Elvis Presley’s birthday was last weekend, and had the legendary rock and roller not tragically passed away back in 1977, he would have turned 76 years old on Saturday (January 8th). Presley’s influence and importance still looms large, as traces of his music can be found on modern rock, country, pop and even hip-hop.
But it isn’t just about the music. Sure, Presley is responsible for some incredible songs that represent the cornerstones of rock music (including gems like “Jailhouse Rock,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” “Heartbreak Hotel” and countless others), but his draw is also about style, attitude and mystique. He left behind a legacy of envelope-pushing fashion, sexual politics and the kind of swagger that many artists have attempted to replicate but few have really gotten right.
So it’s not entirely surprising that on this day in 2005, a report showed that Elvis Presley has had more songs written about him than any other artist in history (take that, Mozart). The list of over 220 songs included tracks like Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” U2’s “A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel,” Frank Zappa’s “Elvis Has Left the Building,” Dire Straits’ “Calling Elvis” and Loudon Wainwright III’s “Happy Birthday Elvis.” But it missed plenty of other tunes, including Alannah Myles’ chart-topping hit “Black Velvet,” Neil Young’s “He Was the King” and slightly more obtuse songs like Bush’s “Everything Zen.”
For many artists, Elvis clearly embodies a sort of ideal of American culture (for better or for worse). That’s no clearer than in Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus,” a track frontman Dave Gahan wrote after reading Priscilla Presley’s book “Elvis and Me.” It’s a punchy way to start the day, and a great way to keep the King in mind.