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Elvis Presley Songs

Music | By Joe for The Top 13 on January 7, 2010

Tomorrow, Elvis Presley would have celebrated his 75th birthday. Unfortunately, he died in 1977 at the way-too-early age of 42. Still, he is the best-selling solo artist of all time, having sold as many as one billion records worldwide. He is also one of the 20th century's most influential musicians and important figures in pop culture history. So in honor of what would have been a milestone birthday for the King, The Top 13 takes a look at the best of Elvis' songs.

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Heartbreak Hotel

1

Heartbreak Hotel

1956

Just 2:08 long, "Heartbreak Hotel" was Elvis' first number one single and the best selling record of 1956. It made Elvis a star at just 21 years of age. A pioneering pop and blues song, it tells a lonely story about moving on from a bad breakup, and checking into a room of self-imposed seclusion and loneliness. Many have covered this song, including Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Cash, as it was the foundation of Elvis' substantial influence on generations of musicians.

Can't Help Falling in Love

2

Can't Help Falling in Love

1961

Adapted from the classic French love song "Plaisir d'amour" for the movie Blue Hawaii, "Can't Help Falling in Love" was released on October 1, 1961. One of Elvis' most recognizable ballads, it features a slower tempo and focuses more on his vocals than most of his songs. UB40's reggae-inflected cover reached number one on the charts in 1993 and reminds The Top 13 of Sliver, which could make our Top 13 guilty pleasures list (should we ever decide to make one).

Don't Be Cruel

3

Don't Be Cruel

1956

Released the summer after "Heartbreak Hotel," on July 13, 1956, it was a companion to "Hound Dog," and also reached number one, staying there for eleven consecutive weeks. Presley selected the song, reworked the arrangement himself on piano, and recorded twenty-eight takes of the song with his band. The result was a classic for the ages.

Jailhouse Rock

4

Jailhouse Rock

1957

Released September 24, 1957, this is the title track to Elvis' first film, Jailhouse Rock. Perhaps the only number one song to advocate dancing with furniture, it held the top spot for six weeks. Another song made famous by Elvis but covered by many others, even the film it came from was a success. To quote Eddie Murphy in Delirious, "he was vicious . . . . he sang so good they let him do movies. He couldn't act. They said, 'Fuck it. Let him sing all the dialogue."

Suspicious Minds

5

Suspicious Minds

1969

Released on August 26, 1969, and featured in his '68 Comeback Special, many felt that this was the song that reignited Elvis' career after the "British Invasion" pushed many prominent American artists into obscurity. A subtle introduction featuring just Elvis, the song explodes with emotion, thanks to some help from backup vocalists such as future Grateful Dead member Donna Jean Godchaux. Check out the cover by the Flaming Lips.

Hound Dog

6

Hound Dog

1956

If not for the fact that it is a cover, "Hound Dog" would have ranked much higher on The Top 13. That said, it makes the list because it's a damn good cover. Released in 1956, this was one of five number one hits Elvis had that year, yet he was barely 21 years old at the time. Though Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton recorded it first, it is Elvis' version that is ubiquitous. Rolling Stone ranked it 19th on its list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time."

It's Now or Never

7

It's Now or Never

1960

While stationed in Europe, Elvis heard the Italian standard "O Sole Mio" and decided to use the melody for a song of his own. Released July 5, 1960, "It's Now or Never" is that song. As the story goes,legendary soulster Barry White heard this song while in jail for stealing tires, and it made such an impact on him that he decided to pursue music.

Viva Las Vegas

8

Viva Las Vegas

1964

One of Elvis' biggest international hits, this was the title track for his 1964 film with Ann Margaret. Elvis and Vegas were a perfect combination, helping the city during a post-Sinatra transition into a more glamorous, over-the-top sensation. The Dead Kennedys also do a fantastic cover of it.

Kentucky Rain

9

Kentucky Rain

1970

Written by Eddie Rabbitt and featuring Ronnie Milsap on the piano, this track was released January 29, 1970. Although it only reached number 16 on the pop charts, "Kentucky Rain" proved that despite his age and troubles, Elvis could still belt out a powerful ballad.

Burning Love

10

Burning Love

1972

First recorded by country-soul pioneer Arthur Alexander, Elvis released his version of "Burning Love" on August 1, 1972. Apparently, Elvis initially didn't want to record this song but was convinced to do so by his session musicians. His band was vindicated, as "Burning Love" became a fan favorite and hit the top of the charts. Sadly, Elvis' 40th top ten U.S. hit ultimately would be his last.

Little Sister

11

Little Sister

1961

Released August 8, 1961, "Little Sister" became another in a long line of top ten hits for Elvis. It's a fast-paced, fun song with some fairly raunchy lyrics for the time: the singer has been dumped by his girlfriend and is now pursuing her younger sister in the hopes that she doesn't dump him. Seriously, look:

Well, I used to pull your pigtails
And pinch your turned-up nose
But you been a growin'
And baby, it's been showin
From your head down to your toes.

No surprise that Elvis was known to like his girls young.

G.I. Blues

12

G.I. Blues

1960

Yet another title track from an Elvis movie; this time, he played a guy named Tulsa McLean. While it wasn't even the most popular song on the album, released October 1, 1960, it is particularly meaningful. When Elvis was in the army, he elected not to join Special Services, which would have entitled him to avoid most traditional military duties and keep a public profile. His fellow soldiers respected that decision and said that despite his fame, he was generous to his fellow servicemen, buying them extra fatigues and donating his Army pay to charity.

Return to Sender

13

Return to Sender

1962

Released in 1962, "Return to Sender" was so popular that when the U.S. Postal Service introduced an Elvis commemorative stamp in 1992, Elvis aficionados purposely misaddressed envelops so they would get them back marked "return to sender." Another of his shorter songs at just 2:11, nevertheless it is an upbeat classic.

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Comments Leave a comment

jason ★★

I'm no Elvis fan, but this was surprisingly interesting, especially the videos. Little Sister creeps me out.

10:25 AM   Jan 07, 2010

PulpAffliction ★★

Ditto.

12:43 PM   Jan 07, 2010

ajay ★★

Interesting list. Of all of his songs, I pretty much only like Suspicious Minds.

12:59 PM   Jan 07, 2010

ajay ★★

Also, Elvis' album covers were terrible.

12:48 AM   Jan 08, 2010

KungFuJay ★★

ajay is crazy. Elvis had the BEST album covers. I like most of this list, but In the Ghetto and Mystery Train are glaring omissions. I'm also partial to Devil in Disguise, A Little Less Conversation and Rubberneckin'. And Suspicious Minds should be #1.

12:33 PM   Jan 08, 2010

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