DEAR JERRY: I learned much from your column on Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony, “Pathetique,” and all the songs based on his composition.
Which leads me to ask if any of Elvis Presley's songs are also based on classical pieces created by the masters? Some sound like they might.
I know some of his hits have European origins but may be too recent to be considered classical in the Tchaikovsky and Bach sense. But which ones?
Caroline Cammareri, York, Pa.
DEAR CAROLINE: Many music lovers recognize an Elvis tune here and there as being either classical or European, or both (European classics). Still, not many can name them all.
Now you'll be among the few who can.
Elvis' first revival of the classics came during an April 28, 1960 Hollywood session, when he recorded “Tonight Is So Right for Love,” one of 11 tracks for the “G.I. Blues” soundtrack album.
The music behind Sid Wayne and Abner Silver's newly-written lyrics is Jacques Offenbach's “Barcarolle (Night of Stars),” also known as “A Venetian Boat Song.”
Then, in a surprising development for all concerned, a dispute over using “Barcarolle” in some European countries resulted in RCA asking Elvis and his band to return to the studio. They did on May 6th and, using pretty much the same lyrics as “Tonight Is So Right for Love,” replaced the Offenbach accompaniment with completely different orchestration.
Specifically for Europe, on records as well as in the “G.I. Blues” film, the replacement melody chosen is “Tales from Vienna Woods,” a renowned waltz by Johann Strauss.
To somewhat distinguish these two similar recordings, the Strauss version is titled “Tonight's All Right for Love.”
This oddity remained commercially unavailable in the U.S. until 1974, but is now easily found.
Presley's next classical endeavor is based on Franz Liszt's “Liebestraum.” With lyrics by Bill Giant, Bernie Baum, and Florence Kaye, this July '63 track came out as “Today, Tomorrow, and Forever,” and is on the “Viva Las Vegas” soundtrack.
One of songs recorded (June 1966) for the “Double Trouble” soundtrack is “I Love Only One Girl,” with words by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett. The bouncy melody, however, is “Au Prés De Ma Blonde,” courtesy of R.E.J. Milne.
The last one is based on Johannes Brahms' very familiar, self-titled “Brahms Lullaby.” In June '67, with words by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett, this number became “Five Sleepyheads,” a lullaby on the “Speedway” soundtrack.
Now for the Presley tunes with European roots:
“It's Now Or Never”: Italian “O Solo Mio” (literally: “Oh My Sun”)
“Surrender”: Italian “Torna a Surriento” (literally: “Come Back to Sorrento”)
“Ask Me”: Italian “Io” (literally: “Me”)
“You Don't Have to Say You Love Me”: Italian “Io Che Non Vivo Senza Té” (literally: “I Who Don't Live Without You”)
“Softly, As I Leave You”: Italian “Piano” (literally: “Softly”)
“Santa Lucia”: Sung entirely in Italian (for “Viva Las Vegas” film)
“Can't Help Falling in Love” French “Plaisir d'Amour” (literally: “Pleasure of Love”)
“Almost Always True”: French “Alouette.”
“Let It Be Me”: French “Je t'Appartiens” (literally: “I Belong to You”)
“My Way”: French “Comme d'Habitude” (literally: “Like Usual”)
“What Now My Love”: French “Et Maintenamt” (literally: “And Now”)
“My Boy”: French “Parce Que Je t'aime Mon Enfant” (literally: “Because I Love You My Child”)
“No More”: Spanish “La Paloma” (literally: “The Dove”)
“Guadalajara”: Sung entirely in Spanish (about the capital of the Mexican state of Jalisco)
“Wooden Heart”: Sung partly in German, “Muss I denn” (literally: “Must I Then”)
IZ ZAT SO? Even RCA Victor at times found it difficult to make the distinction between “Tonight Is So Right for Love” (Offenbach) and “Tonight is All Right for Love” (Strauss).
Their first issue of “G.I. Blues” on CD (RCA/BMG 3735-2-R) came out with “Tonight is All Right for Love” mistakenly shown as “Tonight Is So Right for Love (Alternative Version)”.
Neither is an alternative take of the other. They are two completely different pieces of music, having only lyrics in common.
RCA's proofreader may have taken the day off, as this same CD incorrectly identifies “What's She Really Like” as “She's All Mine.”
Those three words exist in the lyrics but are not the title of this or any song by Elvis.