Some singers compose all their songs, while others use their musical talents to bring the work of writers to life. Elvis Presley had an enormous repertoire of music but many people have asked if he wrote his biggest hits.
Did Elvis write any songs of his own? While Elvis didn’t write any songs by himself, he did receive a co-writing credit on several hits he sang. Read on to learn more about how Elvis’ songs were written.
Did Elvis Write Any Songs?
Elvis is credited as a co-writer on around 10 of his almost 800 songs, such as:
All Shook Up:
Don’t Be Cruel:
Love Me Tender:
That’s Someone You Never Forget:
We’re Gonna Move:
You’ll Be Gone:
Despite that, it should be noted that Elvis did not necessarily contribute to writing these songs. During the 1950s and 1960s, writing credits for musicians were often honorary or driven by marketing campaigns.
In fact, some of Elvis’s writing credits may be attributable to his publishing agreement with Hill and Range Publishing. The deal stipulated that Elvis would get some writing credit on his songs and paid accordingly.
Elvis was not alone in having such a deal. Plenty of artists of the 1950s and 60s had co-publishing arrangements, though they varied in terms of content.
In addition to these credits, Elvis recorded several jam sessions, such as “I Didn’t Make It On Playing Guitar,” which some count as being written by the superstar. However, there’s some controversy about their status since these sessions were impromptu performances. Whether or not you count jam sessions within his writing record, these songs do demonstrate his deep understanding of music.
Who Wrote Elvis Presley's Songs?
So if Elvis himself was not putting pen to paper to create his discography, who was? Some of his songs were reinterpretations of old standards, while others were written specifically for him by well-known songwriters. Some of these writers included:
- Jerry Leiber
- Mike Stoller
- Sid Wayne
- Otis Blackwell
- Aaron Schroeder
- Mort Shuman
- Florence Kaye
- Ben Weisman
- Wally Gold
- Mac Davis
- Winfield Scott
Leiber and Stoller were a well-known songwriting duo long before the start of Elvis’ career. They would go on to write 23 songs for the crooner, including big hits like Hound Dog, She’s Not You, Loves Me, and Don’t.
Aaron Schroeder wrote 16 songs for Elvis, including four number-one records. Despite successes like I Was the One, It’s Now or Never, Stuck on You, and Big Hunk O’ Love, the working relationship ended over issues with publishing rights.
Otis Blackwell wrote 10 songs for Elvis, including All Shook Up, Don’t Be Cruel, Return to Sender, and One Broken Heart For Sale. Besides working with Elvis, Blackwell wrote hundreds of songs for famous musicians throughout his career, which spanned the latter half of the 20th Century.
When the King co-wrote, it was often with Red West, Otis Blackwell, and Ken Darby under the name of his wife, Vera Matson. One story behind the pseudonym is Darby did not like Elvis getting a songwriting credit. So, Darby used his wife’s name because she had just as much of a contribution to the tune as Elvis.
What Songs Did Elvis Cover?
Elvis’ use of covers during the heyday of his career contributed to a long and complex part of music history. Artists in the middle of the 20th Century commonly covered contemporary and traditional songs. Singers, including Elvis, made these covers to honor earlier artists, look at a beloved tune through a new lens, or capitalize on the success of already familiar tunes.
In some cases, these song covers caused controversy if they came out too soon after the original recording.
Many of Elvis’ covers came out early in his career, but he would continue to make them throughout his life. His earliest covers include Blue Sade Shoes by Carl Perkins, Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino, Hound Dog by Big Mama Thornton, and The Yellow Rose of Texas by Mitch Miller. Several of these covers would go on to be primarily associated with Elvis.
The songs Elvis covered later in his career were often his take on well-known songs from his contemporary artists. He also used these tracks as a way to explore styles different from what he was most known for. Later covers include Cotton Fields by The Beach Boys, the folk song Danny Boy, Hey Jude by the Beatles, I Walk the Line by Johnny Cash, and Moonlight Sonata by Ludwig Von Beethoven.
There was some controversy in the 1950s regarding cover songs impinging on the sales of the original recording artist. Elvis was mostly able to avoid this issue.
However, it is possible that his recording of Blue Suede Shoes may have interfered with the success of the original recording artist, Carl Perkins. While Perkins recorded his version before Elvis, the King released the track first. That led to Elvis' interpretation overshadowing Perkins’ rendition, and the song became synonymous with the legendary musician.
Could Elvis Presley Read Music?
Potentially contributing to his lack of songwriting was the fact Elvis could not read music. Instead, Elvis picked up music by ear, which also aided his ability to play piano, guitar, and bass guitar. Indeed, using his ear, he also dabbled in other instruments, such as the accordion.
He started playing guitar at a young age after he was given the instrument for his 11th birthday. That guitar soon inspired a life-long love of music. Most of his early music instruction was informal, largely self-taught or received from family and neighbors.
Did Elvis Write Any Songs Of His Own? Final Thoughts
Elvis has many songs. Some are suitable for weddings, some for funerals, some for a good ol' boogie.
So, did Elvis write any songs? The answer is somewhat complicated, with the King being credited as a co-writer on All Shook Up and Love Me Tender. However, the vast majority of songs from his extensive catalog were covers or written by others. The King’s army of songwriters gave the superstar many of his biggest hits including It’s Now or Never and Hound Dog. Try listening to Elvis Presley’s songs and see if you can see which pieces came from which songwriters.