Songcraft: Conversations with Great Songwriters Podcast

Mark James


Ep. 64 - Mark James

Suspicious Minds: Hitmaker for Elvis, Willie & More

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Scott and Paul head over to Mark's home studio in L.A. to get the inside scoop on how he went from playing classical violin to working at the hippest rock studio in Memphis; how he can say "I never wrote a song for Elvis" despite the fact that the King recorded several of his compositions; why he almost went out to the movies instead of joining the co-writing session that produced "Always on My Mind;" how Guardians of the Galaxy gave his career yet another shot of adrenaline; and why he's the only guy at American Studios who didn't get his picture taken with Elvis.

Legendary songwriter Mark James is best known for writing the perennial standards “Always On My Mind” and “Suspicious Minds,” the latter earning induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame and named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the Greatest Songs of All Time. Both compositions were originally hits for Elvis Presley, who recorded additional charting singles by James, including “Moody Blue,” “Raised on Rock,” and “It’s Only Love.” Mark’s initial success came with B.J. Thomas, who hit the charts with his songs “The Eyes of a New York Woman,” “Everybody Loves a Rain Song,” and the Top 5 single “Hooked on a Feeling,” which was revived as a #1 hit by Blue Swede in 1974 and was prominently featured in the 2014 film Guardians of the Galaxy.

Additional hits from the Mark James songbook include Brenda Lee’s Top 10 country single “Sunday Sunrise” and previous Songcraft guest Mac Davis’s Top 10 pop single, “One Hell of a Woman.” Mark found his greatest success with Willie Nelson’s revival of “Always On My Mind” in 1982. The record hit #1 on the country chart, became a Top 5 pop single, won BMI Song of the Year, earned CMA Song of the Year two years in a row, and was awarded a Grammy for both Best Country Song and Song of the Year.

Other artists who’ve recorded Mark’s material include The Box Tops, Percy Sledge, Lou Rawls, Pet Shop Boys, Julio Iglesias, Helen Reddy, Waylon Jennings, Fine Young Cannibals, Dwight Yoakam, Phish, and Martina McBride. In 2000, BMI named Mark one of the top Songwriters of the Century. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2014 and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015.


    

Songcraft's Mark James Playlist: Spotify users can select the song you'd like to hear below, or simply start the player and enjoy a handful of songs written by Mark. If you don't have a Spotify account, follow the prompts to sign up for free. Click this link to take you directly to the playlist in the Spotify web player.