Elvis Presley's Intensity Caused Even His Backup Singers To Have Tears Running Down Their Cheeks
Elvis Presley was a performer who helped to define his era. He's what you might call a generational talent. Elvis helped to make rock and roll mainstream. He introduced soul singing and rhythm and blues to white audiences at a time when it was considered to be an underground, fringe genre.
After he first appeared on the scene in the 50s though, it seemed as if his career would slowly fade into obscurity during the 60s, as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones suddenly became the hottest acts in town. But Elvis launched a spectacular comeback in 1968 and surprised the world with a performance that was more intense than anything that had come before.
The music industry can really be divided into before Elvis and after Elvis. He was that big and famous. But even he went through ups and downs in his career. At one point, in 1968, he felt like he had to relaunch his career with a televised comeback special. Elvis was a very seasoned performer at that time. However, he knew that there was a lot riding on the special. For a big star who rarely had stage fright, he was very nervous. Even his drummer, D.J. Fontana, noticed it at the time, as quoted by Rolling Stone:
"Elvis was hardly ever nervous – but he was then ... We played a couple of songs, and it got loose after a while, and it turned out fine. He just had been out of the public eye for a long time."
Another issue was the tumult at the time. 1967 and 1968 were difficult years for American culture. The nation had been shaken by riots related to institutionalized racism. Martin Luther King had been killed in April of that year, and Bobby Kennedy in June. Elvis' special aired only a few months after Kennedy's death.
One thing was clear: Elvis wanted to make a statement to help heal the nation, and with his emotional performance of "If I Can Dream," he did.
In the song, Elvis sings about brotherhood, walking together, coming together. His performance is so intense and heartfelt, that even his band felt it. The song's writer, Walter Earl Brown, is quoted as saying that when Elvis recorded the song, Brown saw tears rolling down the cheeks of the backing vocalists. One of them said to him:
"Elvis has never sung with so much emotion before. Looks like he means every word."
Elvis had a tremendous gift, and he wanted to use it for good. This song from the special is such a testament to his singing skills and his big heart.
What are some of your favorite inspirational moments in music? How did they impact the culture or your life? Let us know in the comments and be sure to pass this article along to others!