How Elvis Presley’s Music Inspired One Italian Icon

by TK Sanders
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Photo by Getty Images

Sometimes history remembers Elvis Presley only for his larger-than-life personas. First he was the King, the original iteration of American rockstar who drove teenaged girls and their parents crazy with his soulful voice and swinging hips. Then later, he was the lounge suit Vegas icon, a slight caricature of his former self that crooned aging fans on vacation in the desert. Neither persona truly sums up the man or his impact on music.

To modern-day virtuosos like Italian opera superstar Andrea Bocelli, though, Elvis was a master of his craft. Bocelli, who is best known for his timeless classic “Time to Say Goodbye,” likes to sample other musician’s work in his live shows. For Bocelli to choose a song to belt out as a tribute in his show is a great compliment reserved for only a handful of great artists. Over the last few years, Bocelli has performed two Elvis songs with great regularity, which shows just how much respect he has for the King.

“There is no denying that Elvis had a great talent,” Bocelli said. “He possessed a pliant voice with extensive range and a soft and enveloping timbre. Plus, he was an extremely charismatic person.”

Which Elvis Songs Does Bocelli Like to Sing?

To pay his respects and put on a stellar show of his own, Bocelli plays both “Love Me Tender” and “Can’t Help Falling In Love” at his concerts. Bocelli likes to credit the history behind each song as a contributing factor for his decision. Both songs, of course, helped make Presley a superstar.

“It’s curious that they are both songs that have a long history behind them,” Bocelli continued. “In both cases, Elvis Presley’s versions are extraordinary and memorable. Yet I have the wishful thinking that I too had something to say, to add, artistically speaking, to the performance of these classics. The melody of “Love Me Tender” comes from a sentimental ballad from the time of the Civil War. It’s a song with roots that go back to the 1800s.”

The melody of “Love Me Tender” was adapted from an American Civil War ballad called Aura Lee. Elvis famously performed “Love Me Tender” on The Ed Sullivan Show on September 9, 1956. The performance came before its official release. The song’s name also purposefully coincided with Presley’s movie debut. Bocelli began covering the classic in 2012 and recorded it on his 2013 album Passione.

‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ is Even Older than ‘Love Me Tender’

Speaking about his second Elvis choice, “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” the 63-year-old Bocelli said: “The melody is even older. [It comes] from a very famous Romanza composed at the end of the 18th century, Plaisir d’amour.”

Elvis sang the world class love song in his 1961 film Blue Hawaii. Angela Lansbury, who is still alive at 96-years-old, famously played his mother. in the film. Elvis was 26 when the movie was released.

Bocelli’s most famous performance of the song was in 2006 in Las Vegas, ironically. Bocelli also recorded the song for his own 2006 album Amore.

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