Elvis himself wrote very few of his songs. His legacy is in his interpretation of the music he performed. Elvis Presley will always be remembered as the singer who took America by storm with his sensual movements and timeless tunes.
Elvis Presley is sometimes considered one of the most influential figures in Rock music history. “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” as some would say, Elvis was a prolific and eccentric figure in Rock ‘n’ Roll whose career spanned over three decades.
Elvis will always be remembered as a pioneer of his time. He popularized a provocative new sound and persona to the conservative R&B audiences of the period. His sensual movements and sexual undertones in his performances made his rise controversial.
Elvis gained instant popularity due to his unique sound and performance.
Who wrote songs for Elvis?
Like most of his peers, Elvis worked with a plethora of composers and musicians of his era. A handful of songwriters helped achieve his most memorable work. These are the most influential writers who worked with Elvis Presley over the years.
This is a list of the people who helped shape the phenomena and persona that is “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll”.
The Leiber-Stoller Duo
Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller wrote all of Elvis’s early songs including “Jailhouse Rock”, “Love Me” and “Hound Dog”. The Lieber-Stroller duo helped Elvis Presley break into and dominate the Rock ‘n’ Roll music industry.
Already established songwriters at the time of meeting a 14-year-old Elvis, the duo became one of the main songwriters for his first record. Elvis’s first hit “Hound Dog”, was a rendition of their creation originally written for Big Mama Thornton in 1952.
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote 20 songs for Elvis Presley. Overall, they have 70+ chart hits over their 40+ year careers.
Ben Weisman has the most Elvis song credits on this list. He wrote 57 songs recorded by Elvis over 20 years.
Some of Elvis’s most memorable songs were written by Weisman. His contributions to Elvis’s sound started from the very first album Elvis recorded with “First in Line”. Over the years, Ben Weisman would go on to write classic Elvis songs like “Don’t Leave Me Now”, “Happy Ending”, and “Follow That Dream”.
Weisman has 60 gold records and 30 motion picture scores. 57 of the hundreds of songs written by Weisman were performed by Elvis Presley.
Aaron Shroeder is responsible for 17 songs for Elvis Presley during his career. Five of those songs would eventually reach number one on the music charts.
Over the 50s and the 60s, Aaron Shroeder was one of the biggest songwriters in the industry. Established at the famous Brill Building, Shroeder was commissioned to write some songs for an upcoming artist already making noise in 1959. Shroeder wrote “A Big Chunk o’ Love” for Elvis in the same year, with the song reaching number one. He would go on to write timeless Elvis hits such as “I Got Stung”, “Stuck on You”, and “Good Luck Charm”.
Aaron Shroeder’s credits include songs by other popular artists. He wrote for Sammy Davis Jr, Nat King Cole, and Pat Boone.
Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman
Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman were a notorious songwriting duo famous for their “blue-eyed soul” style. Most famous for The Drifters’ classic “This Magic Moment”, Shuman and Pomus wrote hundreds of songs, with 20 of them written for Elvis.
The first song Pomus and Shuman wrote for Elvis, “Turn Me Loose”, was rejected. However, “A Mess of Blues” was released in July 1960. Shuman and Pomus would go on to write 20 more songs for Elvis Presley. Hits like “Night Rider”, “Suspicion”, and “Viva Las Vegas” were all written by the duo.
Unlike the previous musical duo on this list, Shuman and Pomus’s fruitful partnership would not withstand the test of time. They split in 1965 after moving to England, where Pomus became a professional poker player and Shuman continued writing songs on his own.
Mac Davis is the only entry on this list who was also a singer. Before Davis’s success as a country singer in the 1970s, he was making a living as a songwriter for Nancy Sinatra’s company during the previous decades.
Mac Davis was by far not the most frequent Elvis contributor. However, he gets credit for writing some of Elvis’s best musical numbers. Davis’s most memorable contributions were “A Little Less Conversation” and “In the Ghetto.”
Notably, Mac Davis re-recorded “In The Ghetto” during his singing career. Davis would, later on, achieve successful singing and acting careers during the 1970s. He was awarded the Academy of Country Music’s Entertainer of the year in 1975.
Elvis Presley worked with countless musicians and songwriters over a 40-year career. Naturally, we’re unable to cover all of them, but here’s a list of some names who contributed to Elvis’s sound who wasn’t mentioned before:
Much akin to modern pop musicians, Elvis, and his peers relied heavily on established songwriters to write their hits. For Elvis Presley, however, song lyrics were just a guideline for him to impose his unique style and flavor on these songs.
Over the years, Elvis repeatedly demonstrated how he could transform music into a sensual experience. His style, influences, and voice emanate through his music to this day.
Elvis’s big break came as a young singer in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. At the ripe age of 14, he gained notoriety as an energetic singer who put his twist on songs.
With hits like “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock”, Elvis demonstrated how his performance style and vigor can transform music into something else, amazing both listeners and other musicians in the process. In short, Elvis was not just a singer or performer, he was a visual and tonal artist who gave life to the songs he performed.
Elvis Presley reportedly learned to play guitar in his early teens through neighbor Lee Denson. He would go on to be accompanied by his guitar on several stage performances. However, Elvis self-admittedly could never read or write music.
Elvis’s talent was undeniable, his ear for music transcended form and order. In all fairness, most musicians of his era never wrote any songs either. Artists like Jerry Lewis, Nat King Cole, and the Drifters were hiring the same songwriters Elvis had during his career.
Elvis cites Chuck Berry as his greatest influence which is evident in his sound. More artists include Big Mama Thornton, B.B. King, and Rufus Thomas.
Elvis Presley’s Legacy
Overall, Elvis Presley left a 40 year legacy of consistent hits. Elvis Presley recorded a staggering 600 songs over his career. 18 of these songs hit the number 1 spot on the chart at some point. Around 50 total made it to the top 100 list.
Elvis became a household icon during his time and possibly to this day. He enjoyed a 40-year career riddled with ups and lows, controversy, and success. Elvis’s main legacy was his attitude and courage.
Elvis Presley was a revolutionary, eccentric, and sometimes problematic figure in music history. That’s not to deny Elvis’s genius as an innovator. His sounds and persona influenced an entire generation and great artists alike.
Moreover, influences of his style are noticeable in later generations of artists. Elvis Presley is known as the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” for a reason.