Today's a historic day, in case you were wondering. Not only is it the 34th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death, but today will mark the day that the Velvet Elvis, one of the country's top Elvis "emulators," comes to rest as well. In honor of the occasion, we asked the Velvet Elvis himself, Jonny Barber, to list his favorite songs by the King. Turned out to be an arduous task.
"When you first asked me to pick my top five favorite Elvis songs, that was a tall order, to say the least! I honestly didn't think I could narrow it down to just five," says Barber. "When I type the name 'Elvis Presley' into my iTunes search, I get 888 songs -- or 1.6 days of unrepeated King. After almost a full day of listening, I ended up having two lists: My five favorite to listen to, and my five favorite to perform live."
Velvet Elvis at the former site of the Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana, where Elvis performed his last show.
Tonight at 7 p.m., the Velvet Elvis will be put to rest at a funeral service at Barber's Church of Rock and Roll. Barber, who is 42 -- the same age Elvis was when he passed -- told us last week that if he wanted to keep it legit, it was time for him to leave the building. Barber is building an online shrine to the King at TheVelvetElvis.com, and welcomes and encourages anyone and everyone to send over their Elvis/Velvet Elvis stories and pictures.
Click through for the Velvet Elvis's favorite songs to listen to.
5. "Don't Be Cruel"
"Don't Be Cruel" is a perfect song. The arrangement and lyrics are flawless. And the message being conveyed could be the eleventh commandment.
4. "In the Ghetto"
"In the Ghetto" was the first Elvis song I ever heard on the radio as a kid. I didn't know who Elvis was at the time; I was maybe four or five years old. I just remember that whoever was singing that song cared about people and for the welfare of the poor. Colonel Tom Parker always discouraged Elvis from singing any political or controversial songs, yet Elvis insisted on singing it giving him his first Top 10 hit in the U.S. in four years in 1969. And then once I heard Cartman sing it on South Park, I was hooked!!
3. "Bridge Over Troubled Water"
"Bridge Over Troubled Water" was stunning. Paul Simon once said that Elvis's version was the finest he had ever heard of the song that he composed. In Rolling Stone, Simon said that after seeing Elvis on one of his Ed Sullivan appearances, he ran all around New York City in an effort to find a shirt similar to the one Elvis wore on TV. Simon also speaks fondly of taking his son to visit Graceland, even naming his hit record, which later won the 1986 Grammy Award for Album of the Year, after it. Elvis loved to help people in any way he could, and the lyrics of this song really sum up how he felt about that fact.
2. "My Happiness"
"My Happiness" is the first song he ever recorded in a studio, just his voice and his guitar, as a birthday present to his mother (at least that's how legend has it). Asked by Sun Studios receptionist Marion Keisker what kind of singer he was, Presley responded, "I sing all kinds." When she pressed him on whom he sounded like, he repeatedly answered, "I don't sound like nobody." And you can hear it even in his first, very primitive sounding recordings; his voice makes your hair stand up.
1. "Heartbreak Hotel"
His first number-one pop record, "Heartbreak Hotel," topped Billboard's Top 100 chart, became his first million-seller, and was the best-selling single of 1956. It was written by Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton. The lyrics were based on a newspaper article about the suicide of a lonely man who jumped from a hotel window. Elvis was "the loneliest man I ever laid eyes on," I heard a friend of his once say, making this song almost autobiographical. I just don't think there's another song quite like this one. It's haunting.
Click through for a list of the Velvet Elvis's Top 5 favorite Elvis songs to perform live
5. "Suspicious Minds"
The second you start into the killer intro guitar riff, people are shouting with excitement. I haven't met a man alive yet that can't relate to this song. This is a song for the guys. Everyone likes it, but guys understand it best.
4. "Can't Help Falling in Love"
All-time most requested song by women at shows. If you look straight into a woman's eye and croon this song to her with all the requisite emotion, tears are gonna be flowin' -- trust me.
3. "Love Me"
Just a classic in every sense. Treat me however you want, just LOVE ME, baby. I get this requested a lot by the girls.
2. "Milkcow Blues Boogie"
An old Sun record that I like to call "Hillbilly Gangsta Rap," circa 1955. The version I do of this song with Jonny Barber & the Living Deads seriously can start a riot. This is rockabilly at its best!!
1. Trying to Get to You
My voice always seemed to really gel with this song. I love the conviction and determination in the lyrics, that you are going to get to your baby even if you walk for miles and climb mountains. The guitar solo is just a blast to crank up, too.
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