Random Tracks: Elvis Presley’s “Don’t”

With the release of Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, I’m reviewing all of Elvis Presley’s 18 #1 hits on Billboard including 11 that topped pre-Hot 100 charts and 7 that topped the Hot 100 after its 1958 inception.

Elvis Presley- “Don’t”

HIT #1: February 10, 1958

STAYED AT #1: 5 weeks

From a 2022 perspective, it’s amazing to see just how busy Elvis Presley was during his career. Nowadays, artists can pretty much take as much time as they want between music but in the ‘50s, you were expected to crank out music very regularly and quickly. To prove this point, Elvis was once again at #1 in the fall of 1957 with easily his best song “Jailhouse Rock” written by the legendary songwriting team Jerry Lieber & Mike Stoller. During the song’s run at #1, they were back at work eventually coming up with “Don’t” which months later in the winter of 1958 became another #1 hit for Elvis. 

According to Stoller, “Don’t” was a song that came together very quickly as he explains in him and Lieber’s biography. Stoller had played a piano player in Elvis’ Jailhouse Rock movie and while on the set Elvis asked Stoller to write him a “real pretty ballad.” That weekend, Lieber and Stoller banged out “Don’t” with Elvis recording it a few weeks after.

Like many Elvis songs, “Don’t” is a song about being in love. Specifically, “Don’t” is about a girl who has hesitations about her relationship with Elvis attempting to reassure her that he will always be around, “Don’t feel that way/I’m your love and yours I will stay.” Throughout the song, Elvis sings it in his tender crooning baritone that makes you buy what he’s singing. When he sings about not wanting this girl to worry and that he will never leave you, I believe him. Musically, “Don’t” reminds me of a lot of the sparse doo-wop ballads that were popular in the late-‘50s with his usual backing band and the Jordanaires offering an extra layer of comfort in their performance that further support the song’s message. In the world of Elvis songs, “Don’t” is a pretty slight affair but one that works for what it’s going for.

Not long after “Don’t” fell from the #1 spot on March 24th, Elvis would officially enlist in the US Army. To his manager Col. Tom Parker, he saw the Army as a great opportunity to showcase Elvis as a more clean-cut all-American guy after all the outrage he had garnered from older conservatives for his style and performances. But even as he served in West Germany for what would be two years, Col. Parker was smart enough to keep up the supply of movies and hits to ensure that Elvis would not be forgotten. Elvis may have been gone but would continue to be a charting presence while he was away from music.

GRADE: 6/10

BONUS BEATS: There’s apparently a scene where Zoë Kravitz sings “Don’t” on a 2017 episode of the HBO limited series Big Little Lies but video of that scene isn’t available so here’s her full cover of “Don’t” instead:

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