“He always spoke the truth”

On August 28, 1963, civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stands at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, and delivers his famous “I Have A Dream” speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

In Elvis Day By Day, Peter Guralnick and Ernst Jorgensen note, “Dr. King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech is one of Elvis’ favorite rhetorical pieces, something he recites often over the years” (p. 239).

At the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, King is silenced by an assassin’s bullet at the age of 39.

Longtime Elvis friend Jerry Schilling describes the singer’s reaction to King’s death when they see the news:

“I’d heard him recite [King’s] beautiful, hopeful words many times. I looked over at Elvis now and saw that he was staring hard at the TV. There were tears in his eyes. ‘He always spoke the truth,’ he said quietly” (Me And A Guy Named Elvis, p. 187).

Elvis is in Hollywood finishing up his 28th movie, Live A Little, Love A Little, and is devastated that the murder took place in his hometown. He also believes it will confirm “everyone’s worst feelings about the South” (Careless Love, Guralnick, p. 297).

Actress Celeste Yarnall, who had a small role in Live A Little, Love A Little, states that she watched King’s funeral on TV with Elvis and held him in her arms as he cried (The Elvis Encyclopedia, Victor, p. 289).

Only nine weeks later, Senator Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles while running for President. This time, Elvis is in nearby Burbank – less than ten miles away. Rehearsals have begun for his ELVIS television special.

A few days later, W. Earl Brown writes “If I Can Dream” for Elvis to close the show. The song can be interpreted as a tribute to both fallen leaders, particularly King. “If I can dream of a better land, where all my brothers walk hand-in-hand, tell me why can’t my dream come true?” pleads Elvis in the song, echoing King’s 1963 speech.

It is a huge departure for Elvis, who has thus far avoided public commentary on social issues. His manager even tries to nix the song, but in a rare moment of defiance, Elvis insists on recording it.

NBC airs the ELVIS special on December 3, 1968, and it becomes the highest-rated program of the week and one of the most-watched specials of the year. “If I Can Dream” turns out not only to be the perfect song to close the special, but also an appropriate way to reflect on a tragic chapter in American history.


Martin Luther King, Jr., would have turned 84 on January 15. Today, the United States observes this hero’s birthday with a national holiday. His words, his ideas, his dreams live on.

20 reasons to love Elvis after 1972

Elvis rocks the world, 1973

Elvis rocks the world, 1973

If you believe many accounts, exploring the work of Elvis Presley after 1972 is a fruitless journey through five depressing years best left forgotten. While a downward spiral of personal problems certainly affected his music, I cannot agree with the overall sentiment.

Inspired by a recent Elvis Today Blog post, I want to share 20 reasons to love Elvis after 1972.

#1 Promised Land album (recorded 1973)
Any discussion around the greatest albums of Elvis’ career should include Promised Land. Featuring that perfect Elvis blend of rock ‘n’ roll, country, and gospel, this is one of his strongest efforts. Standouts include “Promised Land” – destroying any doubts that Elvis could still rock, “Thinking About You,” “It’s Midnight,” “You Asked Me To,” and the funky “If You Talk In Your Sleep.”

#2 Aloha From Hawaii event (1973)
The magnitude of performing the first worldwide satellite broadcast by an entertainer at times seemed to overwhelm even Elvis, particularly in the first half of the main show. All too easily dismissed by some fans, the overall Aloha From Hawaii event still remains worthy of praise. Beyond the actual television special, there was also a double album that remains a classic representation of the excitement of his 1970s stage show, with standouts including “An American Trilogy,” “A Big Hunk O’ Love,” “I’ll Remember You,” “Fever,” and “What Now My Love.”

The 1988 release of The Alternate Aloha on CD revealed Elvis was much more at ease during the rehearsal/back-up concert. “Burning Love,” despite the fact that Elvis misses some of the words, and “Suspicious Minds” exceed their counterparts on the real show.

Elvis Presley Enterprise’s definitive 2-DVD set Aloha From Hawaii Deluxe Edition (2004) captures both shows in terrific audio and video quality, as well as other footage shot at that time. Though he did not pass away until over four years later, for the mainstream public, Aloha From Hawaii would prove to be Elvis’ last hurrah.

