A lot of people may not associate Elvis Presley with gospel music, but he wrote over 50 gospel songs. There have been many documentaries made regarding Elvis Presley's love of gospel music. He started out in music by singing at a tiny church in Memphis. Also, he is a member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
He Touched Me: The Gospel Music of Elvis Presley Volumes 1 and 2 feature over 30 of Elvis' gospel recordings. It also contains stories from some of the people that knew him best. He was heavily influenced by two of the top southern gospel music quartets, "The Blackwood Brothers" and "The Statesmen." Also, Presley had a lifelong bond with gospel legend J.D. Sumner.
Presley once said, "Since I was two years old, all I knew was gospel music. That music became such a part of my life it was as natural as dancing. A way to escape from the problems. And my way of release." As a kid, Presley's favorite singer was southern gospel singer Jake Hess. He is also said to be one of Presley's greatest influences to his unique style.
There was entire book written about the gospel music of Elvis. It is titled "The Gospel Side of Elvis," and was written by Joe Moscheo. This is a really nice book written from a great perspective. Moscheo played piano in some songs for Elvis' recordings in the studio. He also sang at Presley's funeral, giving this book a unique and interesting perspective. There have been many other books and documentaries released analyzing Elvis' gospel music career.
Although once he became famous, record executives imposed their will on him and he began writing hits like "Jailhouse Rock" and "Hound Dog," Elvis never lost his love for the southern gospel music that he was raised on. Songs like "Jailhouse Rock" and Hound Dog" raised him to the status of musical icon, but gospel music was his first love.
Elvis was especially found of black gospel music. Another huge influence on Presley's music was Sister Rosetta Tharpe. As a boy Elvis would rush home every day after school just to listen to her and other black gospel singers on a special show that featured it on the radio. Tharpe and Presley had something in common in that they both controversially blended styles of music. Presley blended country music with rhythm and blues, while Tharpe mixed black spirituals with big band jazz.
At many of his concerts Elvis would use gospel groups as his backup singers. These gospel groups would travel with him while he was on tour. Elvis would use gospel music to relax. It was also very common to see him listening to it to prepare for a show.
While it is very well-known that Elvis did listen to gospel music and even made gospel songs, many do not fully understand the extent of the impact that gospel music made on Elvis' career. The impact the gospel had on him was not just limited to music. It has often been said that most of the literature Elvis carried was religous-based and that he never went on tour without the Bible. Few understand the important of faith in the life of Elvis Presley.