Today In Pop Music History (12-3-2015)

A LANDMARK ELVIS COME
BACK TV SHOW CLIMAXES
WITH HIS GREATEST SONG


 

By late November, 1968, a lot of people figured he was finished. He hadn’t had a top 10 hit in three and a half years. His movies in recent years? Never mind.
 
But on the night of December 3, 1968–47 years ago today–NBC aired a comeback TV special like no other. Its original name said it all.
 
“Elvis”
 
It climaxed with what I consider the greatest song Elvis Presley ever sang
 
“If I Can Dream” reached #9 on one key pop chart and #12 on another. It was Elvis’ first social commentary-type hit. Its success paved the way for two more in 1969–“In The Ghetto” (his first Top tenner in four years) and “Don’t Cry Daddy.” More hits would follow, not to mention Elvis’ return to performing in Las Vegas…and his 1970’s tours.  
 
All that success…from a song that almost didn’t make it onto the TV special. Originally, Col. Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager, wanted the show to climax with a Christmas song. But producer Steve Binder went over the Colonel’s head, taking a song written by W. Earl Brown directly to Elvis. The King of Rock And Roll asked to hear the song again and again…perhaps seven or eight times. He finally said, “I’ll do it”—and would eventually record one take in the dark. When working on the song, Elvis’ backup singers were driven to tears. One of them noted, “He’s never sung with such emotion before. He means every word.” Many of the string players had their mouths open in shock over the way Elvis performed the song.
 
When I saw Elvis singing “Love Me Tender” on that special, I said to myself, “He’s STILL Elvis. He hasn’t lost a thing.” The choreography? Unbelievable. His performance in a black leather suit before one well-behaved audience…further proof that he was still The King of Rock And Roll.
 
The ratings for the show show proved it. According to writers Fred L. Worth and Steve D. Tamerius, “Elvis” was the top-rated TV show for the week. Plus, it was the most watched TV special of 1968 by women from 18 to 49. Executive producer Bob Finkel won a Peabody Award for his work on the show.
 
For much more on “If I Can Dream”…
 
 
And for more on the “Elvis” special…
 
 

TOMORROW:
“BOOM BOOM” TURNS 76



 

 

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