Listen Now: Marshall Chapman Covers Elvis

Hear “Don’t Be Cruel” from the hit songwriter’s Songs I Can’t Live Without, an album that pays tribute to the music that shaped her life

Photo: Neilson Hubbard

Five years ago, Marshall Chapman wasn’t sure she would ever make another record. A longtime Nashville songwriter (and a G&G contributor), she had released thirteen of her own albums and penned songs recorded by Emmylou Harris, Conway Twitty, Joe Cocker, and Jimmy Buffett, among others. But a number of personal traumas had left the prolific songwriter feeling burnt out and talking about retiring from music altogether. 

Fortunately, Chapman did return to the studio—this time for an album of covers that revisits nine tunes that shaped the Spartanburg, South Carolina, native, both as a songwriter and as a music lover. Songs I Can’t Live Without includes songs by Leonard Cohen, Bob Seger, and J.J. Cale, as well as the gospel classic “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands”—the first song Chapman says she remembers singing as a young girl. But the album would be incomplete without something from Elvis, whose music had a profound impact on Chapman from a young age. 

“When he came on, it was like a big bolt of lightning had struck the Carolina Theatre,” she writes in her 2003 memoir, Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller, of the first time she saw the King perform at age 7 in 1956. “Elvis didn’t play long, probably no more than about thirty minutes, but it didn’t matter. I was completely blown away.” For Songs I Can’t Live Without, Chapman shares her take on “Don’t Be Cruel,” blending understated harmonies with a rockabilly bass line that pays homage to the original. 

Hear an exclusive first listen of Chapman’s “Don’t Be Cruel” below. Songs I Can’t Live Without will be released on May 15 and is available for preorder now.

Marshall Chapman · Don’t Be Cruel