Counting Down Elvis: His 100 Finest Songs - Book Review

Counting Down Elvis: His 100 Finest Songs

Author: Mark Duffett
Genre: Non Fiction - Music/Ent.
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Date Published: February 23, 2018
ISBN-10: 1442248041
ISBN-13: 9781442248045

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Book Review of :  Counting Down Elvis: His 100 Finest Songs


Counting Down Elvis – His 100 Finest Songs by Mark Duffett is a well-researched anthology of Elvis’s songs during his meteoric rise to fame. It is far more than a list of the songs. Duffett provides the genesis of each song, and many of the stories behind the songs were fascinating. One example was the song, “Love Me Tender,” which Duffett rates as the King’s 33rd best song. That song was adapted from a civil war song called. Aura Lee,”  which was credited to George Poulton and William Fosdick in the 1860s. If you Google “Aura Lee” and play the ballad, you will instantly recognize the similarity.   The words were changed for Love Me Tender, but the underlying tune remained.

As a major Elvis fan, I found the history behind the songs very interesting. Duffett provides a lot of relevant history of Elvis’s rise to fame.  One tidbit in the narrative speaks of Elvis’s reluctance to make his stance on controversial issues public. He is quoted as saying, “I’m just sooner keep my own personal views about that to myself cause I’m just an entertainer, and I’d rather not say.” He had no desire to be a Bob Dylan, or a singer of protest songs.

As I read the book, I found myself going to YouTube to check out the songs Duffett references as the inspiration for many of Elvis’s songs. The song, “That’s Alright,” was a cover of Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup song, which he wrote and performed in the 1940s. Elvis’s version mixed country with blues and integrated white and black music. Duffett writes that Elvis’s band was afraid they would invoke the wrath of segregationists by appropriating the black sound into their music.    Duffett rated “That’s All Right,” as Elvis’s number 13 most relevant song.

Duffett talks much about how Elvis was difficult to label politically as a conservative or liberal. He was an individual who was not a follower but made his own decisions of what was right and wrong. Duffett talks about how moved Elvis was when he heard that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis and that he broke down and cried.  The song that Duffett felt encompassed so much of Elvis’s persona was “If I Can Dream.”

If you like music trivia, this is a great book to read. I was constantly surprised by the many revelations about the origination of the songs.  Every song had an interesting story associated with it.  The book also is an excellent history of the music of the fifties, sixties, and seventies.  Many other artists are mentioned in the narrative detailing their relationships with Elvis.  Counting Down Elvis – His 100 Finest Songs is just one great book about the KING.

Reviewed by: David H

About Mark Duffett

Mark Duffett is Reader in media and cultural studies at the University of Chester. He is widely recognized as an expert on popular music and media fandom, a role cemented by the publication of his book Understanding Fandom (2013). He has edited two books and various journal special issues in his research area and published many academic chapters and articles. His expert comments have been featured in Rolling Stone, the New York Times, TalkSport Radio, and on BBC World Service


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