Elvis Voice change

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Elvis Voice change

Post by Igotstung »

Apologies if this topic has been covered already. I have never seen a satisfactory answer to the question. Why and how did Elvis' voice change so much across 24 years of career?

Several artists who have had decades long careers, longer than Elvis in many cases, haven't had this kind of dramatic change. Technical improvement, ability to tackle diverse genres, aging, illness, changing musical styles can only explain some part of it. But he sounds like two different people if we take, for the sake of comparison, 1958 vs 1968. It is just 10 years. And someone who doesn't know his music would genuinely struggle to place these voices under just one person.

As one delves deeper in his discography, every 2- 3 years or so, there is significant change in the voice.

Dixie Locke is quoted as saying that he told her that he wanted to sing all parts of gospel quartets they listened to: tenor, baritone, bass. My half baked speculation is that he changed his voice because he wanted to sing all parts throughout different stages of his career. This does sound like a far fetched theory even to me btw. But the voice change has puzzled me from the beginning to no end.

Please enlighten me ye Elvis experts.



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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by LSP-4445 »

Igotstung wrote:
Mon May 20, 2024 5:08 pm
Apologies if this topic has been covered already. I have never seen a satisfactory answer to the question. Why and how did Elvis' voice change so much across 24 years of career?

Several artists who have had decades long careers, longer than Elvis in many cases, haven't had this kind of dramatic change. Technical improvement, ability to tackle diverse genres, aging, illness, changing musical styles can only explain some part of it. But he sounds like two different people if we take, for the sake of comparison, 1958 vs 1968. It is just 10 years. And someone who doesn't know his music would genuinely struggle to place these voices under just one person.

As one delves deeper in his discography, every 2- 3 years or so, there is significant change in the voice.

Dixie Locke is quoted as saying that he told her that he wanted to sing all parts of gospel quartets they listened to: tenor, baritone, bass. My half baked speculation is that he changed his voice because he wanted to sing all parts throughout different stages of his career. This does sound like a far fetched theory even to me btw. But the voice change has puzzled me from the beginning to no end.

Please enlighten me ye Elvis experts.
IMO=The boring answer from me is that drugs is part of the reason why Elvis`voice changed so much.
Its kinda shocking how much Elvis voice changed from june-september 1970 to march-june 1971….and its definately not for the better.
There Goes My Everything vs He Is My Everything is almost night&day regarding Elvis` voice…..and in just 1 year :(
Again IMO :roll:


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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by Keith Richards, Jr. »

Good topic. I would also like to know the answer. Elvis' voice changed more than any other artist I can think of. I would like to hear Elvis' thoughts about this. It's a shame that Elvis never talked about these things. Not that anyone ever asked him to, I'm just sayin'...


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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by jurasic1968 »

None of the RCA people asked him such a question, as far as I know.




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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by Hwy51s »

Also does anyone have any ideas why he over-pronounced his S's from around 1970 onwards?




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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by brian »

Igotstung wrote:
Mon May 20, 2024 5:08 pm
Apologies if this topic has been covered already. I have never seen a satisfactory answer to the question. Why and how did Elvis' voice change so much across 24 years of career?
I think his voice simply changed naturally with age. With some people that happens. Also Elvis had the ability to make his voice sound differently depending on the type of material that he sang.



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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by dougkapp »

I think Elvis' voice has changed over the years by a natural process. I don't think the drugs had anything to do with it. Note that Elvis' voice was clean.
In Elvis' case, what may have altered his voice in his later years was his overweight.
Kim Carnes had her voice altered by hanging out in bars with a lot of cigarette smoke.



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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by jurasic1968 »

Roy Orbison's voice didn't change during his career.



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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by Rob »

Hwy51s wrote:
Mon May 20, 2024 6:29 pm
Also does anyone have any ideas why he over-pronounced his S's from around 1970 onwards?
He was talking about being called a "Squirrel" a lot on stage in Vegas in 1969. Someone told him that he needed to put more emphasis on his "S's" when he said this. From this point on, he kinda had a complex about it, so he started overdoing it. It made him more confident and it shows. From then on, those "S's" were heard loud and clear.

