Welcome to my fourth column. If you have read some of the previous " Elvis...Straight Up! " installments, you will realize how highly I revere Elvis Presley as a master performer and recording artist.
Yes, of course I admire his spectacular persona and stage-presence, the opulence of his amazing lifestyle and the splendor of his fabled rags-to-riches story, but MOST important, always, is the music! First and foremost to me, is his supreme talent as a performer and singer.
Since Elvis was not a songwriter ( per se ), he relied solely upon gleaning material from industry pros. The men and women who penned the foundation of his musical legacy have been, more often than not , ignored, overlooked or forgotten altogether.
Let's face it , without them, what could Elvis have recorded? Songwriters/composers are the vital element, the cornerstone in fact, of any career in music.
True, some famous names have received some recognition over the years; Leiber and Stoller, Mac Davis, Mae Axton, Otis Blackwell to name a few. All too many though, have been overshadowed by the napalm and stardust of the famous voice most-associated with their compositions.
Where did Elvis get his songs from? How were they chosen? Which songs were specificaly written for Elvis? Which ones did he personally request to record? What were the songwriter's experiences working with Elvis, the Colonel and the music publishers?
Veteran author and Elvis fan Ken Sharp, a songwriter himself, has written probably hundreds of well-researched music articles. For his latest project, he has taken on the daunting task of uncovering the backstory to many of Elvis' songs. Any Presleyphile interested in the business " behind the music ", or the creative songmaking process- in essence, the genetic backbone of all Elvis' recordings- should be fascinated by the anecdotes and influences of his songs.
Since Elvis was not a lyricist, he relied on the compositions he recorded (movie songs aside) to convey his thoughts, emotions, philosophy, personal beliefs and life perspective.These songwriters in effect,are the literal " voice " of Elvis Presley.
" Bridge Over Troubled Water ", " My Way ", " Seperate Ways ", " Always On My Mind " ," Love Me Love the Life I Lead ", are just a few examples of songs Elvis chose to reflect his personal thoughts and life experiences.
Tentatively titled WRITING FOR THE KING, this deluxe hardcover book and CD set will include two compact discs, one of Elvis session outtakes, the other of original songwriter's demos. The project is sanctioned by Ernst Jorgensen and will be an upcoming FTD (Follow That Dream) label release.
Sharp has conducted over one hundred first-hand interviews with the surviving key people who penned Elvis material. He has also unearthed original momentos such as the lead sheet to IF I CAN DREAM signed by Elvis himself, handwritten song lyrics and other documents from recording studio and music publishing archives . These demos are the actual recordings Elvis listened to and re-arranged into his own versions. Some tracks to be featured on the FTD set include the original demos to monster-hits like " Burning Love " and and less famous songs like " Raised on Rock ".
On the surface, such a specialized subject may seem a bit beyond the scope of the average collector, however I urge everyone reading this to take an open-minded peek at this unique project. It promises to reveal fascinating insights, thus illuminating the very " heart " of Elvis' music.
Thanks for listening--any fellow Elvis fans with comments or rare-Elvis tips, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Joe Russo © 2006