and hipper blues-influenced white rock performers, who became notorious for either claiming that blues songs with well-attested authors were "traditional" to avoid paying royalties, or outright plagiarising them.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: Compared to what some pop stars in the 2020s get away with now, Elvis' performances, which were once infamously censored on The Ed Sullivan Show, look almost quaint. It's hard to understand how blatant and transgressive his sexual presence actually was, especially when washed-up "Fat Elvis" in the white Vegas jumpsuit is many people's go-to image of him.
  • Signature Song: A few candidates here, actually! "Heartbreak Hotel," "Jailhouse Rock," "Hound Dog" and "Blue Suede Shoes."
    • For latter-day Elvis, it's "Suspicious Minds", "Burning Love" and (for his live concerts) "Can't Help Falling in Love".


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