In our Fan Poll, we asked Goldmine readers to pick their all-time favorite song recorded and/or performed by Elvis Presley.
Readers gave a vast array of songs — some songs the Goldmine staff never expected — but ultimately the five songs below were mentioned the most. The songs that came in at the top were a bit of a surprise.
5. "In the Ghetto"
The Mac Davis-penned "In The Ghetto" had the original title "The Vicious Circle." Released on April 14, 1969, "In the Ghetto" became a major Top 10 hit for The King. The song is included on the 1969 From Elvis to Memphis album, the live concert issued on From Memphis to Vegas/From Vegas to Memphis, as well as compilations such as the posthumous Volume 5 of Elvis' Gold Records.
A Billboard review of "In The Ghetto" read, “This performance is Elvis at his best and the vital lyric line is right in today’s selling bag. This one could easily prove one of his all-time biggest items.”
However, the recording of "In The Ghetto" almost didn't happen.
"Elvis was hesitant to do 'In The Ghetto,'" Elvis confidant Marty Lacker told Goldmine. "Colonel Parker had always drilled into his head, 'Don't do message songs. If you do message song it's just like taking a political side. Whatever side you're gonna take is gonna offend the others'. I was in the control room after Elvis and the musicians had been working on 'In The Ghetto' a little bit. He said, 'Look, I don't think I should do this song'. I said, 'Elvis, if you're ever gonna do a song like this, this is the one'. He looked over at Chips and Chips said, 'This is a hit record. But I'll tell you what, if you don't want it, can I have the song?' Elvis didn't blink. He said, 'No, I'm gonna do it.'"
The song's storyline delivers a poignant message of poverty and violence in America (Chicago, to be specific) and how life in the ghetto can be a vicious circle from birth to death.
Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006, Davis explained at the ceremony: “I was trying to come up with a song called ‘The Vicious Circle’ — how a child is born, he has no father, and the same thing happens. The word ghetto became popular in the late ’60s to describe the poor parts of town.”
Davis later recorded the song himself for a greatest hits release. But many have covered the song, from Elvis' daughter Lisa Marie Presley to Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.
4. "Mystery Train"
In our poll, "Mystery Train" was mentioned more than any other song from Elvis' Sun recordings, which might be surprising to some Elvis fans and/or collectors. "That's All Right" or "Good Rockin' Tonight," anyone?
Originally written and recorded by Junior Parker in 1953 for Sam Phillips' Sun Records, "Mystery Train" was then recorded by Elvis at Sun Records in 1955 with Scotty Moore on guitar and Bill Black on bass. The song was released on August 1955 with "I Forgot to Remember to Forget" on the flip side.
3. "Don't Be Cruel"
This pick makes total sense. It's one of The King's most popular songs. It's a love song that is all-around classic Elvis with a helluva beat and signature backing vocals by the Jordanaires.
Written by Otis Blackwell in 1956, "Don't Be Cruel" was recorded by Elvis Presley on July 2, 1956 in New York City and released on July 13, 1956. It dominated the charts at No. 1 with sales of over six million by 1961. Surprisingly, the flip side "Hound Dog" was never mentioned by any of our readers as a favorite. After all, the 7-inch 45 rpm single has the distinction of being the only U.S. single in music history to have both sides reach No. 1!
2. "Little Sister"
A bit of a surprise pick. A really great tune, but there are so many other songs that Elvis made famous.
"Little Sister" was released as a single on August 8, 1961 with "His Latest Flame" on the flip side. "Little Sister," a rocker written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, hit No. 1 in the U.K. and No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.
1. "Suspicious Minds"
Written by Mark James, "Suspicious Minds" was recorded by Elvis Presley and produced by Chips Mormon.
"When Chips cut 'Suspicious Minds' and mixed it, the fade and bump at the end was not there," Elvis friend Marty Lacker told Goldmine. "In other words, the song fades out and then it bumps up again. It's that part where Elvis is just repeating and repeating the last chorus. In my opinion, it might be good for the stage, a dramatic thing, but it's not good on a record. What happened was Felton Jarvis took the master to Nashville and started fooling with it thinking he could do better. And he couldn't. He should have left it alone. He added background voices. The voices that Chips put on in Memphis, Mary Green and all those people, they're fantastic southern sounding R&B-ish singers. Chips used them on a lot of the hits he had."
"Suspicious Minds" became a a No. 1 song in November 1969. It's a dramatic song about frustration in a dysfunctional relationship that many were able to relate to, even though it's written from a male's perspective. "Suspicious Minds" was a commercial flop for songwriter Mark James but a huge hit song for Elvis that helped revive his career.
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