More mu­sic on the sub­ject of God (and Heav­en too); a tra­di­tion­al spir­i­tu­al ar­ranged by Elvis Pres­ley for his 1967 Gospel al­bum How Great Thou Art, which was a triple-platinum hit and won the 1967 Gram­my for Best Sa­cred Per­for­mance. So High is a fine, rous­ing tune with a good ar­range­men­t, and just ter­rif­ic singing.

How Great Thou Art

Elvis nev­er won a Gram­my for pop mu­sic, but more than one for Gospel. I have a sto­ry to tel­l, pos­si­bly rel­e­van­t. In about 1990, I had a busi­ness trip to Nashville, so I took my then-wife along and we did Ten­nessee: the Opry, Jack Daniel­s, Beale Street, Sun Stu­dios, and of course Grace­land (vis­it that Web site). It’s a dead-serious irony-free zone, the peo­ple who’d come from far and wide were qui­et and rev­er­en­t. I to­tal­ly loved it. It’s a beau­ti­ful place, in a sort of wacko Atomic-Age style, and the pre­sen­ta­tion and tour were pol­ished; vis­it if you get a chance. Al­so, you’ll learn a lot about Elvis.

Any­how, af­ter the tour we went down to the Visi­tor Cen­ter across the street, and my at­ten­tion was grabbed by this lit­tle TV that was loop­ing a video of Elvis and a cou­ple oth­er guys jok­ing around, Elvis sit­ting at a pi­ano. Then they launch in­to a break­neck ver­sion of some Gospel tune, to­tal­ly off-the-cuff, but pas­sion­ate and ex­cel­len­t, Elvis pound­ing the pi­ano and lean­ing in­to ev­ery word. Here’s the thing: As a rock­er, Elvis nev­er took him­self se­ri­ous­ly, he was si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly mak­ing the moves and laugh­ing at him­self mak­ing them. But with Gospel mu­sic, he was dead se­ri­ous, com­mit­ted, nev­er even hint­ing that the words weren’t the re­al ul­ti­mate truth. I think he ac­tu­al­ly Believed In God.

So I’m pret­ty sure that Elvis is the great­est white Gospel singer to have ev­er lived. I have one of the col­lec­tions and re­al­ly like all the songs on it, but So High has the pace and the move­ment and makes me want to dance, and oh, those vo­cal­s. You could re­al­ly do worse than pick­ing up all of How Great Thou Art and lis­ten­ing to it end-to-end, though.

This is part of the Song of the Day se­ries (back­ground).

Links · Spo­ti­fy playlist. This tune on iTunes, Spo­ti­fy, Ama­zon. There’s no de­cent live video of any Elvis gospel that I can find, which is ir­ri­tat­ing since I know that TV clip I saw across the street from Grace­land 20 years ago is out there.

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June 17, 2018
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