Just before Raya my two friends who were busking nightly at Kedey Kamek here in Metrocity invited me to join them.
With a treat of very nice ‘Kopi O’, I happily performed two Elvis top hits in front of about 50 customers during ‘sungkei’ hours. I found it refreshing to be back on stage after a long hiatus due to the pandemic, thanks to Major (rtd) Abong Amping (keyboardist/vocal) and teacher Isa Lee (guitarist/vocal).
There are still many who want to be part of the Elvis legacy and many may want to know more about his songs.
King of Rock N Roll Elvis Aaron Presley (8.1.1935-16.8.1977) got most of his songs from composers. They included some who became famous just because the man who was and still is referred to as The King chose to sing their songs.
His best-known early success was crooning Old Shep on Oct 3, 1945 at age 10 for his first public performance, a singing contest at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show. Dressed as a cowboy, the young Elvis stood on a chair to reach the microphone. He came in fifth place, winning $5 and a free ticket to the fair rides. Six years later in 1951, he again performed it for a talent show at L. C. Humes High School, where he was a student, winning an encore for his performance. Elvis’ cover version was released in 1956.
Old Shep is a song written and composed by Red Foley and Arthur Williams in 1933, about Foley, a dog he owned as a child. In reality, the dog poisoned by a neighbour, was a German shepherd called ‘Hoover’.
The intro goes: “When I was a lad, and old shep was a pup, over hills and meadows we’d stray…”
Elvis recorded more than 700 songs in all, including those from his 33 movies. I have not seen all of his movies but have in my humble collection a few of the movies, including Jailhouse Rock with the song by the same title as the theme song, plus a few others including Don’t Leave Me Now and Young and Beautiful. Other movies in my collection include Love Me Tender (his first movie), Loving You, G. I. Blues, Blue Hawaii, Flaming Star, Kid Galahad, Follow That Dream and a few others.
Among my EP favourites are the pioneer rock and roll song That’s Alright Mama, It’s Only Love, I’ve Lost You, Heart of Rome and many more, most of which were chart toppers in the 60s and 70s. Even after his death, namely in 2011, That’s Alright Mama topped the English chart for a number of weeks, thanks to resurgence of rock and roll music in England and the rest of the world.
Many opine that Elvis songs are simple, three-keyed tunes and just about love. It is not really the case; his songs are about life, about relationships. For example, his song Life in 1971 (Words & Music by Shirl Melete), is a piece of philosophy. I learned from the radio and finally memorised the lyrics but never performed it publicly hitherto.
It says, “Somewhere up in empty space, long before the human race, something stirred. A vast and timeless source began, intelligence was born and then there was the world. Powers filled the universe; matter formed and broke the curse of nothingness. Love became an ageless soul; nature reached her highest goal, and breathed the breath of life, everlasting life….”
In the movie Kid Galahad (1962) also starring Charles Bronson as his boxing trainer, Elvis performed the song King of The Whole Wide World – I performed this song in no fewer than seven of EP shows between 2013 and 2018 – to confirm Elvis’ unofficially declared acceptance of ‘The King’ inference.
One song stands out from the rest. Though Unchained Melody belongs originally to the Righteous Brothers, Elvis recorded it as his own and one of the songs he performed in his last concert at Indianapolis on June 22, 1977 just weeks before his demise on August 16, 1977. This is probably the only song ever written and sung with the title not carried or stated in the lyrics. It is among vital contents of ‘The Greatest Performance’ that tells a story of the young Elvis until his last performance and his death.
More than anything else, his songs, though composed by others, have become great inspirations for his own generation and many more generations after his and ours.
In spite of his most famous statement ‘I am not king, just a singer’, people around the world still insist on saying, ‘Long Live The King’. Yes, he is king and lives forever – in our hearts.