Although Elvis Presley made top 40 music, he could still be pretty unconventional and unpredictable at times. For example, he recorded one of his most beloved songs in total darkness.
While Presley gave the world numerous great, original songs, he performed many covers as well. Some of his most famous songs, like “Hound Dog,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” and “Always on My Mind” were originally performed by other artists.
One time, Presley decided to cover a classic song because of Marie Parker. She was the wife of his then manager, Colonel Tom Parker.
According to the book “Handbook of Psychobiography,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” is a song from 1926 which drew inspiration from the writings of William Shakespeare. Tom asked Presley to record the song because it was his wife’s favorite.
Keep scrolling to find more details below.
Presley Sang It In His Documentary
Throughout his career, Presley made many movies. Following the 1969 film “Change of Habit,” he decided to only appear in documentaries. One of these documentaries was a posthumous release called “This Is Elvis.”
The film depicted the rise and fall of the icon. Considering it was released in 1981, four years after his death, it was nostalgic for people who were aware of his life story. It was also informative for people who became interested in the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll after he died. A rock star said a scene in the film shook him to his core.
“In the final minutes of the film, we see Elvis, on stage in Las Vegas, sing the famous so-called ‘Laughing Version’ of “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” he said. “The camera begins with a long shot and does a slow zoom in on Elvis’ face.
“Elvis is stoned and overweight and by the time he performs the disastrous central monologue, we can see the pure anguish of his performance, the drugged and mortified eyes, the terrible aloneness, the horror of the moment – his vast soul crucified on the cross of his own body as he blunders through the words,” he continued. “It is one of the most traumatic pieces of footage I have ever seen,” the rockstar concluded.
Presley Dimmed The Lights To Record
One of the legendary footnotes about Presley’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” session was the dim lighting in Studio B as the song was being recorded.
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Goldmine Magazine reported that while recording the track, Presley turned the light down. “He liked for the lights to be turned down low,” recalled Gordon Stoker of The Jordanaires, a band that often worked with Presley. “As a matter of fact, the lights were turned down so many times, we couldn’t see our parts.”
Stoker’s recollection was the same as fellow Jordanaires singer Ray Walker, who added that it “wasn’t anything out of the ordinary” for Presley to darken the studio while recording.
Presley’s Cover Was Almost Never Released
“Are You Lonesome Tonight?” was one of Presley’s most beloved songs and it almost didn’t happen because of a major mistake.
Bill Porter, a studio engineer, told Steve Sholes, a representative for RCA, that Presley almost abandoned his recording of the track because ‘he messed up the end of the take.’ Sholes wanted him to redo the end of the song so it could be spliced together with another recording of the track.
So, when they did the ending, it was fine. Then Sholes told Porter, “Bill, I want you to run this tape as far as you can before you splice the ending on.”
Porter took him at his word, and made the splice between the syllables of the word ‘tonight.’ The “to” was on the take that they were going to keep, and the ‘night’ was the short little piece on which they recorded only the ending.
How The World Reacted To ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’
The rockstar was also moved by the next song in the film, “An American Trilogy.” This song combined elements from three American folk songs, “Dixie,” “All My Trials,” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
“Elvis dies and as the world media reports his death, we hear him sing ‘Dixie’ over shots of his funeral procession,” the rockstar recalled. He said the following image of Presley singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” felt like a religious experience to him.
Presley’s cover of “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” also seemed to have made an impact on people besides himself. The track reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed on the chart for 16 more weeks. The Official Chart Company reported that the song also topped the charts in the United Kingdom and it remained on it for 15 weeks.
“Are You Lonesome Tonight?” became a massive hit and appeared in numerous movie scenes. Presley may not be the first person to record it, but thanks to Marie, he owned it.