#3 Moody Blue album (1974, 1976-1977)
Moody Blue is an album recorded at Elvis’ home, Graceland, and at Elvis’ second home, on stage in front of his fans. Of the four live numbers, the strongest is a haunting version of “Unchained Melody,” recorded on April 24, 1977, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Many of the Graceland recordings are also stellar, including “Pledging My Love,” “Way Down,” “Moody Blue,” “She Thinks I Still Care,” and “He’ll Have To Go.” As the final album released before his death, Moody Blue allowed Elvis to finish in style.

#4 “Your Love’s Been A Long Time Coming,” Take 10 (1973)
“Your Love’s Been A Long Time Coming,” which expresses a father’s love for a newborn, never stood out to me until I heard this alternate take, first released on 2002’s Today, Tomorrow & Forever boxed set.

#5 Bringing It Back/Pieces Of My Life single (1975)
Much like “Always On My Mind” backed with “Separate Ways” from 1972, 1975’s “Bringing It Back” backed with “Pieces Of My Life” evokes a complete story on one record. Though the music may not have been as groundbreaking, Elvis recorded songs of a much more personal nature in the 1970s compared to other times of his career. It’s not flashy jumpsuits that draw people to this time, but the sheer honesty of the music.

#6 My Way/America The Beautiful single (1977/1975)
“My Way” backed with “America The Beautiful” is the first Elvis record I can specifically remember playing. Recorded just weeks before his death for the Elvis In Concert television special at a show in Rapid City, South Dakota, “My Way” worked effectively as a farewell of sorts, while 1975’s “America The Beautiful,” recorded live in Las Vegas, spoke to his love of the United States and God. Though rock ‘n’ roll is not to be found on it, this record sums up Elvis Presley about as well as any other contender.

#7 “Pledging My Love,” Take 3 (1976)
One of the pleasant surprises of 1997’s Platinum: A Life In Music was take 3 of “Pledging My Love,” recorded at Graceland. Devoid of subsequent production overdubs, this works as a kind of “stripped-down” version.

#8 “Way Down,” Take 2A (1976)
Also from Platinum: A Life In Music, take 2A of “Way Down” is strong for the same reasons as “Pledging My Love” – a stripped-down sound reminiscent of earlier times. The extra band riff near the end is a delight and should have been included on the master.

#9 From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee album (1976)
Recorded at Graceland, From Elvis Presley Boulevard is the saddest album released by Elvis. It is also his most honest. This one gives us a view into the man living in the famous mansion on Elvis Presley Boulevard. Overblown production and all, From Elvis Presley Boulevard is a beautiful and moving album. Highlights include “For The Heart,” “Hurt,” “Never Again,” and “Love Coming Down.”

#10 Good Times album (1973)
Unlike Promised Land, Moody Blue, and From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Good Times is unable to take a spot among the best albums of his career due to a few clunkers that weigh it down. However, “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues,” “Lovin’ Arms,” “I’ve Got A Thing About You, Baby,” and “My Boy” are standouts on this worthy album.

#11 “Where No One Stands Alone,” Live Recording (1977)
Whether we are talking 1953, 1977, or anywhere in between, Elvis Presley was always full of surprises. “Where No One Stands Alone,” released on 2007’s Unchained Melody, is one of his most incredible performances. Accompanying himself on piano, he sings the song on stage for what is apparently the only time. This live version from a February 16, 1977, concert in Montgomery, Alabama, exceeds his 1966 original.

#12 “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues,” Take 7 (1973)
Part of appreciating Elvis involves understanding that he never took himself as seriously as many others do. This broken up take and the resulting jokes after the fact highlight some of his behind-the-scenes humor. First released on Follow That Dream’s 2009 edition of Good Times.

#13 “She Thinks I Still Care,” Take 2B (1976)
“She Thinks I Still Care” is another alternate from the Graceland sessions. Released on 1995’s Walk A Mile In My Shoes, Take 2B takes the song at a brisker pace and works even better than the master.

#14 “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” Home Recording (1973)
Though “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” seemed almost like album-filler on Aloha From Hawaii, Elvis sings a superior version with only himself on acoustic guitar several months later in private. Fortunately, someone rolled a tape recorder. This is a particularly poignant performance when you consider that it takes place only weeks after his divorce from Priscilla is finalized. This one can be found on 2005’s Elvis By The Presleys.

