Uke Tunes

Uke-ifying my favourite songs


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Elvis Presley Songbook

I could write pages about today’s post. But it’s probably fair to say that it wouldn’t add anything to the millions upon millions of words that have already been written about this man. So I’m going to keep this one short.

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It’s probably fair to say that without Elvis, popular music would not be what it is today. The combination of rhythm and blues, boogie woogie, country and gospel that he stumbled on in the mid-50s set a trajectory for music that we are still living with today. And he was the template for the musical superstar, so many of whom would follow in his footsteps and shadow. And obviously that was a significant contributor to his untimely death, another tragic precedent that Elvis set for the tortured star.

At the same time, it’s also fair to say that, to a certain extent, Elvis was in the right place at the right time. Yes, clearly he had talent, and certainly a great deal of charisma. But the timing was right, the circumstances were right, and Elvis benefited from that. There will never be another Elvis, in the same way there will never be another Beatles, because it’s not just about the talent – it’s about a combination of circumstances, in particularly the cultural and societal expectations and climate, that made these artists the huge stars that they became.

But artists like Elvis are nothing without the songs. And what a legacy of song he left behind. Despite one or two credits, Elvis wasn’t really a songwriter. But the songs that he chose, or had chosen for him, includes a ridiculous number of stone-cold classics. Even songs that had been written for, and recorded by, others, Elvis took and made them his own. That, I guess, is the hallmark of a true talent, a true star.

The number of songs Elvis sung and recorded has been estimated in the 700-1000 range, so how do you cut that down to 19 songs (that’s the number in this songbook). Well, to be honest, it was all down to personal taste. This is a selection of Elvis songs that (a) I love, and (b) I think are familiar to others (the plan is to use this for a future ukulele artist evening). So you can blame me if your favourites are missing! Here’s the list of songs included:

  • All Shook Up
  • Always On My Mind
  • Blue Suede Shoes
  • Burning Love
  • Can’t Help Falling In Love
  • Don’t Be Cruel
  • Heartbreak Hotel
  • (Marie’s The Name Of) His Latest Flame
  • Hound Dog
  • I Just Can’t Help Believing
  • In The Ghetto
  • Jailhouse Rock
  • A Little Less Conversation
  • Return To Sender
  • Suspicious Minds
  • (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear
  • That’s All Right
  • Viva Las Vegas
  • Way Down

I won’t say too much about the songs or the songsheets themselves. For the most part these are simple songs, a good number of 3 or 4 chord songs, and they are songs that *everyone* knows. Sometimes the rhythms may be a little challenging, but for the most part these are the same key as the originals, so you can play along and get the hang of them. The most important thing is to enjoy them, so sing them loud!

<Full Album Songbook>

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Help Me Make It Through The Night – Kris Kristofferson

KrisKristofferson<song sheet>

One of the marks of a good song must surely be the number and variety of cover versions. If that is the case then Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night” must by rights be judged a good, if not great, song. From it’s humble roots as a country ballad on his debut album in 1970 (an album that incidentally included at least another three classics – Me and Bobby McGee, For the Good Times and Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down) the song has established a life of its own and could rightly be considered a standard.

Popularised in the US by Sammi Smith, within months it was being covered by the likes of Elvis Presley, and soon was the subject of sultry soul interpretations (Gladys Knight), reggae (John Holt) and moody suaveness (who else but Bryan Ferry). And that’s before you include the countless country versions (Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash). Somewhat bizarrely (given the subject matter) it as also performed by child sensation Lena Zavaroni at the age of 10!

A song of yearning for sexual intimacy, needing comfort, succour and relief, it has been popular with both male and female singers alike, the latter being the source of some controversy in the somewhat conservative echelons of the early 1970s country music establishment (the past truly was a different country).

So here’s the songsheet. Nothing tricky, nothing clever. Just a good song sung straight. This is in the same key as the Kris Kristofferson version above, but feel free to adapt for your reggae / soul / thrash metal version, as you see fit. Enjoy!

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