Elvis Singing Opera

New guest blog by Ruddy Adam!

Two Very Different Songs by Elvis: A Soft, Love Song, and Elvis Singing Opera as Well as Any Opera Soloist

In the first song, a wonderful love song, “Tomorrow Is A Long Time,” Elvis sings staccato. So we really get to hear his beautiful, natural voice, because he uses no vibrato or voice manipulation, and he sings it softly, controlling his voice throughout, by holding it down to about a 2 decibel level. He’s merely telling us a story with his angelic voice — and the wonderful way he does it is one of the reasons women loved him.

Here he is straight-tone singing. This is not talk-singing, as so many of the so-called crooners of the day did, and they did it because they had to, because they had no decibel range and very little (if any) vocal range.

Notice too in this song, Elvis’ simple accompaniments softly played in the background. No orchestra needed to hide (or misdirect) his listeners from learning he did not have a voice, as so many of the talk-singers needed who were strongly promoted out of New York back then. For years Elvis refused large accompaniments (orchestras), until he finally gave in after negotiating complete control over the orchestra, which he himself conducted. Back in his day, popular culture (pop) singers singing with full orchestra accompaniment was a sure sign their voices were not what they had been promoted to be. Elvis didn’t need them.

Something he liked about this song is, the hook line, “Yes and only if my own true love was waiting,” and that it comes at the beginning of the verse instead of at the end. Written by Bob Dylan, it’s a truly beautiful song, and Elvis does it justice. Dylan was ecstatic after hearing Elvis sing it, and said he hoped no one else would ever sing it, because it couldn’t be done any better.

“Tomorrow Is A Long Time,” by Elvis (5:15)

In the next song, “Hurt,” which is diametrically opposite to “Tomorrow Is A Long Time,” Elvis shows his astonishing ability to sing opera. This one he did late in life, actually only a few months before he died, as you can sadly see in the video, because he’s swollen with fluid, and obviously not well.

Try your best not to get obsessed with his looks and his silly outfit, but pay attention to his singing, because his voice is as good as ever — perhaps better — and you’re going to see something rarely seen: someone billed, thought of, and promoted as a Rock & Roll Pop singer singing opera. Elvis not only had the rare ability to sing Blues, Country, Country & Western, Gospel, Opera, Pop, Rhythm & Blues, Rockabilly, and Rock & Roll; he had songs that topped the charts in most of those types of music. Who else ever did that? Who could have done it if they wanted to? Yet when Elvis is talked about today, the media concentrate on his persona as a Rock & Roll entertainer — and hardly a word of his singing ability is mentioned.

Indeed, it’s worth noting that as Elvis got older his voice did not fade, it did not get rusty, it got stronger and better.

Rarely do you see a song where a singer has to dive straight into a major line without a few introductory lines or a bit of scale building, as in “Hurt.” But Elvis dives straight into icy water and belts out the first line without the slightest warm up introductory lines or scale building. You can tell by his reaction that he sang it perfectly, too.

In “Hurt,” he climbs up and down the decibel scale like a cat, and at each point, as always, at a very high intone level. In the last lines he pounds out notes that could easily rip the greatest opera singers’ vocal cords to shreds, yet still sings them at a perfect 10 on the intone scale. Yes, this shows that Elvis’ amazing voice did not fade with age; it remained as good as it was when he gave his mother (as a birthday gift) the first two songs he recorded in 1953: “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin.”

“Hurt” (Live)

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