#15 Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis album (1974)
Yes, his third live album in three years had some repetitive material, but “How Great Thou Art,” “Lawdy, Miss Clawdy,” and “My Baby Left Me” help to make this one special, not to mention that it was recorded in Memphis. This version of “How Great Thou Art” earned Elvis his third and final Grammy.

#16 Raised On Rock album (1973)
Raised On Rock receives a lot of criticism, yet contains some strong tracks. Two of the best are “For Ol’ Times Sake” and “Sweet Angeline.”

#17 “I Really Don’t Want To Know,” Live Recording (1977)
Like “My Way,” this one was recorded in Rapid City on June 21, 1977, for the Elvis In Concert special, which aired posthumously. This is a great, though all too short, live version of a song he first recorded in 1970 (Elvis Country).

#18 “Reconsider Baby,” Live Recording (1977)
Elvis could always draw inspiration from the blues, even near the end. Recorded February 21, 1977, this is from the Unchained Melody album. Though Elvis formally recorded the song in 1960 for Elvis Is Back, he was playing around with this one at least as far back as 1956.

#19 “Shake A Hand,” Take 2 (1975)
2002’s 6363 Sunset included this stellar alternate of “Shake A Hand,” recorded at RCA’s Hollywood studio.

#20 “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Live Recording (1977)
On April 29, 1977, in Duluth, Minnesotta, Elvis knocked out a great rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” though, like many 1977 recordings, it can be a painful listen. Featured on Spring Tours 77.

* * *

Elvis never claimed to be anything special. It seems, at times, people tear him down for being a flawed man rather than the perfect god they wrongly imagined him to be.

“I’m not a king, I’m just a man,” he sang in 1971’s “Until It’s Time For You To Go,” as if pleading for understanding. No one listened.

It turns out that our hero was only human, just like us. I think that makes his many accomplishments shine that much brighter.


October 23, 2011, Update:
In the comments, Joe mentioned that he decided to try all of the songs mentioned above as a playlist. I liked his idea, so here’s what I came up with.

  • For The Heart (From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee)
  • You Asked Me To (Promised Land)
  • Bringing It Back (Today)
  • Love Coming Down (From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee)
  • Lovin’ Arms (Good Times)
  • Pledging My Love (Moody Blue)
  • I’ve Got A Thing About You, Baby (Good Times)
  • For Ol’ Times Sake (Raised On Rock)
  • She Thinks I Still Care [Alternate] (Walk A Mile In My Shoes)
  • Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues (Good Times)
  • Burning Love [Live] (The Alternate Aloha)
  • What Now My Love [Live] (Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite)
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water [Live] (Spring Tours 77)
  • A Big Hunk O’ Love [Live] (Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite)
  • Unchained Melody [Live] (Moody Blue)
  • An American Trilogy [Live] (Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite)
  • Promised Land (Promised Land)
  • Never Again (From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee)
  • It’s Midnight (Promised Land)
  • Way Down [Alternate] (A Life In Music)
  • He’ll Have To Go (Moody Blue)
  • If You Talk In Your Sleep (Promised Land)
  • Moody Blue (Moody Blue)
  • Your Love’s Been A Long Time Coming [Alternate] (Today, Tomorrow & Forever)
  • My Boy (Good Times)
  • I’ll Remember You [Live] (Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite)
  • Fever [Live] (Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite)
  • Lawdy, Miss Clawdy [Live] (Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis)
  • Suspicious Minds [Live] (The Alternate Aloha)
  • America The Beautiful [Live] (Elvis Aron Presley)
  • How Great Thou Art [Live] (Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis)
  • Way Down (Moody Blue)
  • Pieces Of My Life (Today)
  • Hurt (From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee)
  • Sweet Angeline (Raised On Rock)
  • Thinking About You (Promised Land)
  • Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues [Outtake] (Good Times [2009 FTD Edition])
  • I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry [Informal] (Elvis By The Presleys)
  • Pledging My Love [Alternate] (A Life In Music)
  • She Thinks I Still Care (Moody Blue)
  • Shake A Hand [Alternate] (6363 Sunset)
  • Reconsider Baby [Live] (Unchained Melody)
  • My Baby Left Me [Live] (Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis)
  • I Really Don’t Want To Know [Live] (Elvis In Concert)
  • Where No One Stands Alone [Live] (Unchained Melody)
  • My Way [Live] (Elvis Aron Presley)