Inside the Dirty Business of Hit Songwriting

Telekhovskyi/Adobe Stock

(via Variety) by Jem Aswad

Sixty-four years ago, as Elvis Presley’s career reached its supernova stage, the 21-year-old singer’s team hit on a strategy that enabled him to profit from songwriting without actually writing songs. His management and music publisher had added Presley’s name to the credits on a couple of his early hits, but the singer wasn’t comfortable with the practice and frequently told interviewers that he had “never written a song in my life.” Instead, as recounted in Peter Guralnick’s authoritative biography “Last Train to Memphis,” his team set up an arrangement whereby the King skipped the credit but received one-third of the songwriting royalties for each song he released, no matter who wrote it. (This arrangement was confirmed to Variety by an industry source familiar with the catalog.)

According to Dolly Parton, the policy not only was still in practice nearly two decades later, but the King’s ransom had gotten even bigger. Presley was going to cover Parton’s 1974 hit “I Will Always Love You,” which is now one of the top-selling and most-performed songs of all time, largely thanks to Whitney Houston’s epochal 1992 cover.

“I was so excited, Elvis wanted to meet me and all that,” she recalled in a September 2020 interview on the “Living & Learning With Reba McEntire” podcast. “And the night before the session, Colonel Tom [Parker, Presley’s longtime manager] called me and said, ‘You know, we don’t record anything with Elvis unless we have at least half the publishing.’ I said, ‘I can’t do that.’ And he said, ‘Well, then we can’t do it.’ And I cried all night, ‘cause I’d just pictured Elvis singing it. I know it wasn’t [his decision], but it’s true. I said ‘no.’”

Read more: Inside the Dirty Business of Hit Songwriting – Variety

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: