Elvis Presley paid tribute to Martin Luther King Jr in emotional performance | Music | Entertainment
In 1968 Elvis Presley decided he wanted to make a triumphant return to the music industry. After being drafted into the US Army in 1958, he returned to the USA in 1960 and began making films in Hollywood. The star spent the better part of eight years appearing in movies and becoming a household name. However, the King did not perform music live for many years, so in December ’68 he and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, created a TV Comeback Special to reintroduce the world to Elvis.
LISTEN TO ELVIS’ TRIBUTE TO MARTIN LUTHER KING JR BELOW
During this special, the King of Rock and Roll filmed live performances and discussions with his crowd for four hours.
The final runtime of the TV show was 50 minutes long after lots of material was cut out – but one emotional performance was kept in.
Elvis finished the show by performing a touching track titled If I Can Dream, a song inspired by Martin Luther King Jr – who had been assassinated eight months prior on April 4, 1968.
The director of the Comeback Special, Steve Binder, spoke out about this inspiration years later. He said: “We spent a lot of time together. Martin Luther King that year was assassinated.”
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Steve continued: “We were in my offices when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated [on June 6, 1968], so we had a lot of time to talk about social issues.
“I thought: ‘Nobody knows this about this guy.’ When I put that show together, it was a United Nations staff – a Puerto Rican choreographer, Black choreographer - everybody came from different faiths, religions and countries.
“And I didn’t see any sign of prejudice and I wanted to get that message out more than anything.”
Binder asked songwriter Walter Earl Brown to write “the best song he’d ever written,” based on the political conversations he had with Elvis.
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If I Can Dream reached number 12 in the Billboard Hot 100 while claiming the number two spot in Australia.
Regardless of the track’s achievements, it stands as a piece of history encapsulated in an emotional song brought to life by Elvis.
Elvis expressed a desire to work with Steve again in the future, but Colonel Tom reportedly quashed that plan.
Despite this, Steve and Elvis had a great rapport when they first met.
Steve recalled: “When Elvis and I met, the first question he asked me was: ‘What do you think of my career?’
“I said: ‘I think it’s in the toilet.’ He looked at me at first like he wanted to kill me.
“And then he broke out into laughter and said: ‘Finally somebody’s talking to me one-on-one.'”