I never noticed the voice changes so much, but I sure knew when he started emphasizing those "S's."


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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by colonel snow »

Singing technics has to do with breathing. Breathing is the condition from the moment so this explains changing in the voice.


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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by Jaime1234 »

He has a hundred voices, all naturally BORN, but he was also a sort of "ventriloquist", as proven here.



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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by Dan_T »

I've always thought that a lot of the change was deliberate.
I'm glad he didn't always sound the same tbh. The voice he used in Paradise Hawaiin Style was a world away from how he used it in Memphis '69.



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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by bajo »

Me thinks Elvis always wanted to sing "something else"! I call it: The many voices of Elvis!


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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by Chucky99 »

I love all the voices of elvis
He was the most versatile artist ever in my opinion



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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by Igotstung »

I also believe he purposely changed his voice. Why he did that so often is a mystery.
I love the 50s tenor like voice and the 66 onwards deep baritone equally. But they do sound like two different people, something I haven't seen happening with singers who had careers across decades.

Your voice would change from when you are a teenager and an untrained singer to, say, when you are 23 with hundreds of recordings/ live performances. But wouldn't make you sound like a totally different person from 23 to 33.
Weight gain, depression and drugs can explain the strained and weak voice as 70s progressed.
Vocal excercising and technical proficiency post army explains the increased ability overall, but the post 66 voice change is so drastic.



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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by vinelvis »

I think it's a combination of the aforementioned reasons. He just got older, and when one gets older the voice gets naturally deeper. Part of it was a choice, best heard on the Elvis is back album imo, where he can change his voice from raw (reconsider baby) to very soft (are you lonesome tonight) and full (it's now or never). Later in his life, his medicine use made his voice thinner. Also, like Colonel Snow mentioned, breathing is a big part of singing. A very big part. And when your colon is so extended, it pushes your diaphragm into your lungs, you cannot breath properly. Hence the out of breath sounding Elvis with no control over his vibrato in 1976 and 1977. Elvis' vibrato was one of the best in untrained singer world, but once you cannot control the air of your vibrato anymore, all your talents become obsolete.

Slightly off topic: I'm also a Queen fan and Elvis isn't the only person whose voice changed a lot during a small period of time: Freddie's voice also changed a lot. Just listen to nevermore (Queen II), Another one bites the dust (The Game), One year of Love (It's A Kind Of Magic) and These are the days of or lives (Innuendo). All could be sung by different people, but all are sung by Freddie, in only a 17 year time period.



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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by ForeverElvis »

Singing takes a lot of concentration.

His natural singing voice in the 1950’s was something that came naturally.

He practiced his breathing technique in the army years, the result - he was able to tackle many more genres when his voice was at its peak in the early sixties ( this took concentration)

When he was bored with the material and not concentrating his voice changed. When the pills altered his brain his concentration was off. The two together- you get PHS. 1971 etc..


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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by LesterB »

helpfully - it just did and that is part of what makes Elvis so extraordinary.

Drugs impaired Elvis' ability to sing well during the Paradise Hawaiian Style and Clambake session and pretty much throughout 76 and 77 (but of course there were still wow moments). I personally think Elvis sounded amazing in MSG - something that he could not have done in the 50s or 60s but he had totally lost the voice of the 50s and 60s. As groundbreaking as Elvis' voice was at SUN, he couldn't have sung Hard Headed Woman like he did in 58 and the examples go on ....

It's a positive that Elvis' voice changed so much and no doubt his voice in 76 and 77 would have been astonishing if not for the drugs.


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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by T3ddy-be@r »

Elvis had COPD so his breathing would be impaired and to that his colon problem and the drugs it is amazing he could sing at all.


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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by jurasic1968 »

The 1971 recordings of Elvis showed that he had a more restrained and hoarse voice comparing to 1970.



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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by shiatsujake »

Just listen to,You Don't Know Me,and compare the film version to the studio version the following year.Very different vocally.



