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"Love Me Tender" is a song sung by Elvis Presley, adapted from the tune of "Aura Lee" (or "Aura Lea"), a sentimental Civil War ballad with music by George R. Poulton and words by W.W. Fosdick. "Aura Lee" was published in 1861 and this Civil War song later became popular with college glee clubs and barbershop quartets. It was also sung at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

Presley performed "Love Me Tender" on the The Ed Sullivan Show 9 September 1956, shortly before the single's release and about a month before the movie, Love Me Tender, was released, for which the song was originally recorded. (This was Presley's only movie that he died in.) On the following day, RCA received 1 million advance orders for the song, making it a gold record before it was even released. The studio, 20th Century Fox, originally wanted to call the movie "The Reno Brothers" but instead re-titled it to "Love Me Tender" to capitalize on the song's popularity.

Movie producer Hal Wallis would not allow Presley's regular band made up of Scotty Moore, Bill Black, and D.J. Fontana to play on the soundtrack. Instead, The Ken Darby Trio provided the musical backing with Red Robinson on drums, Charles Prescott on bass, Vita Mumolo on guitar, and Jon Dodson on background vocals, with Presley providing only lead vocals.

The song is credited to Presley and Vera Matson because of the publishing agreement reached for the assignment of royalties, but the principal writer of the lyrics was Ken Darby (Matson's husband). The song was published by Elvis Presley Music. He also adapted the Civil War tune, which was in the public domain. When asked why he credited his wife as co-songwriter along with Presley, Darby responded, "Because she didn't write it either."

Presley received co-songwriting credit due to his Hill & Range publishing deal which demanded songwriters concede 50 percent of the credit of their song if they wanted Presley to record it; Presley never wrote any of his own songs. As with nearly all his RCA recordings, Presley took control in the studio despite not being credited as producer. He would regularly change arrangements and lyrics to the point the original song was barely recognizable. This, arguably, justified the cowriting credit in this case.

Elvis Presley recording

The song hit #1 on the Billboard charts the week ending November 3, 1956, remaining in the position for 5 weeks and reached no. 11 on the charts in the UK. "Love Me Tender" also reached number three for three weeks on the R&B chart . It was also an achievement as "Love Me Tender" succeeded another Presley single, "Hound Dog/Don't Be Cruel" at #1. This occurrence marked two important events in Billboard history. During this time, Elvis accomplished another record at the time; the longest consecutive stay at number one by a single artist, sixteen weeks, though this was tied by Boyz II Men in 1994 and stood for forty-eight weeks until being surpassed by R&B singer Usher in 2004 who spent 19 weeks at the top of the charts.

This version was ranked #437 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

In 1968, Presley recorded a 52-second track entitled "Violet (Flower of N.Y.U.)" for the soundtrack of the film The Trouble with Girls. Unreleased until after Presley's death, the song used the same melody as "Aura Lee", the source song for "Love Me Tender".

Although Presley never re-recorded "Love Me Tender" in a studio setting, two live recordings of the song were released on the albums: NBC-TV Special (1968) and Elvis: As Recorded at Madison Square Garden (1972), with additional performances from concert and television appearances being released after Presley's death.

Other Recordings

  • Richard Chamberlain reached no. 21 on the Billboard Pop singles chart with his version when it was released as a single in 1962 on MGM.


  • The Beatles performed "Love Me Tender" in their concerts before they signed with EMI in 1962.
















  • In 1962, The Lettermen released the song as a track on their album Jim, Tony, and Bob.


  • Percy Sledge had a Top 40 hit with a cover version in 1967, going to no. 40 on the US Billboard Pop chart, no. 35 on the R&B chart, and no. 35 on the Canadian chart.








  • Frank Sinatra covered the song for his 1980 triple album, Trilogy: Past Present Future, which was nominated for a Grammy as Album of the Year in 1981, and performed the song with Elvis Presley as a duet in 1960 on a network television special after Elvis' discharge from the army.














  • A Gene Summers cover version of "Love Me Tender" was included on the double album "Juke-Box Rock 'n Roll" issued by EMI/Big Beat (#1597671) in France in 1988. It was also issued by Summers on his 50th Anniversary CD "Reminisce Cafe" in 2008 on Seduction Records #110. (USA)


  • Tony Bennett performed the song live for the 1994 album It's Now or Never: A Tribute to Elvis Presley. Bennett noted that Elvis Presley was listed as the co-writer of the song on the songwriting credit.




  • Holly Johnson did a cover on The Last Temptation Of Elvis album




  • Hugh Laurie covered the song as a sketch on A Bit of Fry and Laurie. Laurie's singing wasn't particularly comedic in itself, imitating as it did Elvis' singing almost perfectly; however, it becomes clear after some time that he is singing to a visibly-uncomfortable Nicholas Parsons, who is sitting on a stool nearby.




References

  1. Roger Lee Hall, Free As The Breeze: Confestions of a Struggling Songwriter, PineTree Press, 2007, p. 98.
  2. Peter Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, Little, Brown & Company, 1995, ISBN 9780316332255



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