King For A Week
(Taking place Aug. 10–16, Elvis Week is an annual gathering of friends and fans from around the world designed to celebrate the life and career of Elvis Presley. For more information, visit www.elvisweek.com.)
There's an old axiom, mostly true, that we only remember the winners. What does that have to do with Elvis Presley? Well, when it comes to the GRAMMY Awards, some people seem to think the King was forsaken by music's biggest prize. Not so. Elvis earned 14 GRAMMY nominations. And while his three wins were for gospel recordings, those were very highly regarded recordings.
Also weighing in to Elvis' GRAMMY history is the fact that by the GRAMMYs' launch in 1959, Elvis had arguably already produced his most groundbreaking music, most notably all the great Sun Records recordings during which Elvis virtually invented rock and roll. But as we assembled our GRAMMY playlist for Elvis Week, we realized this Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient has a richer GRAMMY history than we'd come to recall, with his own nominations and wins, and those by artists who worked with the King or were influenced by him.
Elvis' GRAMMY Nominations
"A Fool Such As I"
Record Of The Year nominee, 1959
This twangy ballad was up for the big Record Of The Year GRAMMY in the show's second year, though it fell to Bobby Darin's classic "Mack The Knife." The Jordanaires provided backing vocals, and Elvis reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the track, originally a hit for Hank Snow.
"A Big Hunk O' Love"
Best Performance By A "Top 40" Artist; Best Rhythm & Blues Performance nominee, 1959
In this piano-driven rocker, Elvis isn't asking for much, just a big hunk o' love. Nominated in both an R&B category and the "Top 40" category — the latter long since phased out — the double nomination showed the King's versatility.
"Are You Lonesome Tonight?"
Record Of The Year; Best Vocal Performance Single Record Or Track, Male; Best Performance By A Pop Single Artist nominee, 1960
This great Elvis ballad earned three nominations, including Record Of The Year, this time getting aced out by Percy Faith's milestone instrumental "The Theme From A Summer Place." Combined with G.I. Blues (below) Elvis earned five nominations in 1960.
Best Vocal Performance Album, Male; Best Sound Track Album Or Recording Of Original Cast From A Motion Picture Or Television nominee, 1960
G.I. Blues spawned two more nods for Elvis, including one in arguably the longest titled category in GRAMMY history. In retrospect, this is not one of Elvis' landmark recordings, but he was fresh from military service and appetites for new Elvis music were more than whetted.
Best Sound Track Album Or Recording Of Original Cast From A Motion Picture Or Television nominee, 1961
By 1961, Elvis was beginning a string of movie music that was often as trite as the movies themselves. Still, he earned a nomination for Blue Hawaii, though the album may have rightfully lost to the West Side Story soundtrack. Nevertheless, it did contain the classic ballad "Can't Help Falling In Love."
You'll Never Walk Alone
Best Sacred Performance nominee, 1968
By the mid- to late '60s, prior to his Memphis comeback, some of Elvis' most heartfelt recordings were his gospel sides. Always a fan of gospel music, and in his own way a religious man, Elvis would ultimately win three gospel GRAMMYs.
"Softly, As I Leave You"
Best Country Vocal Performance, Male nominee, 1978
Elvis' only posthumous nomination, this track earned a GRAMMY nod about a year and a half after his death, and the title may have been more than ironic. According to Elvis, it's a farewell note from a dying man to his wife. Perhaps this was Elvis' farewell note to his fans.
Elvis' GRAMMY Wins
How Great Thou Art
Best Sacred Performance, 1967
Elvis' second gospel album earned him his first GRAMMY win. Side one features solemn church music, while side two is more rollicking gospel. As with almost everything Elvis ever did, he showed the ambition, and ability, to be many things at once.
"He Touched Me"
Best Inspirational Performance, 1972
With backing from the Imperials, Elvis went for straight gospel with this gorgeous track, and continued to confound those who saw him as shocking in the '50s, and as a Las Vegas parody of himself in the '70s.
"How Great Thou Art"
Best Inspirational Performance (Non-Classical), 1974
By the mid-'70s, Elvis had proved he was one of the more compelling gospel recording artists, even while he was still having pop hits with songs such as "Moody Blue" and "Way Down."
Songs Inspired By, Songs That Mention, And Songs By Those Who Worked With Elvis
"Today, Tomorrow And Forever" (iTunes>)
Ann-Margret, Best New Artist nominee, 1961
OK, this duet didn't earn a nomination, but Ann-Margret was a Best New Artist Of 1961 contender (piano great Peter Nero took the award), and she and Elvis starred together in several movies, including Viva Las Vegas (which featured this tune on the soundtrack), and were reportedly more than just acting partners.
"Sweet Inspiration" (iTunes>)
The Sweet Inspirations, Best Rhythm & Blues Performance By A Duo Or Group nominee, 1968
This vocal group sang backup for Elvis, most notably on his hit "Moody Blue." The gospel-inspired "Sweet Inspiration" features love song lyrics, playing out the eternal struggle between the sacred and the sinful. No doubt Elvis would have approved.
"(Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song" (iTunes>)
Chips Moman, Best Country Song, 1975
The great producer and owner of American Sound Studios in Memphis, Moman produced Elvis' big Memphis comeback, 1969's From Elvis In Memphis. He also co-wrote, with Larry Butler, this huge hit for singer B.J. Thomas.
Elvis' Favorite Gospel Songs
J.D. Sumner And The Stamps Quartet, Best Gospel Performance, Traditional nominee, 1978
J.D. Sumner And The Stamps sang backup for Elvis, and they returned the nod with this tribute of sorts to the King. Sumner has been called "the lowest bass singer in the world" and his vocal on E.'s 1974 hit "Way Down" comes pretty close to proving it when he ends the chorus with a note as deep as the Grand Canyon.
"Lost In The Fifties Tonight (In The Still Of The Night)" (iTunes>)
Ronnie Milsap, Best Country Vocal Performance, Male, 1985
This country giant, who played piano on From Elvis In Memphis, longs for the '50s in this retro hit. Hmmm, just happens to be the decade that gave us Elvis.
Paul Simon, Record Of The Year, 1987
In Paul Simon's now-classic hit, the renowned Elvis museum Graceland is seen as some sort of saving grace, as if the King of Rock and Roll is a true savior. And maybe it's true. Music is, after all, a kind of medicine. The album of the same name also garnered Simon an Album Of The Year win in 1986.
"Walking In Memphis" (iTunes>)
Marc Cohn, Song Of The Year, Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male nominee, 1991
"Saw the ghost of Elvis/On Union Avenue/Followed him up to the gates of Graceland/ Then I watched him walk right through," sings Cohn on this ode to the Bluff City. The song was covered by another pop icon, Cher, who appears to play an Elvis look-alike in her video.
"Goin' Back To Memphis"
Scotty Moore, Best Country Instrumental Performance nominee, 1997
Moore was the guitarist on Elvis' Sun recordings and, as such, arguably invented rock and roll guitar playing. This instrumental is a nod to the great city and era that gave rise to Elvis and rock.
How are you going to celebrate Elvis Week? Leave us a comment and tell us your favorite Elvis memory.