Elvis Presley died in 1977 and left behind him a legacy that wasn’t and never will be parallelled. Dubbed the ‘King of Rock and Roll’, he is credited for popularising the blues orientated pop music of the 1950s that would go on to be named rock ‘n’ roll. The King was a talented musician and had a voice like no other. On stage, he presented unbridled charisma as he trailblazed his iconic “weak at the knees” dancing style while delivering classic early hits like ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ and ‘Hound Dog’.
Presley essentially provided the soundtrack for the baby boomer generation while he became the biggest star on the planet, but was he given too much credit? The star recorded over 600 songs throughout his three decades as a recording artist, but he may not have written a single word. While it’s impossible to confirm exactly how much of a hand Presley had in writing his hits, it’s understood that he was always paired with accomplished songwriters to help him create his material. His label demanded that Presley’s songwriters give up 50% of the credit for any song they wrote before he would agree to record them.
Presley worked his way through a host of esteemed songwriters throughout his career, giving his work a healthy eclecticism. There was a marked change in Presley’s work between his 1950s period of initial stardom and his late 1960-70s comeback period. In 1958, Presley was drafted into the US Army, cutting his career off temporarily. Following his two year stint in the military, Presley mainly stuck to his ambitions of being a Hollywood film star barring a handful of musical endeavours in the early 1960s.
When he made his triumphant return to music in 1968, he was born again as a jumpsuit-clad pop star. During this latter stage in Presley’s career, he was paired with songwriter Mac Davis, who wrote some of Presley’s most cherished hits, including ‘A Little Less Conversation’, ‘Don’t Cry Daddy’, ‘In the Ghetto’, and ‘Memories’.
Davis, who died in 2020, aged 78, also penned songs for the likes of Avicii, Weezer, and Keith Urban. Davis was also noted for contributing to one of Bruno Mars’ hit tracks. In a 2017 interview with Songwriter Universe, Davis detailed how he became involved with Mars.
“Through [record executive Neil Jacobson], I met Jeff Bhasker, who is one of the best producers in the country,” Davis revealed. “I asked him one day if he wanted to play golf, and he said, ‘No man, I’m in the studio writing with Bruno.’ And I said, ‘Really. I’d like to be a fly on the wall.’ And Jeff says, ‘Well, come on over.’”
Davis then revealed what happened during the session. “And so I went over there, and I got introduced to everybody,” he said. “It was pretty crowded in there, but they were looking for a rhyme for the hook, and a line just popped out.”
Davis came up with part of the chorus of Mars’ 2012 hit ‘Young Girls’. “‘All you young wild girls, you make a mess of me, all you young wild girls, you’ll be the death of me,’” he sang. “Well, that was my contribution to the record, and so I ended up with part of the songwriting credit.”
David explained that he thought it was “wild” that he had written for Mars and Presley – quite the lifetime achievement.