Saturday, November 28, 2015

55 Years Ago Today Elvis Hit No. 1 With Are You Lonesome Tonight?

It was today in 1960 that Elvis Presley hit no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Are You Lonesome Tonight?". What is interesting is that the song not only pre-dates Elvis's career, that it not only pre-dates the Rock 'n' Roll Era, but it even pre-dates Elvis himself. "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" was written by Roy Turk and Lou Handman in 1926, while Elvis would not be born until 1935. The song was first recorded by Charles Hart in 1927. It was recoded several more times in 1927 alone. In 1950 it was recorded by the  Blue Barron Orchestra. This version actually went to no. 19 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart. Further versions were recorded by Al Jolson and Jaye P. Morgan.

The famous spoken bridge in "Are You Lonesome Tonight" is based on the line, "You know someone said that the world's a stage. And each must play a part," from Ruggero Leoncavallo's opera Pagliacci. Of course,  Ruggero Leoncavallo based that line on the one from  As You Like It by William Shakespeare, "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players." The spoken bridge has been omitted from some versions of the song.

Elvis Presley recorded his version on April 4 1960, complete with the bridge. It was released on      November 1 1960 and hit the top of the charts in a mere four weeks. It stayed in the no. 1 spot until January 9 1961 when it was knocked off by "Wonderland by Night" by Bert Kaempfert. The song remained part of Elvis's live performances until his untimely death. He performed it on the 1968 NBC special Elvis (better known informally as "the Elvis Presley Comeback Special") and the 1977 CBS special Elvis in Concert. It seems likely that the song is now identified with Elvis Presley more than any other singer.

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