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Elvis SongPedia: Are You Lonesome Tonight

Are You Lonesome Tonight

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Basic Stats

(Just the facts, ma'am!)

Written by: Roy Turk, Lou Handman

Recorded: April 4, 1960, RCA Nashville Studios
Released master is a splice of take 5 and an unknown other take

Single: w/ "I Gotta Know", 47-7810, November, 1960
Also released in stereo, 45rpm, 61-7810
Also re-released as Gold Standard Series, 447-0629, February 1962

RIAA Certified: 2X Multi-Platinum (as of 03/27/1992)

Highest U.S. Charts Positions:
#1 on Billboard Hot 100 for 6 weeks
#3 on Rhythm & Blues chart
#22 on Country chart.

1st LP release: Elvis Golden Records Vol 3 - September 1963
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"Are You Lonesome Tonight?"
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Lyrics and Downloads section below.

My Spin

(Just my opinion. Give us yours!)
According to Chet Atkins, Elvis wanted to create a mood in the studio when recording "Are You Lonesome Tonight?", and turned all the lights way down low. When the recording was done, Elvis and the musicians and crew all listened to it over and over and Elvis was in a great mood "because he knew he'd made a great record". I concur with Elvis. :>

"Are You Lonesome Tonight?" was already a golden oldie when Elvis decided to record it in the spring of 1960. Supposedly it was the only song that Colonel Tom Parker ever urged Elvis to record, and it's certainly a tune that's more of the Colonel's generation than Elvis'. Roy Turk and Lou Handman wrote it in 1926, and over the years there were quite a few popular versions, including those by Vaughn Deleath, Henry Burr, the Carter Family, the Blue Barron Orchestra, Jaye P. Morgan, and Al Jolson.

I'm sure that Elvis didn't need much urging by the Colonel to record it, however, as this was a perfect fit for his voice, and the perfect showcase for his new vision of his career: He wanted to be more than a rock 'n' roll singer! Elvis had been working on his voice methodically while away in the army, making a conscious effort to improve his range and ability. Along with "It's Now Or Never", this song would assure his comeback as a true all-around pop singer.

The song has a simple but catchy main melody, which Elvis sings over a background of acoustic guitar and the Jordanaires, and nails perfectly, but probably the most memorable aspect of the recording is the spoken middle section. Elvis delivers the "speech" with much more confidence and authority than he had before in, for instance, "That's When Your Heartaches Begin". Based on lines from Jacques' speech in Act II, Scene VII of Shakespeare's As You Like It, the speech has Elvis comparing his love to a stage play.

You know someone said that the world's a stage and each must play a part.
Fate had me playing in love with you as my sweetheart.
Act one was when we met, I loved you at first glance
You read your lines so cleverly and never missed a cue
Then came act two, you seemed to change, you acted strange
And why I'll never know.

As a showcase of Elvis' vocal versatility, "Are You Lonesome Tonight?", selling roughly 4 million, was a great follow-up to "It's Now Or Never", which eventually sold around 22 million! At the end of the year 1960, Elvis was truly back from the army, and back on top of the charts with two major hits, and neither of them rock 'n' roll. Although Elvis would never abandon rock, he would now continue to experiment with different styles throughout his career.

Elvis performed "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" in his 1968 Comeback Special, playing with the idea of doing the spoken part, then laughing it off and continuing to sing the melody.

On August 26, 1969, Elvis sang the song in Las Vegas and jokingly changed the words to "do you gaze at your bald head and wish you had hair". He then gets a case of the giggles and laughs his way through the rest of the song. I've never heard this verified by anyone present at the concert, but legend has it that the reason Elvis begins to lose it is because immediately after he made the bald joke with the lyrics, a man in the audience, close to the stage, lifted up his toupe in a salute to Elvis! That kind of sounds like urban-legend material but it makes for a much better story. :> This "laughing version" was released as a single in England in 1982 and showed up on Elvis - A Legendary Performer, Volume 4 in 1983.

A sadder performance was captured on the Elvis In Concert TV special, filmed on Elvis' last tour. This time, his stumbling over the words and his attempts to laugh it off become a bit painful to watch. I like his line about "plus tax", though. :>

"Are You Lonesome Tonight?" is listed at #91 on Billboard's Top 100 Songs of All Time.

Other Spins

(What did the critics and fans say?)

'Are You Lonesome Tonight?' marks a startling change of direction: it is a slow-moving ballad, gentle, caring, beautifully sung, with the kind of voice Presley had already shown on 'Silent Night' - natural, unforced, dead in tune, and totally distinctive. This classic song is enhanced by the extended 'talking' section in the middle - a difficult procedure to bring off, but here, surrounded by echo, it succeeds.

Robert Matthew-Walker, Elvis Presley: A Study in Music, 1979

...Elvis, of course, made it a sentimental smash after his discharge from the Army and it became a solid staple in his repertoire ever since. It had a talk-sing passage in the middle that melted millions of female hearts.

The Complete Elvis, edited by Martin Torgoff, 1982

This is a tender, perhaps even sugary ballad, to be sure, but it is also full of soul and intense and intimate power. Presley holds back, delivering the vocal in a restrained, almost whispered falsetto, only allowing a glimpse at the power of his voice on the first halves of such lines as "shall I come back again?" before reigning himself back in... read more on AllMusic Guide's page on "Are You Lonesome Tonight"

Check out other Elvis fans' opinions on the Elvis News page for Are You Lonesome Tonight

Interesting review here at this Freaky Trigger posting.

"Are You Lonesome Tonight" Links

"Are You Lonesome Tonight" Lyrics and Downloads

Are you lonesome tonight, do you miss me tonight?
Are you sorry we drifted apart?
Does your memory stray to a bright sunny day
When I kissed you and called you sweetheart?
Do the chairs in your parlor seem empty and bare?
Do you gaze at your doorstep and picture me there?
Is your heart filled with pain, shall I come back again?
Tell me dear, are you lonesome tonight?

I wonder if you're lonesome tonight
You know someone said that the world's a stage and each must play a part.
Fate had me playing in love with you as my sweetheart.
Act one was when we met, I loved you at first glance
You read your lines so cleverly and never missed a cue
Then came act two, you seemed to change, you acted strange
And why I'll never know.
Honey, you lied when you said you loved me, and I had no cause to doubt you.
But I'd rather go on hearing your lies, than to go on living without you.
Now the stage is bare and I'm standing there, with emptiness all around
And if you won't come back to me
Then they can bring the curtain down.

Is your heart filled with pain, shall I come back again?
Tell me dear, are you lonesome tonight?
Download the Karaoke Version!

Are You Lonesome Tonight karaoke - Elvis PresleyAre You Lonesome Tonight
Elvis Presley

Download or just listen to different versions by Elvis from Amazon!

... or different versions by other artists!

What's Your Spin?!
Is "Are You Lonesome Tonight" Elvis' greatest ballad?
Yea or Nay?

Yea! He never missed a cue!

Nay! Bring the curtain down!

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Study Up Some More!

Elvis song reference books on Amazon!

Ernst Jorgensen's complete chronicle of Elvis' recording sessions, with loads of detailed information about each session and each song.
This is the definitive encyclopedia on Elvis' life details, as well as all the background and trivia you need for all the songs, movies, and TV appearances. Authors are Fred L. Worth and Steve D. Tamerius.
The subtitle of Ace Collins' book says it all: "The stories behind Elvis' #1 hits"!
"Elvis The #1 Hits: The Secret History of the Classics". Another self-explanatory book title. :)