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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by Scoobie »

we all have different tones in our voices, I myself have a higher pitched "head voice" and a much lower pitched "chest voice". I can sound quite different depending on the tone I want to use. Vocal coaches can teach you how to use the different voices you have. Of course impressionists and mimics know how to change their voice to sound like someone else.I read that Elvis was a good mimic, he had the skills to select the vocal style the wanted to use.



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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by pmp »

I think it's almost impossible to explain away the changes in Elvis's voice. All voices go through change, of course, but you might expect that change to occur every decade or so. For example, Sinatra's voice changed in the early 1950s, and then got a bit harsher in the early 1960s, before changing more drastically during the early 70s retirement. Some voices barely change at all - Neil Sedaka's voice was roughly the same when I saw him live in 2012 and 2017 as on his late 50s hits. Yes, there was some ageing (although not much), but that's not the same as voices changing how they sound beyond that.

With Elvis, there was a change every couple of years. The change between Sun and 1956 RCA Elvis can be mostly explained away by a voice maturing naturally, as well as the different repertoire. But even that 1956 voice was changing by 1958. Again, natural maturing? Possibly/probably. But in 1960, we hear a completely different sound. There are hints of the raw 1958 sound in something like Dirty Dirty Feeling or It Feels so Right, but then it's difficult to explain how less than two years away from the recording studio saw Elvis go from I Got Stung to It's Now or Never. But we know that he was singing at home a great deal during those years - and working on all kinds of things from a Doris Day hit through to gospel numbers and even showtunes. While he didn't have a vocal teacher, it's possible to at least put that period of change down to vocal training, which was essentially what he was doing for himself.

By 1961/2, Elvis seemed to be more interested in the sweeter sounds of his voice. We hear this in the Blue Hawaii soundtrack, and songs like the ballad side of Something for Everybody, and much of Pot Luck. This seems to have been through a change of style and repertoire towards that kind of material. But it's worth remembering that Anything That's Part of You was only three or four years after Trouble.

By 1964/5, we know that Elvis's voice was in quite a poor state. The big question is why. The sweetness had gone, and the control had gone. in 1960, he was singing It's Now or Never, and in 1965 he could barely control his vibrato through the much easier Mirage. Boredom? Possibly, but I don't think that accounts for it completely. Medication? Maybe. Maybe it was just not keeping his voice in shape generally, but we know it improved when he started singing at home again during that period - essentially retraining his voice, just as he did in the late 1950s while in the army. The sweetness still wasn't back, even in 1966 during the HGTA sessions, but it was better than the year before. But it's still easy to note the differences between Indescribably Blue and a song from Blue Hawaii.

1968/9 is the next stop. A time when, it seems to me, that the voice was changed forcibly rather than naturally. I don't buy that the 68 Comeback Special voice was an entirely natural development. It's almost as if Elvis is trying for something - trying to show his commitment - and intentionally producing a rawer sound because of that.

By 1970, we have the 70s voice. Everything that came after that were variations on a theme of what we hear in the June 1970 sessions. I don't think Elvis's voice went through a change after that point - not in the same way as the previous ones. But his voice was affected by his actions, and his life and his state of mind. The poorer voice of May 1971 is almost certainly the effects of a medication of some kind - and boredom, and maybe even stress in his private life. That thinner sound with more vibrato he has at this point is similar to that produced from taking codeine and its variants - and probably other medication/drugs too. It was certainly a temporary blip, as he's back to the 1970 voice in 1972. But the 1971 voice is back for much of 1973. So presumably there's something he's doing or taking that was affecting him. His 1976 voice is probably a reaction to his weight, his medication, and his general health.

But such were all of these changes that all of us here could identify a recording of Elvis in 1972 and 1975, even if they were the same song, with the same arrangement, and same recording conditions. Likewise 1958 and 1960, and 1968 and 1970. And so on. I can't think of another performer where that is the case.


