In a Nutshell
named "Hound Dog" the #19 greatest song of all time. That's quite an honor—especially for a song that proclaims, "you ain't never caught a rabbit and you ain't no friend of mine." Let's face it: lyrically, the song isn't brilliant. And musically, it's pretty conventional. "Hound Dog" is built on a typical blues chord progression, with a rock and roll bass line and rhythm, but really, there's nothing especially innovative about it.
So what's the story? Why do people still listen to – still love – this song? Rolling Stone
offers us a clue, suggesting that the song was a kind of "declaration of independence from one generation to its cold rigid elders." Okay, but what sort of rebellion does a modified blues song with nonsensical lyrics really declare? Or, to put it another way, how much "independence" did the song really reflect?
About the Song
||Musician(s)||Elvis Presley (lead vocals, guitar), Scotty Moore (guitar), Bill Black (bass), D.J. Fontana (drums), The Jordanaires (back-up vocals)
|Album||"Don't Be Cruel" (single)|
|Writer(s)||Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller|
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
"Hound Dog" was originally written and recorded as a conventional 12-bar blues song. After some small but significant lyrical and musical changes, it was recorded by Elvis Presley in what Rolling Stone
labeled rock and roll's "declaration of independence." This song, then, is really about the relationship between R&B
and rock and roll
. "Hound Dog" is also a case study in how rock and roll clashed with the social mores of the 1950s
. Read on to decide how much "Hound Dog" actually pushed the envelope, and how much it backed off when the going got tough.
On the Charts
"Hound Dog" reached #1 on the Billboard pop, country and western, and R&B charts. It was released soon after Elvis's first #1 hit, "Heartbreak Hotel."
The song is #19 on Rolling Stone
's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.