KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #251: Love Me Tender by Elvis Presley.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #251: Love Me Tender by Elvis Presley.

As I said in the previous post about The Rolling Stones, my intention, going forward with this list, is to liberally sprinkle in the biggest hits of those who comprise the Titans of Rock n’ Roll, regardless of what position on the list we may be at. This applies to The Beatles, to The Rolling Stones, to Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan and the others of their ilk. Needless to say, that new rule applies to Elvis, as well. “Love Me Tender” is one of Elvis’ most well-known and popular songs and could easily be higher up on the list. But, from now on, let the rankings be almost irrelevant. Simply enjoy each song as I pop them into the countdown.

“Love Me Tender” is an interesting song for a number of reasons. First of all, did you know that this song was actually adapted from a song that is over one hundred years old!? The original song that forms the foundation of “Love Me Tender” is called, “Aura Lea” which was a song written about the US Civil War by two men named George R. Poulton and Stephen Foster. The song was originally sung in travelling minstrel-type shows. It was eventually adopted by the US Military Academy, who used the tune to create a song called, “Army Blue”, which served as the class graduation song each year. “Aura Lea” (which is pronounced “orally”) was featured in films starring Frances Farmer and another starring Bing Crosby.

In the early 1950s, a man named Ken Darby took the tune and created a new song that became, “Love Me Tender”. Elvis heard the song and sought to record it. Although he did not have any part in the writing of the song, his name appears on the songwriting credits. Elvis always pressured unknown songwriters, like Darby, to hand over 50% of the songwriting credits in exchange for Elvis recording the song and using his star-power to bring the song to a greater audience than would have been the case before. In a way, Elvis played the same role as modern-day “Influencers” do on social media. He raised up unknown folks into the spotlight, with the price being half of their earnings. Rock n’ Roll may be many things but, one of the main things it is, without any question, is a business.

When Elvis released, “Love Me Tender”, the song was very well-received by listeners and became a #1 hit. Just as that was happening, Elvis and his management team, made another business-related decision…..Elvis was going to capitalize on his fame and his good looks by starting to appear exclusively in movies. “Love Me Tender” was the name of the very first movie Elvis ever starred in. Originally, the movie was to be called, “The Reno Brothers” and was set in the time of the US Civil War. But, the popularity of Elvis and of his new song, “Love Me Tender” caused producers to change the name of the movie to mirror that of his hit song.

The movie, “Love Me Tender” is unique among the many movies Elvis ended up appearing in. For starters, it is the only movie he appeared in that he did not receive top billing for. *(He was billed third). It is the only movie in which his character dies and, as well, it was the only movie in which he played a character based on historical fact.

The song, “Love Me Tender”, became a staple of his live shows but, even then, it held a unique place, compared to other hit songs. “Love Me Tender” was usually the only song in his live sets that he did not sing all the way through. What usually happened was that he would start the song and then wander into the audience, flirting with the pretty ladies, as he went along. Often times, Elvis would stop singing and start having conversations with these audience members, mid-song and would only finish the song once his tour of available ladies was over. Never-the-less, you can find “Love Me Tender” on almost all of his live albums and, in those cases, there is none of the stage banter present; it is just Elvis, his voice and the words of a song that was written over a century ago.

So, for your listening and viewing pleasure, here is “The King” with one of his earliest and most popular hits, “Love Me Tender”. Enjoy.

The link for the video to the song, “Love Me Tender” by Elvis Presley, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Elvis Presley, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

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