In this song, the trust is gone, replaced with a toxic suspicion that is making the couple miserable. The song is sung from the guy's perspective; seems he's been accused of cheating, and his partner doesn't believe a word he says. He turns the tables, telling her that her suspicions are killing him, and asking for a fresh start so they can build their dreams. It's not clear if he's really been unfaithful or if he's been wrongly accused.
"Suspicious Minds" was written by a Memphis singer named Mark James, who also wrote the B.J. Thomas hit "Hooked On A Feeling
." James recorded the original version in 1968, but it went nowhere.
Elvis heard the song at Chips Moman's American Sound Studio in Memphis, where he came to record as a change of pace from Nashville; it was his first time recording in Memphis since 1955. Donna Jean Godchaux, who sang backup on James' original and also on Elvis' recording, told Songfacts
: "Elvis was in the studio at American Sound in Memphis, and our friend Mark James, who wrote 'Suspicious Minds,' had an office there. Elvis walked by Mark's office and Mark was playing the demo that we had done - we had done the background vocals on his version of 'Suspicious Minds.' Elvis walked in and said, 'I want that song and I want those girls.'"
The other backup singers were Jeanie Greene, and the sisters Mary and Ginger Holliday. They also sang on "In The Ghetto
This was a big comeback song for Elvis, who hadn't had a US #1 hit since "Good Luck Charm" in 1962. He had been making a series of unexceptional movies, and his music had lost its luster. "Suspicious Minds" brought him back to #1 in November 1969, and he was off and running, launching a tour in 1970 (his first in nine years) and becoming a star attraction in Las Vegas. It ended up being his last #1 hit in his lifetime, but his releases started charting a lot higher than his mid-'60s output.
Elvis recorded this from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. in the morning on September 23, 1969 during the landmark Memphis sessions that helped Elvis reclaim his title of "The King."
Elvis' publishing company, along with his manager, Col. Tom Parker, tried to get their usual cut of the royalties from this song and threatened to stop the recording if they didn't. But the song's writer, Mark James, held firm, and Elvis insisted on recording the song anyway. Most songwriters gave in to this demand because sharing the publishing on a song Elvis recorded was much more lucrative than not having him record it at all.
Artists to cover this song include Dwight Yoakam, Waylon Jennings, The Heptones, Candi Staton (#31 UK), B.J. Thomas and even The Fine Young Cannibals, whose 1985 version not only hit #8 in the UK, but was bizarrely referenced on the American TV show Psych, when Shawn tells his partner Gus: "Don't be Fine Young Cannibals cover of 'Suspicious Minds.' We're going to find her."
In the UK, Elvis had a hit with this song three times. First in 1969 when it was originally released; then in 2001 when a live version recorded at The International Hotel, Las Vegas, in August 1970 was issued and went to #15; then in 2007 when it was re-issued to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Elvis' death, going to #11.
According to Elvis' good friend Marty Lacker, who convinced him to record in Memphis with Chips Moman, the song's fake ending was a result of tampering by Elvis' longtime producer Felton Jarvis. "When Chips cut 'Suspicious Minds' and mixed it, the fade and bump at the end was not there," Lacker told Goldmine magazine. "In other words, the song fades out and then it bumps up again. It's that part where Elvis is just repeating and repeating the last chorus. In my opinion, it might be good for the stage, a dramatic thing, but it's not good on a record. What happened was Felton Jarvis took the master to Nashville and started fooling with it thinking he could do better. And he couldn't. He should have left it alone. He added background voices. The voices that Chips put on in Memphis, Mary Green and all those people, they're fantastic southern sounding R&B-ish singers. Chips used them on a lot of the hits he had."
Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter first covered this in 1970 and landed at #25 on the country chart. Their version was re-released to promote the 1976 album Wanted! The Outlaws, the first country album certified Platinum, with more than a million records sold. This time, the single peaked at #2 and earned the couple a Grammy nomination for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
Dennis Quaid and Elizabeth Mitchell dance to this in the 2000 sci-fi drama Frequency.
It was also used in these movies:
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Bad Faith (2006)
Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
Lilo & Stitch (2002)
Black Hawk Down (2001)
Honeymoon in Vegas (1992)
Someone to Watch Over Me (1987)
And in these TV shows:
The Sopranos ("The Second Coming" - 2007)
Perfect Strangers ("The 'King' and I" - 1989)
Full House ("Mad Money" - 1988)
This song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
Country singer Morgan Wade covered the song
for the deluxe edition of her debut album, Reckless
. A longtime Elvis obsessive, Wade played "Suspicious Minds" every night during her three-month tour in 2021. People kept asking her if she planned to record it, and her label CEO Randy Goodman told her she needed to lay it down. "A lot of people wanted it, and that is really what this deluxe is," she said to Billboard
. "Giving people that supported the original Reckless
what they want."
Wade and producer Sadler Vaden introduce vocoder "answer" vocals and a baroque choral arrangement for the chorus. "There was just something about 'Suspicious Minds' that I felt we could change it up a little bit and make it our own," Wade said. "I felt like it kind of fits with what I'm doing."
This serves as one of the theme songs that runs throughout the 2022 Baz Luhrmann biopic, Elvis. The movie features versions by Austin Butler, who plays the title role, along with Presley's rendition and a contemporary version by Paravi, an Indian-American singer from Los Angeles.
Luhrmann weighed in on the tune's significance in the film and how he connected Paravi, saying:
"You come to the point in a movie where you've used a theme song in so many different ways. And one of the great themes in this movie is Elvis' 'Suspicious Minds.' I mean, it's used as a song on stage, but it's also used to comment on this relationship between the Colonel and Elvis, when the Colonel is kind of signing Elvis' life away.
But we used it a lot with Elvis' voice, and then we wanted to show right at the end, time passes, and I think we needed a voice from now - a young voice, an unexpected voice. And actually it just came to me, this version was given to me by this young singer called Paravi, and Paravi's voice just seemed so of now and it showed how this song could be totally in the moment and a classic at the same time."