40 years ago today, the death of Elvis Presley entered into musical urban legend. America was in mourning for the loss of its first real musical superstar, and conspiracy theories about the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s passing became as much a part of pop culture as the man himself. Thankfully, 40 years later, the mountain of achievement that Presley left behind has easily eclipsed the mystery people continue to impose on his death. History has been more than kind to the King; even today, his songs remain musically superior and far more popular than any renditions from other artists. In other words, no one mistakes an Elvis Presley song as someone else’s.
To commemorate Presley’s passing, Spotify has put together a huge 60-song playlist, entitled This Is: Elvis Presley, featuring his best work from his 20-year career. This includes the perennially influential “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and “Jailhouse Rock”; songs that are less popular but nevertheless relevant, such as “In the Ghetto” and “It’s Now or Never”; and Elvis’s covers of “Unchained Melody” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” among many, many others. Spotify has had his catalog of music for years now, but through curating a playlist specifically for this occasion, they hope to bring Elvis back to the forefront of the music scene—if only for a day—and hopefully remind new listeners of the kind of power the King had.
For those who are new to Elvis Presley and wish to give this playlist a go, it helps to understand what he was selling at the time he became a star. Far more than a musician, Presley practically invented the attitude that continues to be associated with rock ‘n’ roll today, and his status as a sex symbol crossed over into multiple industries—not unlike The Beatles, except that Elvis came first. So when you listen to “Hound Dog” again for the thousandth time, you aren’t meant to just hear it. You’re supposed to feel the sway of his hips, smell the pomade in his air, and see him lock eyes with you from onstage. Elvis Presley makes us understand that music is so much more than what we think it is.