So I’m reading the Jerry Hopkins Elvis biography, the latest edition that has his two Elvis bio’s combined. The first book he wrote before Elvis died and it’s the only biography that I’m aware of that was written while Elvis was alive besides the one book that shall remain unnamed on this blog that may or may not have killed him and was written by his two “good friends” Red & Sonny West as told to a hack gossip columnist. The 2nd book was written after Elvis left us.
But I digress. So I’m reading this biography and really enjoying it although much of what is in it I already know. But it seems when you are in love with the King, you can read the same things from different sources and get a whole different perspective. And Hopkins writes well which helps a lot.
Anyway I encountered a section in the book where the author starts to list all the songs that had been written “about” Elvis. My eyebrows started to raise up and I immediately got a lot more interested because I only ever knew one song that was written about Elvis and that’s the one included here sung by Alannah Myles.
Now folks, I have to be honest here. Up until a few months ago, I didn’t even know this song WAS about Elvis but of course, as soon as I heard that and remembered the words, (which I have memorized because it used to be one of my all time favorite songs) I thumped my forehead as if I was in a V8 commercial because OF COURSE it’s about Elvis! Who else could it be about you stupid twit?!
Yes sometimes I am unusually harsh on myself.
Tonight I thought I’d research this topic a wee bit more and just see, out of curiosity, how many songs were actually credited with being “about” Elvis. Can you guess? Would you think maybe 20 or 30? Does that seem like a lot? How about over 200? That’s right, there are over 200 songs that are credited with being about Elvis! And many more that refer to him in more minor ways.
So I have just created another “series” of Elvis pieces I’m going to be doing on the Songs that were Written about Elvis. Black Velvet of course will start out the series because it’s the one I’m most familiar with as are most of my readers, I’m sure.
Black Velvet was made into a huge hit by 3 time Juno award winning Canadian artist Alannah Myles back in 1989. She was also awarded a Grammy for Best Female Rock Performance for Black Velvet. Written by Canadian musicians David Tyson and Christopher Ward, it became a number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1990 and reached number one on the Album Rock Tracks chart, as well as number one in Canada and number two in the UK Singles Chart. In 1990, country music artist Robin Lee reached number 12 on the U.S. country singles charts with a cover version.
In 1989, you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing it playing and in fact, the song was named the most played song on radio for 1989. Alannah had such a sexy, bluesy voice that was perfect for this song. I never heard the Robin Lee version of it and don’t really need to. Like Elvis himself, the original song by Alannah was such a classic that anything after would seem like cheap karaoke. (I hate karaoke and I hate Elvis impersonators too.)
There are some interesting theories about the Black Velvet title. I prefer to think of it as a very apt description of Elvis’s style, his look and his voice. Something awfully sexy and dangerous about black velvet. However it’s possible that it refers to the Elvis on Black Velvet paintings you can still find in some people’s homes or, and I think this is a pretty cool idea too, it refers to the hair dye Elvis always used which was called “Sullivan’s Black Velvet”.
Either way, black was one of Elvis’s favorite colors so the song title is a perfect fit, no matter the reason. Here then are the lyrics:
Mississippi in the middle of a dry spell
Jimmy Rogers on the Victrola up high
Mama’s dancin’ with baby on her shoulder
The sun is settin’ like molasses in the sky
The boy could sing, knew how to move, everything
Always wanting more, he’d leave you longing for
Black velvet and that little boy’s smile
Black velvet with that slow southern style
A new religion that’ll bring ya to your knees
Black velvet if you please
Up in Memphis the music’s like a heatwave
White lightening, bound to drive you wild
Mama’s baby’s in the heart of every school girl
"Love me tender" leaves ‘em cryin’ in the aisle
The way he moved, it was a sin, so sweet and true
Always wanting more, he’d leave you longing for
Every word of every song that he sang was for you
In a flash he was gone, it happened so soon, what could
I hope you all enjoy this new series I’m beginning here and that you’ll stay tuned for more as I bring you all the songs that were written about Elvis, The King of Rock and Roll.