When I first heard Elvis’ voice I just knew that I wasn’t going to work for anybody; and nobody was going to be my boss. He is the deity supreme of rock & roll religion as it exists in today’s form. Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail.
~Bob Dylan (1987)
His music and his personality, fusing the styles of white country and black rhythm and blues, permanently changed the face of American popular culture. His following was immense, and he was a symbol to people the world over of the vitality, rebelliousness, and good humor of his country.
~President Jimmy Carter August 17, 1977
Elvis Presley is a supreme figure in American life, one whose presence, no matter how banal or predictable, brooks no real comparisons. … The cultural range of his music has expanded to the point where it includes not only the hits of the day, but also patriotic recitals, pure country gospel, and really dirty blues. … Elvis has emerged as a great artist, a great rocker, a great purveyor of schlock, a great heart throb, a great bore, a great symbol of potency, a great ham, a great nice person, and, yes, a great American.
~Greil Marcus (The Village Voice – Apr 7, 1975)
And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I’ve traveled each and ev’ry highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way
Samuel Cornelius Phillips (January 5, 1923 – July 30, 2003), better known as Sam Phillips, was an American businessman, record executive, record producer and DJ who played an important role in the emergence of rock and roll as the major form of popular music in the 1950s. He was a producer, label owner, and talent scout throughout the 1940s and 1950s. He most notably founded Sun Studios and Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. Through Sun, Phillips discovered such recording talent as Howlin’ Wolf, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash.
In 2004, Elvis Presley’s “That’s All Right Mama” and Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” both celebrated their 50th anniversaries. Rolling Stone Magazine felt that Presley’s song was the first rock and roll recording. At the time Presley recorded the song, Big Joe Turner’s “Shake, Rattle & Roll”, later covered by Haley, was already at the top of the Billboard R&B charts. The Guardian felt that while there were rock’n’roll records before Presley’s, his recording was the moment when all the strands came together in “perfect embodiment”. (wikipedia)
“A lot of people seem to think I started this business, but rock ‘n’ roll was here a long time before I came along. Nobody can sing that kind of music like colored people. Let’s face it; I can’t sing it like Fats Domino can. I know that. But I always liked that kind of music.”
“Mystery Train” is one of Presley’s most haunting songs, a stark blues number that sounds ancient but was actually first cut only two years before by Memphis blues singer Junior Parker. Presley recorded it with the groove from the flip side of the same Parker single, “Love My Baby,” and Sun producer Phillips’ taut, rubbery echo effect made guitarist Scotty Moore’s every note sound doubled. Presley added a final verse — “Train . . . took my baby, but it never will again” — capped by a celebratory falsetto whoop that transformed a pastoral about death into a song about the power to overcome it.
Train arrive, sixteen coaches long
Train arrive, sixteen coaches long
Well that long black train got my baby and gone
Train train, comin’ ’round, ’round the bend
Train train, comin’ ’round the bend
Well it took my baby, but it never will again (no, not again)
Train train, comin’ down, down the line
Train train, comin’ down the line
Well it’s bringin’ my baby, ’cause she’s mine all, all mine
(She’s mine, all, all mine)
Just a Closer Walk with Thee is a traditional gospel song that has been covered by many artists. Performed as either an instrumental or vocal, “A Closer Walk” is perhaps the most frequently played number in the hymn and dirge section of traditional New Orleans jazz funerals.
Rebirth Brass Band – A Closer Walk With Thee:
The ‘jazz funeral’ starts off sombre. On its way to the cemetery, the brass band plays soulful, sad funeral hymns called ‘dirges’, it should be something that reminds mourners of life’s ups and downs. The slow tune lasts until the procession reaches its final destination, at which point they ‘cut the body loose’ – send the hearse off into the cemetery.
I really love this song and have “dug up” a few examples of great artists doing their version of this old tune.