About The Song

Origins (1956):

  • Written by Otis Blackwell, a prolific songwriter who penned many early rock and roll hits.
  • Originally offered to other artists but not picked up.
  • Elvis Presley’s publishers recognized the song’s potential and presented it to him.
  • Interestingly, Blackwell wasn’t initially given songwriting credit, but later received a co-writing credit and royalties.

Recording and Release (1956):

  • Recorded in New York City during an early session for Elvis.
  • Released as the B-side to his single “Hound Dog” in July 1956.
  • Surprisingly, “Don’t Be Cruel” quickly eclipsed “Hound Dog” in popularity, topping the Billboard charts for eleven weeks.

Musical Style:

  • Upbeat rock and roll with a driving rhythm section and prominent piano features.
  • Elvis’s vocals showcase a playful yet pleading tone, perfectly capturing the song’s sentiment.
  • The simple yet effective lyrics with the repeated phrase “don’t be cruel” became instantly recognizable.

Impact and Legacy:

  • “Don’t Be Cruel” became a major hit, solidifying Elvis Presley’s status as a rock and roll icon.
  • The song’s suggestive lyrics and Elvis’s performance style caused controversy, but also fueled its popularity among teenagers.
  • It remains a timeless classic, covered by numerous artists and featured in countless movies and TV shows.