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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by elvis-fan »

IMO the changes in Elvis' voice over the years is one of the most appealing things about him. So many entertainers sound the same throughout their career but for someone who didn't know his music it would be difficult to tell Heartbreak Hotel from 1956 and Suspicious Minds from 1969 are the same singer. Even his early 60's recordings are a far cry from the early 70's. I get a lot of enjoyment out of the variety within Elvis' catalog... even enjoying many of the soundtrack recordings as silly as many of them are. With regard to his voice, Elvis is fairly unique in that respect... of course I'm not familiar with every entertainer throughout history but it seems uncommon to me.
Last edited by elvis-fan on Tue May 21, 2024 8:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Re: Elvis Voice change

Post by LesterB »

pmp wrote:
Tue May 21, 2024 3:41 pm
I think it's almost impossible to explain away the changes in Elvis's voice. All voices go through change, of course, but you might expect that change to occur every decade or so. For example, Sinatra's voice changed in the early 1950s, and then got a bit harsher in the early 1960s, before changing more drastically during the early 70s retirement. Some voices barely change at all - Neil Sedaka's voice was roughly the same when I saw him live in 2012 and 2017 as on his late 50s hits. Yes, there was some ageing (although not much), but that's not the same as voices changing how they sound beyond that.

With Elvis, there was a change every couple of years. The change between Sun and 1956 RCA Elvis can be mostly explained away by a voice maturing naturally, as well as the different repertoire. But even that 1956 voice was changing by 1958. Again, natural maturing? Possibly/probably. But in 1960, we hear a completely different sound. There are hints of the raw 1958 sound in something like Dirty Dirty Feeling or It Feels so Right, but then it's difficult to explain how less than two years away from the recording studio saw Elvis go from I Got Stung to It's Now or Never. But we know that he was singing at home a great deal during those years - and working on all kinds of things from a Doris Day hit through to gospel numbers and even showtunes. While he didn't have a vocal teacher, it's possible to at least put that period of change down to vocal training, which was essentially what he was doing for himself.

By 1961/2, Elvis seemed to be more interested in the sweeter sounds of his voice. We hear this in the Blue Hawaii soundtrack, and songs like the ballad side of Something for Everybody, and much of Pot Luck. This seems to have been through a change of style and repertoire towards that kind of material. But it's worth remembering that Anything That's Part of You was only three or four years after Trouble.

By 1964/5, we know that Elvis's voice was in quite a poor state. The big question is why. The sweetness had gone, and the control had gone. in 1960, he was singing It's Now or Never, and in 1965 he could barely control his vibrato through the much easier Mirage. Boredom? Possibly, but I don't think that accounts for it completely. Medication? Maybe. Maybe it was just not keeping his voice in shape generally, but we know it improved when he started singing at home again during that period - essentially retraining his voice, just as he did in the late 1950s while in the army. The sweetness still wasn't back, even in 1966 during the HGTA sessions, but it was better than the year before. But it's still easy to note the differences between Indescribably Blue and a song from Blue Hawaii.

1968/9 is the next stop. A time when, it seems to me, that the voice was changed forcibly rather than naturally. I don't buy that the 68 Comeback Special voice was an entirely natural development. It's almost as if Elvis is trying for something - trying to show his commitment - and intentionally producing a rawer sound because of that.

By 1970, we have the 70s voice. Everything that came after that were variations on a theme of what we hear in the June 1970 sessions. I don't think Elvis's voice went through a change after that point - not in the same way as the previous ones. But his voice was affected by his actions, and his life and his state of mind. The poorer voice of May 1971 is almost certainly the effects of a medication of some kind - and boredom, and maybe even stress in his private life. That thinner sound with more vibrato he has at this point is similar to that produced from taking codeine and its variants - and probably other medication/drugs too. It was certainly a temporary blip, as he's back to the 1970 voice in 1972. But the 1971 voice is back for much of 1973. So presumably there's something he's doing or taking that was affecting him. His 1976 voice is probably a reaction to his weight, his medication, and his general health.

But such were all of these changes that all of us here could identify a recording of Elvis in 1972 and 1975, even if they were the same song, with the same arrangement, and same recording conditions. Likewise 1958 and 1960, and 1968 and 1970. And so on. I can't think of another performer where that is the case.
Excellent outline - thankyou. Ref 64/ 65 - he sounded pretty good by Girl Happy? He even seems committed on Cross My Heart, Hope To Die


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