This morning, while listening to an entirely unrelated podcast, I found out that Little Richard was dead. I went to Google and sure enough, he died on the 9th of May at the age of 87. The coronavirus has been such a distraction that the death of one of rock ‘n’ roll’s biggest attractions completely passed me by for two weeks.
Along with Elvis, Chuck Berry, and a little later on, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard was one of the founding fathers of what really was – in some capacity – the beginning of modern music. I grew up on that music. Those guys influenced everyone and everything, and without them the landscape woud be a whole lot different. You don’t have to like it, but you have to respect the reach those guys had.
It’s a sad loss for the musical world, and unfortunately one that took me a while to realise.
Rest in peace, Richard. You will be sadly missed.
Are You Lonesome Tonight? (Laughing Version) – Elvis Presley – 1969
A few days ago it was the fortieth anniversary of the death of Elvis at the age of forty-two… or – if you’re one of those people – the fortieth anniversary of that time he faked his death and went to live on a farm with Marilyn Monroe and JFK.
Elvis was always prominent in my household when I was growing up: my dad loved his music and sometimes performed gigs as him, complete with a bejeweled white jumpsuit that he had specially made. I’ve got the jumpsuit now, tucked away in a suitcase.
Are You Lonesome Tonight? came out in 1960 and is one of Elvis’ most popular songs, although I’ve never really been a big fan of it, however this customised version from a Las Vegas gig in 1969, where he changed one of the lines fifty seconds in, always makes me smile. Unfortunately no video of the gig exists, which is a shame.
The performance humanises him in the simplest of ways – with laughter – and the break in character instantly makes him much more relatable. Listening to it reminds me that he was not just the cultural icon of his generation, and one of the music industry’s first true superstars, but a guy like everyone else. Yes, it’s corny, but sometimes the truth is just that.
Credit has to go to backing singer, Cissy Houston (Whitney’s mum), who never misses a beat throughout the entire performance, and her professionalism in the face of such lyrical anarchy is probably the reason Elvis never manages to get back on track with the song.