All Hail the King

Hard Headed Woman – Elvis Presley from King Creole Soundtrack

Thought it would be fitting on the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death to write a little about one of his songs.  I didn’t pick some of the more obvious choices, and don’t get me wrong, Elvis has a ton of excellent songs.  This one was the last of a crazy string of 11 straight number one singles on the U.S. pop charts from 1956 to 1958.

The song was written by African-American Claude Demetrius, who had previously written for the likes of Louis Armstrong and B.B. King.  There’s definitely some jazz and blues influences in the music.  A trombone and horns play prominent parts in the song and give the song a swing vibe.  At the same time, the rockabilly style that Elvis helped to pioneer is equally prominent.  A sharp drumbeat and twangy guitar present in songs like Jailhouse Rock and Hound Dog is repeated here.  Elvis pauses for a snappy guitar solo early on and later cedes the floor for another guitar solo that merges with those horns and drums for a breakdown that sounds like something that would come flowing out of a New Orleans jazz club on a Saturday night.

Of course, this is Elvis, so his voice and attitude are the stars.  And rightly so.  He’s not in his crooner mode here, he’s swaggering his way through the lyrics punctuated with “oh yeahs” and grunts.  And given the subject matter, that’s the right approach.  As the title suggests, this isn’t something Gloria Steinem is going to go around humming.  “Oh yeah, ever since the world began/a hard headed woman been a thorn in the side of man.”  The verses go to the Bible to back up this, first Adam and Eve, then Samson and Delilah (best line of the song is when Elvis sings of Samson telling Delilah to “keep your cotton pickin’ fingers out my curly hair.”  Who knew Samson grew up in Georgia?).  Ok, so the lyrics seem a bit quaint and out-dated 50-some years later, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that Elvis nailed it all those years ago.

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