Proof, if need be that the great French singer Jacques Brel was right when he famously declared “My problem with critics is just that. They critique, I create. We have nothing in common”.

In 1956 after Presley’s controversial rendition of “Hound Dog” on the Milton Berle show, Jack Gould of The New York Times wrote: “Mr. Presley has no discernible singing ability. … His phrasing, if it can be called that, consists of the stereotyped variations that go with a beginner’s aria in a bathtub. … His one specialty is an accented movement of the body … primarily identified with the repertoire of the blond bombshells of the burlesque runway”. 

In 2004, Henry Pleasants Music critic for Opera Quarterly observed that “Elvis Presley has been described variously as both a baritone and a tenor which is a truly extraordinary compass” … He, himself, identifies Presley as a high baritone, calculating his range as two octaves and a third, “From the baritone low G to the tenor high B, with an upward extension in falsetto to at least a D-flat. Presley’s best octave is in the middle, D-flat to D-flat, granting an extra full step up or down.”In Pleasants’ view, his voice was “variable and unpredictable” at the bottom, “often brilliant” at the top, with the capacity for “full-voiced high Gs that any opera baritone might envy“. In addition, Presley was always “able to duplicate the open, hoarse, ecstatic, screaming, shouting, wailing, reckless sound of the black rhythm-and-blues and gospel singers,” writes Pleasants.

Harvard University music Scholar Lindsay Waters, figures that Presley’s range as two and a quarter octaves but emphasizes that more important than his range, “his voice had an emotional range from tender whispers to sighs down to shouts, grunts, grumbles and sheer gruffness that could move the listener from calmness and surrender, to fear. His voice cannot be measured in octaves, but in decibels and even that misses the problem of how to measure delicate whispers that are hardly audible at all. That is a rare gift among singers and makes his voice truly unique in the history of American music


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