Our host of Song Lyric Sunday, Jim Adams, has prompted us with ‘Colors’ this week. I found so many songs using colors in the title, let alone the lyrics, that it was hard to decide on which one to go with. I settled for one I am particularly fond of called “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles. It’s fantastic song and I’m sure you’ll know it.
Have a great Sunday!
This song is about Elvis Presley. Some lyric analysis:
“Jimmie Rodgers on the Victrola up high” – Jimmie Rodgers, a country music pioneer from Elvis’ home state of Mississippi, influencing Elvis (the baby) at an early age. The Victrola is the record player, played loudly.
“Mama’s dancin’ with baby on her shoulder” – Gladys Presley dancing with the infant Elvis.
“Black velvet and that little boy’s smile” – You can buy a black velvet Elvis painting at any respectable yard sale. Early female fans were drawn to his “Little boy smile.”
“Black velvet with that slow southern style” – Elvis delivered some of his songs with slow, undulating hips. Check out “Steamroller Blues” live.
“Up in Memphis the music’s like a heatwave” – Sun Studios. The epicenter of early rock music and where Elvis recorded.
“White lightning, bound to drive you wild” – rock music and booze.
“Mama’s baby’s in the heart of every school girl” – A reference to the baby in the early part of the song, being loved by all the young girls.
“Love Me Tender leaves ’em cryin’ in the aisle” – Love Me Tender was a huge hit for Elvis in 1956.
“The way he moved, it was a sin, so sweet and true” – Elvis’ legendary hips swivel, the Pelvis.
“Every word of every song that he sang was for you. In a flash he was gone, it happened so soon, what could you do?” – Elvis died suddenly in 1977.
This was a Canadian production: The song was written by the Canadian musicians David Tyson and Christopher Ward, and Myles is from Toronto. Ward and Myles were a couple and also worked together – she sang on his 1981 solo album Time Stands Still. Teaming up with Tyson, Ward put together a demo tape for Myles which got her a deal with Atlantic Records.
Produced by Tyson and Ward, Alannah Myles was her first album, and it was a huge hit in Canada, becoming the top-selling debut album in Canadian history. “Black Velvet” was the first US single, and it was a massive hit, rising to #1 in March 1990, where it stayed for two weeks. The US follow-up single was another song written by Tyson and Ward, “Love Is.” That song went to #36 and was her last chart entry in America. She did have several more hits in Canada.
Christopher Ward got the idea for this song when he was a VJ for the Canadian music channel MuchMusic. He was sent to Memphis to cover the 10th anniversary of Elvis’ death (August 16, 1987), which exposed him to many fervent Elvis fans. Inspired by their passion for the rocker, he took notes while he was working on the special (which was called Mecca in Memphis), writing lyrics based on what Elvis meant to his fans and what it must have been like for him growing up in the South.
Myles won a Grammy award for Best Female Rock Performance for this song, along with several Juno Awards. Additionally, this won a Diamond award for sales in excess of 1,000,000 in Canada, the only time an artist has won this for her debut record. ASCAP awarded the song a ‘Millionaire Award’ in 2005 for over 4 million radio plays in the USA.
According to the song’s writer Christopher Ward, a key line in this song is “A new religion that will bring you to your knees.” He says he got the idea for that line after realizing that Elvis’ affect on fans was similar to what churchgoers would feel after being exhorted by fundamentalist preachers.
Courtesy of Songfacts
Lyrics Mississippi in the middle of a dry spell Jimmie Rodgers 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 ev'rything Always wanting more, he'd leave you longing for Black velvet and that little boy smile Black velvet with that slow southern style A new religion that'll bring you to your knees Black velvet if you please Up in Memphis the music's like a heat wave White Lightnin' bound to drive you wild Mama's baby's in the heart of ev'ry 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 Black velvet and that little boy smile Black velvet and that slow southern style A new religion that'll bring you to your knees Black velvet if you please Ev'ry word of ev'ry song that he sang was for you In a flash he was gone, it happened so soon What could you do? Black velvet and that little boy smile Black velvet in that slow southern style A new religion that'll bring you to your knees Black velvet if you please Black velvet and that little boy smile Black velvet in that slow southern style A new religion that'll bring you to your knees Black velvet if you please If you please If you please If you please Writer/s: Christopher Ward, David Tyson Publisher: Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., OLE MEDIA MANAGEMENT LP Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind