Canadian singer Alannah Myles produced the song Black Velvet, written by David Tyson and Christopher Ward. The single was released as one of the songs on Myles’ debut album in 1990. “Black Velvet” was the No. 1. hit song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the Rock Tracks chart, and at No. 10 in Canada. The song was also number one in many other countries, including Switzerland, Sweden, and Norway.
The song idea came to Christopher Ward while on a bus full of Elvis Presley’s fans attending his 10th-anniversary vigil. Black Velvet is deemed to be a tribute to rock and roll legend Elvis Presley. The song lyrics are a mix of biography and imagination; it praises Elvis Presley’s musical talent while also imagining what his childhood might have been like. This song was one of the three demos that helped Myles get a record deal with Atlantic Records.
Atlantic Records had Robin Lee, a country music singer, record the song. This move upset Myles because she believed her boyfriend, Christopher Ward, had written the song specifically for her at that time. She later re-recorded the song in 2007 during Elvis Presley’s 30th anniversary under the same title. The music video was recorded at Myles’ family ranch in Ontario, Canada.
The meaning behind the song “Black Velvet” lyrics
The words “black velvet” refers to a well-known piece of art portraying a king (Elvis Presley) painted on some black velvet canvas. The song is purely about Elvis Presley and his musical prowess. The first part of the song, “Jimmy Rodgers on the Victrola up high, Mama’s dancin’ with baby on her shoulder,” refers to Jimmy Rodgers, a famous country musician who significantly influenced Elvis’ music style from an early age. The victrola means the record player is playing loudly, and his mother is dancing with the baby (Elvis) on her shoulder.
The second section, “The sun is setting like molasses in the sky. The boy could sing, he knew how to move everything, and he was always wanting more; he’d leave you longing for more,” describes how good “Elvis” music was and how it would leave his fans wanting more.
The chorus “Black velvet and that little boy’s smile” refers to how young female fans fell in love with Elvis (this little boy’s smile) and how the black velvet Elvis painting was available at every yard sale. “Black Velvet with that slow Southern style” refers to how Elvis performed his songs while moving his hips.
The phrase “Up in Memphis the music’s like a heatwave” means Elvis’s music spreading like a heatwave in Memphis, where he recorded his music.’ White lightning, bound to drive you wild” means rock music with alcohol would drive you crazy.” Mama’s baby’s in the heart of every school girl” references the baby (Elvis) as mentioned in the first part being loved by young female fans.
“The way he moved, it was a sin, so sweet and true, always wanting more, he’d leave you longing for,” refers to Elvis’ stage movements, specifically how he swung his hips.
Finally, “Every word of every song that he sang was for you. In a flash he was gone. It happened so quickly, what could you do?” is the heartbreaking scene in which Elvis died unexpectedly in 1977.
The song’s writer, Christopher, says he came up with the lead line “A new religion that’ll bring ya to your knees” upon realizing Elvis’ music’s effect on his fans. He likened it to churchgoers being filled with the Holy Spirit after powerful preaching.
Black Velvet became Myles’ greatest hit of all time, winning her several awards and nominations. She won a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Performance, and she also won a Diamond Award for selling more than one million records in Canada. Black Velvet was awarded a “Million Award” by ASCAP in 2005 for over four million views in the USA.
According to Myles, the song was a trial and error. She says in an interview that the crew expected other songs to do better than Black Velvet. She notes, “It was the first record for me, and it stumped me, if you will. I was a debut artist, and we had to figure out who and what I was. I knew who I was, but we wound up getting there by trial and error’.” she added that “We did a rock ‘n’ roll version of the song, and at the last minute, it was paired down to just vocals, bass, and drums. At five in the morning, we got the track that we wanted.”
Other artists have also recorded “Black Velvet” in different languages. Bert Heerink recorded with the title “Rocksterren” in German, Vicky Rosti in Finnish with “Yön Helmaan,” and musicians Jackie Thomas, Sandi Thom, and Valentina Gautier as “Hey tu” in Italian.
