About the song

A King Returns to his Roots: Elvis Presley’s “Baby, What You Want Me To Do”

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Ah, Elvis Presley. The name itself conjures images of electrifying performances, swiveling hips, and a charismatic grin that captivated the world. But beneath the glitz and glamour of his later years, there simmered a deep well of musical inspiration – the blues. This wellspring would occasionally bubble over, reminding us of the raw talent and genre-bending spirit that launched him into superstardom.

“Baby, What You Want Me To Do” stands as a prime example of this. Originally written and recorded by blues legend Jimmy Reed in 1959, the song found new life in Presley’s hands in 1968. This wasn’t just a cover; it was a heartfelt homage, a return to the R&B and blues that fueled his early sound.

The context surrounding this particular rendition is equally significant. It came about during Presley’s legendary ’68 Comeback Special, a television program that marked a turning point in his career. After a period of formulaic Hollywood films and soundtrack recordings, the special presented a stripped-down, raw Elvis, reconnecting with his musical roots and reminding audiences of his electrifying talent.

“Baby, What You Want Me To Do” perfectly encapsulates this raw energy. The song opens with a simple, driving guitar riff, setting the stage for Presley’s impassioned vocals. He inhabits the lyrics, pleading and cajoling his lover with a desperation that feels genuine. The call-and-response format, a staple of blues music, adds a layer of urgency and dialogue, further drawing the listener into the emotional tension.

However, it’s important to acknowledge that Presley wasn’t simply mimicking Reed’s style. He infuses the song with his own swagger and charisma. The soulful inflections in his voice, the way he stretches and bends certain notes, all bear the unmistakable mark of “The King.” The band, too, deserves recognition. Tight and responsive, they lock into a groove that perfectly complements Presley’s delivery.

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The significance of “Baby, What You Want Me To Do” goes beyond its musical merits. It served as a powerful reminder of Presley’s artistic depth and versatility. At a time when his career seemed to be on autopilot, this song, along with the entire Comeback Special, rekindled the fire that had made him a star. It was a declaration – a return to his musical roots and a promise of exciting things to come.

So, as you listen to “Baby, What You Want Me To Do,” don’t just hear a catchy song. Hear a legend reconnecting with his past, a glimpse of the raw talent that captivated a generation, and a testament to the enduring power of the blues.

Video

Lyrics

“Baby, What You Want Me To Do”
(from “Elvis (NBC TV Special)” soundtrack)

We’re goin’ up, we’re goin’ down
We’re goin’ up, down down up
Any way you wanna let it roll
Yeah, yeah, yeah
You got me doin’ what you want me
Oh baby what you want me to do

You got me peepin’ you got me hidin’
You got me peep hide hide peep
Any way you wanna let it roll
Yeah yeah yeah
You got me doin’ what you want me
Baby what you want me to do