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By Mahnuel Muñoz

If they tell me I can only choose one Elvis song, I’ll choose “Are You Lonesome Tonight?

The song itself is not particularly notable, I think it never was in any version. Its melody is quite simple and the lyrics lack substance. The spoken part is based on a comedy by William Shakespeare, titled “As You Like It”, more specifically on a monologue by one of its characters. This way of giving drama and depth is pretentious and even somewhat ridiculous in our eyes today, but in the first half of the 20th century it was common for popular music to take references from classical culture.

Elvis recorded it in 1960 and maintains all the echoes of the song’s past, including the Shakespearean central parliament…in the days when the world wants to learn to dance the twist…

Elvis Presley in 1960

Furthermore, Elvis arrives in a state of grace from his military service, with an ocean of music inside him; Every song that came out during the sessions in March and April 1960 in Nashville is better than the last: Make Me Know It (!), Stuck On You (!!), It Feels So Right (!!!), The Girl Of My Best Friend (!!!!), Such A Night (!!!!!) And based on exclamations I would be left speechless… So, why do I keep this song?

Of the many facets of the diamond Elvis Presley, I have always felt a predilection for one that was not deservedly developed: the classic balladeer, understood as a traditional melodic vocalist, with a repertoire based on the American Popular Songbook (or American Songbook), among whose timbres more Representatives are Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, who, above all, are great storytellers, enthrallers with tails and orchestra; what they say is always true.

Throughout his career, Elvis added fiber to songs from this canon, “Blue Moon,” “Fools Rush In,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” approaching them with a refreshing spirit, in a way comparable to how he did Frank Sinatra in his extraordinary resurgence in the early 1950s.

Of Elvis’ few but beautiful forays into the American Songbook, the most extraordinary is, without room for discussion, “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” The reason goes beyond rational questions. How crazy. Let’s see if I get where I want to go.

Composed in 1926 by Lou Handman and Roy Turk, the song saw several versions in its first years of life, notably the one made by the Canadian tenor Henry Burr in 1927. Elvis is based on the reading that Blue Barron and his orchestra made in 1950 , with spoken paragraph and everything. In a scene full of symbolism, with the studio lights off, and only supported by his guitar and the voices of the Jordanaires, Elvis abandons his body, his crown, his character, even his own identity, to allow himself to be possessed by the spirits of the old versions of the melody, BE the song, creating an insurmountable reality, that even takes your breath away, in the manner of other “pictorial” songs (“Heartbreak Hotel”, “Harbour Lights”) For me, the moment is like a seance, in which Elvis communicates with his mother. He’s singing to her. It’s little Elvis Aron, not the King of Rock. And reconnecting with the child he was, the singer matures, leaving behind the banalities of adolescent idolatry. There are few moments more real than this performance in the history of music. Because there is nothing more than that. The same simple melody. The same sappy lyrics. The same recitation as in any other would be embarrassing. But there is a magic that leaves one without will, a contained but burning passion, a humility and emotion that is not a mere question of talent…in short, this performance IS ELVIS.

Elvis in 1960

Elvis is at the center of the world in 1960. Everyone is holding their breath to hear what The King of a genre and a generation has to say in the morning of a new era. And he does the only thing he knows how to do. Sing like Elvis Presley.

The witness of the social revolution is already in other hands. Now it is time for him to start building a legacy that will last when rock is only a footnote in history. Making the past future, Presley rescued a small dusty gem, and polished it to bequeath it to the world, converted into a contemporary classic. “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” It will continue to sound in some remote civilization when humans are not even a set of ones and zeros, as a sample of the beauty and the good of our passage. If that is going to be the little that remains of us, we can call ourselves a legend. Yes, all this is a great scenario…

All the world is a stage, and all the men and women are mere actors; They have their entrances and their exits; and a man in his time plays many roles.” (William Shakespeare, “As You Like It”)

Article written and provided by Mahnuel Muñoz

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