Celebrate 75 years of Elvis with his best recordings

75 Years of Elvis PresleySeventy-five years ago today, on January 8, 1935, Elvis Aaron Presley was born in a humble, two-room house in the small town of Tupelo, Mississippi. His twin brother, Jesse Garon, was stillborn. Elvis would remain an only-child.

Two decades later, Elvis led a cultural revolution through the introduction of a new style of music that fused country, rhythm & blues, and gospel. Eventually, it would become known as rock ‘n’ roll . . . and Elvis as the King.

Freely moving back and forth among his favorite musical genres rather than limiting himself only to rock ‘n’ roll, Elvis recorded nearly 750 different songs in his lifetime. In celebration of what would have been his 75th birthday, here is a ranking of what I consider Elvis Presley’s best recordings.

#1: Always On My Mind (Rehearsal-1972)
[Writers: Mark James/Wayne Carson/Johnny Christopher]
Album: This Is Elvis
Just a day after his formal recording of the song, Elvis poured his heart even more into this rehearsal of “Always On My Mind” staged for MGM. The cameras were rolling for the movie Elvis On Tour, but this performance unfortunately hit the cutting room floor in favor of the similarly-themed “Separate Ways.” 1981’s posthumous documentary and soundtrack This Is Elvis later resurrected it. A window into his soul, this is the finest Elvis performance yet released.
Other notable version: 1972 master (Separate Ways).

#2: If I Can Dream (Alternate-1968)
[W. Earl Brown]
Memories
In the United States, 1968 saw the assassinations of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy. However, television provided two quiet visions of hope to close the year. First, there was this tremendous recording by Elvis, which ended his December 3 TV special. With its message of peace and brotherhood, “If I Can Dream” transcended even Elvis, ultimately meaning far more than yet another hit or the beginning of a comeback. He would never sing with more conviction than on this song. Exactly three weeks later, the crew of Apollo 8, in orbit around the moon on a test flight, read from the book of Genesis to a live TV audience. These separate yet linked moments in television history helped begin the healing process.
Other notable versions: 1968 master (ELVIS-TV Special); 1968 alternate (A Life In Music).

#3: Suspicious Minds (Live-1969)
[Mark James]
Elvis At The International
Other notable versions: 1969 master (Worldwide 50 Gold Award Hits, Volume 1); 1970 live (That’s The Way It Is: Special Edition [2000]).

#4: Mystery Train (1955)
[Herman “Little Junior” Parker/Sam Phillips]
For LP Fans Only
Other notable versions: 1969 live (Collectors Gold); 1969 live (From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis); 1970 live (That’s The Way It Is: Special Edition [2000]); 1970 live (One Night In Vegas).

#5: Can’t Help Falling In Love (1961)
[George Weiss/Hugo Peretti/Luigi Creatore]
Blue Hawaii
Other notable versions: 1961 alternate (Blue Hawaii [1997 Special Edition]); 1968 live (ELVIS-TV Special); 1969 live (From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis); 1970 live (That’s The Way It Is: Special Edition [2000]).

#6: Are You Lonesome Tonight (1960)
[Roy Turk/Lou Handman]
Elvis’ Golden Records, Volume 3
Other notable versions: 1969 live/”laughing” version (Elvis Aron Presley); 1968 live (Memories); 1969 live (Elvis: Viva Las Vegas-Limited Edition [2007]).

#7: Reconsider Baby (1960)
[Lowell Fulson]
Elvis Is Back!

#8: Jailhouse Rock (1957)
[Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller]
Elvis’ Golden Records
Other notable version: 1968 live (ELVIS-TV Special).

#9: One Night (1957)
[Dave Bartholomew/Pearl King]
50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong: Elvis’ Gold Records Volume 2
Other notable version: 1968 live (Memories [Disc 2, Track 15]).

#10: Baby, Let’s Play House (1955)
[Arthur Gunter]
A Date With Elvis

#11: Love Me (1956)
[Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller]
Elvis
Other notable versions: 1968 live (Memories); 1970 live (That’s The Way It Is: Special Edition [2000]); 1970 live (Live In Las Vegas).

#12: How The Web Was Woven (1970)
[Clive Westlake/Dave Most]
That’s The Way It Is
Other notable version: 1970 alternate (The Nashville Marathon).

#13: Baby, What You Want Me To Do (Live-1968)
[Jimmy Reed]
Tiger Man [Track 6]
Other notable version: 1968 live (Memories [Disc 2, Track 16]).

#14: Kentucky Rain (1969)
[Eddie Rabbitt/Dick Heard]
Worldwide 50 Gold Award Hits, Volume 1
Other notable version: 1970 live (Elvis Aron Presley).

#15: Santa Claus Is Back In Town (1957)
[Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller]
Elvis’ Christmas Album
Other notable version: 1968 live (Tiger Man).

#16: Don’t Be Cruel (1956)
[Otis Blackwell]
Elvis’ Golden Records
Other notable versions: 1957 live (A Golden Celebration); 1968 live (Memories).

#17: Polk Salad Annie (Live-1970)
[Tony Joe White]
Today, Tomorrow & Forever
Other notable versions: 1970 live master (On Stage); 1970 live (That’s The Way It Is: Special Edition [2000]).

#18: I’ve Lost You (1970)
[Ken Howard/Alan Blaikley]
Worldwide Gold Award Hits, Volume 2

#19: Stranger In The Crowd (1970)
[Winfield Scott]
That’s The Way It Is
Other notable version: 1970 live (That’s The Way It Is: Special Edition [2000]).

#20: You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (Live-1970 [Extended])
[Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil]
That’s The Way It Is: Special Edition (2000) [Disc 2]

#21: Walk A Mile In My Shoes (Live-1970)
[Joe South]
Live In Las Vegas [Disc 2]
Other notable versions: 1970 live (Polk Salad Annie); 1970 live master (On Stage).

#22: Just Pretend (1970)
[Doug Flett/Guy Fletcher]
That’s The Way It Is
Other notable version: 1970 live (Live In Las Vegas).

#23: The Wonder Of You (Live-1970)
[Baker Knight]
On Stage

#24: Lawdy, Miss Clawdy (Live-1968)
[Lloyd Price]
Memories
Other notable version: 1956 master (For LP Fans Only).

#25: Trying To Get To You (Live-1968)
[Rose Marie McCoy/Margie Singleton]
A Life In Music
Other notable version: 1955 master (Elvis Presley).

* * *

Though his life was relatively short, Elvis made good use of his time here by bringing joy to many people and making the world better than it would have been without him. That is just about the most any of us can really hope to accomplish on this Earth. Today, his songs continue to inspire millions – including me. I cannot imagine my life without his music.

Happy birthday, Elvis, and thank you.