“I call it America, and I love it”

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.” –From The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, July 4, 1776

Cover of America The Beautiful, 1977 single

Cover of America The Beautiful, 1977 single

Not long after Elvis Presley died, my family bought the 45 RPM record single “My Way”/”America The Beautiful.” Though I had listened to Elvis records before this one, this is the earliest one for which I can specifically remember the songs.

We played it over and over, and I always sang along. I was only two or three-years-old, so the lyrics to “My Way” were way over my vocabulary at the time. On that one, I made up sound-alike words on the ones I didn’t understand. “America The Beautiful” was a lot easier for me, and I can even remember visualizing parts of the song.

Oh beautiful,
For spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountains, majesty,
Above the fruited plains,
America, America,
God shed His grace on thee,
And He crowns thy good,
With brotherhood,
From sea to shining sea” –From “America The Beautiful,” Elvis Presley song, 1975 (written by Katharine Lee Bates & Samuel Ward)

I understood most of the words, but being that young, I didn’t really know their meanings in context. I thought all of that “majesty” and “crown thy good” stuff had something to do with Elvis being “the king.”

A few years later, my class was singing the song in elementary school. I was the first one to know all of the words, and I remember thinking it was cool we were singing an Elvis song! It took me a little while to figure out the whole thing.

America The Beautiful, history of Elvis Presley releases

  • December 6, 1975, Live, Las Vegas, Midnight Show: Live In Las Vegas
  • December 13, 1975, Live, Las Vegas, Dinner Show: Dinner At Eight
  • December 13, 1975, Live, Las Vegas, Midnight Show: Single, b/w “My Way”
  • February 8, 1976, Memphis: The Jungle Room Sessions (incomplete)
  • April 22, 1976, Live, Omaha: America
  • July 3, 1976, Live, Fort Worth: Rocking Across Texas
  • July 30, 1976, Live, New Haven: New Haven 76
  • October 18, 1976, Live, Sioux Falls: A Minnesota Moment (bonus song)

[Information source: Elvis In Norway Session Notes]

America The Beautiful, 1977 single

America The Beautiful, 1977 single

* * *

Thanks to Steven over at the Discovering Elvis blog for the scanning tip.