Elvis Presley’s Best-Selling Song Inspired Barry White to Become a Singer

Elvis Presley’s music inspired numerous musicians — including musicians who worked in other genres. For example, disco and funk singer Barry White credited one of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s No. 1 hits for inspiring him to pursue a career in music. Here’s a look at how an Italian song inspired Elvis’ biggest-selling single.

Elvis Presley | Joe Corrigan/Getty Images

This Elvis Presley hit was a rewrite of an old Italian ballad

Firstly, some background. It all starts with an Italian ballad. “O Sole Mio” is an Italian folk song with an infectious melody. According to The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits, it was repeatedly adapted into English-language songs. One of these songs was a hit by Tony Martin called “There’s No Tomorrow.” Another one of these songs was by the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Songwriters Aaron Schroeder and Wally Gold re-wrote it for Elvis with English lyrics. The resulting song was “It’s Now or Never.” While “Don’t Be Cruel” was once Elvis’ favorite of his own songs, “It’s Now or Never” took its place. The public embraced the song as well. It sold more copies than any of his other singles and became the fastest-selling single in the history of Great Britain. It reached No. 1 in the United Kingdom for eight weeks, becoming his longest-running No. 1 hit there. In addition, “It’s Now or Never” reached No. 1 in the United States and was played on a lot of easy-listening stations which previously shunned Elvis’ music.

“O Sole Mio”

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How Elvis Presley’s ‘It’s Now or Never’ inspired Barry White in jail

So how does White factor into all this? According to The Independent, White said he and his brother were a “gang” during their teenage years. “We were a two-man gang, respected and feared,” he recalled. “For years we ran and ruled the streets of our neighborhood,”

At 16, White went to jail for stealing tires. “In jail, I heard ‘It’s Now or Never’ by Elvis Presley – it was an awakening, like somebody hitting me with a baseball bat right in the face,” he said. “When I got out, I swore to myself: never again.” The Guardian reports “It’s Now or Never” made him decide to pursue a musical career. He worked with a band called The Upfronts before starting a solo career.

“It’s Now or Never”

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How the world reacted to Barry White

White made the right decision, commercially speaking. Six of his singles reached the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100: “It’s Ecstasy When You’re Next to Me,” “Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up,” “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby,” “You’re The First, The Last, My Everything,” “What Am I Gonna Do With You,” and “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe.” The latter song became White’s only No. 1 hit. White made it to the top — and Elvis inspired him to try.