What could Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley possibly have in common?
There are actually several things – the first being two Bob Dylan songs that The King of Rock and Roll officially recorded.
Since Elvis Presley was not a songwriter, he was always on the lookout for a good song to sing. He rose to worldwide fame in the 1950s hailed as The King of Rock and Roll as a result of having an uncanny ability to select the right songs to record that shot to the top of the charts.
So it’s not surprising that Presley was astute enough to cover songs by Bob Dylan and The Beatles, a band who as John Lennon explained would not exist without Elvis.
And it wasn’t just The Beatles that looked up to Presley. It may sound far-fetched, but Elvis was a huge influence on Bob Dylan. As a teenager growing up in Hibbing, Minnesota, Dylan idolized Elvis. He played in several rock and roll bands during high school and afterwards, but none of his groups ever seemed to stay together.
Dylan realized early on that if he wanted to make it in the music business, his best chance would be to go out on his own. In just a few short years, Dylan made a name for himself in the folk music genre. A great result of Dylan’s success was when his idol Elvis Presley officially recorded two of his songs. Click here to listen to the two Dylan songs officially recorded by Elvis.
In addition to the songs they had in common, Dylan and Presley shared something much more significant. When doing research for my book, Elvis: Behind The Legend, I came to the surprising conclusion that Dylan and Presley were extremely similar in one important aspect – they both experienced a frustrating inner turmoil about the direction of their music.
The reason I wrote the book on Elvis was to delve beneath the image of “The King” and to help people understand what motivated Elvis and combat why he may be misunderstood. Looking back at the musical journeys of both Dylan and Presley, I realized that music fans often overlook the origins of how Dylan and Presley rose to fame and the stereotypes that were subsequently thrust upon them.
Both Dylan and Presley struggled with a “ghost of ‘lectricity”, the musical image forever assigned to them by popular culture.
Read more in Chapter 22 of the book ELVIS: Behind The Legend: Startling Truths About The King of Rock and Roll’s Life, Loves, Films and Music called “Kindred Spirits: Bob Dylan and Elvis.”
[Note: An exclusive excerpt was also featured in Issue 3 of Dylan Magazine.]