Ten Classic Covers of Elvis Presley's Hit Songs
When it comes to influential musical icons, Elvis Presley has to be at the top of the list. Over the past several decades, numerous artists have recorded or performed their own versions of his famous songs. So, climb aboard the “Mystery Train” and check out ten of the best interpretations of "The King’s" hits in chronological order.
Classic Covers of Elvis Presley's Hit Songs
- “Love Me Tender” by Linda Ronstadt, 1978
- “Little Sister” by Rockpile with Robert Plant, 1979
- “Suspicious Minds” by Fine Young Cannibals, 1985
- “Don’t Be Cruel” by The Judds, 1987
- “Always On My Mind” by Pet Shop Boys, 1987
- “Viva Las Vegas” by Bruce Springsteen, 1990
- “All Shook Up” by Paul McCartney, 1999
- “Blue Moon of Kentucky” by Ricky Skaggs featuring John Fogerty, 2000
- “That’s Alright Mama” by Scotty Moore and Eric Clapton, 2005
- “Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Chris Isaak, 2011
1. “Love Me Tender” by Linda Ronstadt, 1978
This is a beautiful rendition of the famous song from Presley’s first movie. This song has also been covered by such artists as Frank Sinatra, Merle Haggard, B.B. King, and Amy Grant. Following Presley’s passing, Ronstadt began performing “Love Me Tender” in concert as a tribute to him. She would later record the track for her American chart topping Living in the USA album. Ronstadt’s version featured herself, Waddy Wachtel on acoustic guitar and harmony vocals, and Don Grolnick on organ.
2. “Little Sister” by Rockpile with Robert Plant, 1979
During the last month of the 1970s, a series of benefit concerts were held in London to provide monetary help for the victims of war-torn Cambodia. Paul McCartney and Wings were the headline act on December 29th, the final night of the shows. Elvis Costello and the Attractions and Rockpile, featuring Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds, also performed short sets that evening. Robert Plant joined Rockpile on stage to sing lead on “Little Sister,” the b-side of Presley’s 1961 single “(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame.” Rockpile’s Edmunds and Billy Bremner provided nice guitar work, with an enthusiastic vocal from Plant. The Rockpile and Plant performance was released on 1981’s double vinyl album The Concerts for The People of Kampuchea. Ry Cooder released a studio version of “Little Sister” in 1979 as well.
3. “Suspicious Minds” by Fine Young Cannibals, 1985
The group, made up of singer Roland Gift and former Beat members Andy Cox and David Steele, had major success with their 1988 album, The Raw and the Cooked, featuring the hit single “She Drives Me Crazy.” Three years earlier, on their self-titled debut album, they recorded a cover of Presley’s last number one single on the U.S. Billboard charts, “Suspicious Minds.” With a twangin’ guitar from Cox and orchestration and background vocals by ex-Bronski Beat and Communards singer Jimmy Somerville, the FYC’s rendition would go to number eight on the U.K. singles chart. The song was first written and recorded by Mark James in 1968, with Presley’s version released the next year.
4. “Don’t Be Cruel” by The Judds, 1987
This version of Presley's 1956 number one hit featured understated, pleasant singing from the mother/daughter duo of Diana Ellen Judd (Naomi) and Christina Ciminella (Wynonna). Backing vocals were provided by The Jordanaires, who appeared on Presley's studio sessions from 1957 to 1970. The 1987 Judds recording peaked at number 10 on Billboard’s Hot Country Chart. The tune was also covered by Cheap Trick, who's version reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in 1988.
5. “Always on My Mind” by Pet Shop Boys, 1987
In 2014, a BBC music poll named this track as the best cover version ever. Pet Shop Boys duo Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe took Presley's 1972 country ballad and added their own synth-pop touch to the song. The Pet Shop Boys' recording took place following their performance of the tune on 1987’s “Love Me Tender” ITV-UK special, which commemorated the 10th anniversary of Presley’s passing. Tennant and Lowe’s version of “Always on My Mind” topped the U.K. singles chart for four weeks in December 1987. It also reached the top five in the U.S. Four years earlier, Willie Nelson’s rendition of the tune won the Grammy award for Song of the Year.