Black Velvet – Alannah Myles: the story behind the song.
The authors of the composition – songwriter Christopher Ward (Christopher Ward), while met with Alanna, and the singer’s producer David Tyson (David Tyson).
Christopher said that he wrote the composition on a business trip while working at Much Music:
In the summer of 1987, I was sent to Memphis to cover the tenth anniversary of Elvis’ death . The operator and I were stuffed into a tour bus along with forty Elvis fans, which was a test in itself. I realized what an incredible passion they had for this guy, what he really was for them …
While I was on the bus, I had plenty of time to think and sketch. At the same time, we moved farther and farther south. I began to imagine what it was like when Elvis was a kid growing up in the South, and that’s why his mother is so explicitly mentioned.
Upon returning from the trip, Ward showed the song’s outlines to Alanna Miles and David Tyson, who helped write the music.
Meaning of Black Velvet song
Allusions to the biography, image and work of Presley can be seen in most lines of the text. Translation and analysis of the words of the song “Black Velvet” is published below.
Alanna Miles told how she understands the main idea of the ballad:
Black Velvet has little to do with the sugary images of Elvis on black velvet from the sixties. This is not a metaphor made up of several meanings. It also doesn’t involve alcohol because, contrary to popular myth, I don’t drink, do drugs, or smoke.
She refers to the voice of African Americans, who were supported by Elvis; to Elvis’ black hair; to his voice that sounds like black velvet; to the soulful, black style of the songs of the American south, which wrapped the eardrums like velvet, and so on.
After all, I know, because the song was written for me to perform on my first record.
Christopher Ward explained in which phrase lies the essence of Black Velvet:
The key line of the song, at least for me, is “A new religion that will bring you to your knees.” Reading about the fundamentalist preachers from the South and how they exhorted the congregation, I realized in the blink of an eye that this was how Elvis addressed his fans. There is a real parallel between the power of religion and the power he had in bringing people rock and roll.
- Fred Bronson says in The Billboard Book of Number One Hits that it was very hot and stuffy in the studio during the recording of the song, so Alanna sang Black Velvet in a bikini.
- Miles claims that the record company deceived her, and the singer received her first payment for Black Velvet only in 2008.
Black Velvet by Robin Lee, released as a single from the album of the same name, reached number twelfth on the Billboard country songs chart.
Next is the video clip of Black Velvet – Robin Lee.
The famous version of Black Velvet was recorded by Crystal Bowersox. She sang “Black Velvet” while performing on the ninth season of American Idol. She later released the track as a single, which peaked at number 124 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Lyrics “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles
Mississippi in the middle of a dry spellJimmy Rogers on the Victrola up high Mama’s dancin’ with a baby on her shoulder The sun is settin’ like molasses in the skyThe boy could sing, knew how to move, everythingAlways wanting more, he’d leave you longing forBlack velvet and that little boy’s smileBlack velvet with that slow southern style A new religion that’ll bring ya to your knees Black velvet if you pleaseUp in Memphis the music’s like a heatwaveWhite lightning, bound to drive you wild Mama’s baby’s in the heart of every schoolgirl “Love Me Tender” leaves ’em cryin’ in the aisleThe way he moved, it was a sin, so sweet and trueAlways wanting more, he’d leave you longing forBlack velvet and that little boy’s smileBlack velvet with that slow southern style A new religion that’ll bring ya to your knees Black velvet if you pleaseEvery word of every song that he sang was for youIn a flash, he was gone, it happened so soon What could you do?Black velvet and that little boy’s smileBlack velvet with that slow southern style A new religion that’ll bring ya to your knees Black velvet if you pleaseBlack velvet and that little boy’s smileBlack velvet with that slow southern style A new religion that’ll bring ya to your knees Black velvet if you pleaseIf you pleaseIf you pleaseIf you please