Although it's not often though of as such by casual Elvis fans, May 25, 1966 was a pivotal day in the life and career of Elvis Presley, the day where he started to make the changes, however tentative at first, that would redeem him from being a Hollywood joke and restore him to his rightful original place on the throne: if not as rock's most innovative artist, as its living, continuing embodiment. On that day, he began recording his first gospel music in four years -- more importantly, his first non-soundtrack work in four years -- and it reflected both his yearning for spiritual oneness and his desire to return to the Elvis he used to be. Within the next four days, he had recorded an entire gospel album; during that period, he also acknowledged for the first time the advance of rock's new vanguard by covering a Bob Dylan song, "Tomorrow Is A Long Time."
How much of this was profit-motivated, and how much was a reflection of Elvis' own deep inner turmoil, is hard to say. Certainly Presley loved gospel, some claim more than any other music in the world, but the singer had been suffering from an unbelievably long absence from the US Top 10 -- more than two years -- when an old 1960 cover of Sonny Til and the Orioles' "Crying in the Chapel" landed him right back in. And acknowledging Dylan was not just good business, a way to acknowledge that the King understood the times were a changin': it was also a method of getting good, fresh songs to one of rock's greatest interpreter, who until that time had been hampered by the Colonel's publishing deals.
In any event, the small changes that Elvis Presley made in his recording habits in 1966 would constitute the beginnings of an upward spiral, one that would culminate in his '68 "comeback" special, his turn-of-the-decade smashes, and the triumphant return of the King to the stage. He may have gone along with his manager when it came to practically every aspect of his professional and personal life, but Elvis, talented and indifferent as he was, could no longer deny that he had lost himself musically. Which, as for any musician, translates into losing yourself personally. It's no coincidence that 1966 was also the year he finally made good on his promises to Priscilla: after ten years of living every teenager's dream, Elvis was slowly learning what it meant to be a man.