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Elvis Presley's 'Suspicious Minds'

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One of the many joys about writing for the Wall Street Journal is being given the opportunity to report in depth on rock, pop and soul songs I love. One such song is Elvis Presley's Suspicious Minds. In today's edition of “Personal Journal" (or online here), I interview Mark James, the song's writer, and Chips Moman, the legendary producer who founded American Sound Studio, about the song's origins and evolution.

Suspicious Minds was recorded in January 1969 during the sessions for what would become From Elvis in Memphis, a rock-soul album that is arguable Presley's finest. Though Suspicious Minds did not appear on the album and wasn't released until August 1969 as a single, the recording would turn out to be a major turning point in Presley's career.

Presley hadn't had a No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit since Good Luck Charm in 1962, and by 1968 his star was fading. Rock had changed and so had rock fans. Then came NBC's '68 Comeback Special in December, which rekindled interest in the leather-clad star, who was almost 34 years old. But as electrifying as the show was, it paled in comparison to what was added at the end.

Two months before the show was taped in June 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis, Presley's home town. By December, rather than have Presley sing a  Christmas song at the end of the show, the decision was made to have him sing If I Can Dream—a song that Presley had recorded in June. The lyrics quoted from King's speeches and all but pleaded with the country to calm down and heal.

If I Can Dream had a major impact on Presley and audiences, and the tape remains Presley's most powerful on-camera performance...



Here's Elvis in Hawaii in 1973, singing Suspicious Minds...



And here's Dee Dee Warwick's version from 1971...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.

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