6. “Viva Las Vegas” by Bruce Springsteen, 1990
"The Boss" covers "The King." In 1990, the U.K.’s New Musical Express released a charity album, “The Last Temptation of Elvis,” to benefit London’s Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centre. McCartney, Daryl Hall and John Oates, Aaron Neville, and Dion DiMucci were among the artists offering their renditions of the Presley's classics. Springsteen’s track was the title song from Presley’s 15th film. Springsteen sang and played guitar on the track, accompanied by Ian McLagan on piano and organ, Bob Glaub on bass, and Jeff Porcaro on drums.
Springsteen, by the way, is no stranger to performing Presley tunes. “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” “Burning Love,” and a rearranged version of “Follow That Dream” (with different lyrics) have shown up on his setlists many times over the years.
7. “All Shook Up” by Paul McCartney, 1999
Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and The Pirates' Mick Green back up McCartney on guitar for this rollicking version of Presley’s number one U.S. and U.K. hit from 1957. This version is taken from McCartney’s Run Devil Run album. This release was seen as a return to his roots. It also featured the ex-Beatle’s take on Presley's “I Got Stung” and “Party.” A live recording of McCartney performing “All Shook Up” in 1999 at Liverpool’s Cavern Club was included on the 2007 U.K. compilation CD set The Cavern-The Most Famous Club in The World. Billy Joel also covered “All Shook Up” on the 1992 Honeymoon in Vegas movie soundtrack.
8. “Blue Moon of Kentucky” by Ricky Skaggs featuring John Fogerty, 2000
The tune, the official bluegrass song of Kentucky, was first recorded in 1946 by Bill Monroe as a waltz. Eight years later, Presley cut his version of the song at Sun Studios in Memphis, and it became the flip side of the “That’s Alright Mama” single. “Blue Moon of Kentucky” has been covered by McCartney, Patsy Cline, Ray Charles, and others. Skaggs and Fogerty’s rendition can be found on a salute to Monroe titled “Big Mon: The Songs of Bill Monroe.” It begins with Monroe’s original recording, segueing into Skaggs and Fogerty’s rockabilly style version. In addition, Kayton Roberts, a former member of Hank Snow's Rainbow Ranch Boys Band, plays some tasty steel guitar on the Fogerty track.
9. “That’s Alright Mama” by Scotty Moore and Eric Clapton, 2005
In December 2004, London’s Abbey Road Studios was the site for a one-time tribute concert to The King led by his first lead guitarist, Scotty Moore. Moore was joined at Abbey Road by such musicians as Mark Knopfler, Ronnie Wood, and David Gilmour. On this track, Eric Clapton handled the vocals and played acoustic guitar, while Moore contributed lead guitar. Clapton was relaxed and definitely enjoyed performing with Moore, as seen in the video below. Bill Wyman’s group, The Rhythm Kings, were the backing band for the concert. The performance was released on the 2005 Bear Family Label French CD, Scotty Moore & Friends: Hommage Au Roi Du Rock'n'Roll—Live At Abbey Road, as well as on the Universal Music DVD, A Tribute To The King.
10. “Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Chris Isaak, 2011
The “Wicked Game” singer does a fine rendition of the song from Presley’s 1961 film Blue Hawaii. The tune’s melody is based on the 1784 French love song “Plaisir d’amour,” by Jean-Paul Egide Martini. Isaak recorded the track at Sun Studio in Memphis, where Presley set down his first music to disc. Isaak’s musical interpretation was part of the cover album Beyond the Sun, a tribute to Sun Records artists Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
UB40 had a U.S. and U.K. number one hit with their 1993 cover of the song.
© 2019 Marshall Fish