The Gospel According to Elvis

BY: Cecile S. Holmes


(RNS) The multilayered Pentecostal faith of his childhood still seems to shape Elvis Presley's music even decades after his death.

The Mississippi-born singer loved famous hymns, including "Amazing Grace," "In the Garden," "He Is My Everything" and "How Great Thou Art," as much as he loved peanut butter. Now, a new five-CD release uncovers the soulful side of this rock 'n' roll legend.

Scholars from the Deep South to the Far West have wrestled with the Elvis phenomenon, exploring his complicated personality, his love-hate relationship with his roots and his unparalleled celebrity in the years since his death.

Despite the success of his rock music and his movies, Presley received coveted Grammy awards only for his gospel recordings and live performances. The best of that music will be released in March in Christian bookstores and retail shops through Provident Music Distribution and RCA. The set offers 56 recordings, many of them rare.

Many baby boomers remember being -- or watching -- the screaming teenagers who flocked to Presley's concerts. Social historians recall the dismayed parents who blasted his onstage gyrations. But Presley had another side, steeped in the decisive rhythms of Southern religious music. Your spine may tingle just a little when you hear Presley croon "I Have Confidence" or belt out "I'm Gonna Walk Dem Golden Stairs." His is the voice of a man sometimes undone by belief.

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