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Black Velvet by Alannah Myles

Album: Alannah MylesReleased: 1989Charted:
  • This song is about Elvis Presley. Here's some lyric analysis:

    "Jimmy Rogers on the Victrola up high" - Jimmy Rogers, an early Blues singer, influencing Elvis (the baby) at an early age. The Victrola is the record player, played loudly.
    "Mama's dancin' with baby on her shoulder" - Gladys Presley dancing with the infant Elvis.

    "Black velvet and that little boy's smile" - You can buy a black velvet Elvis painting at any respectable yard sale. Early female fans were drawn to his "Little boy smile."

    "Black velvet with that slow southern style" - Elvis delivered some of his songs with slow, undulating hips. Check out "Steamroller Blues" live.

    "Up in Memphis the music's like a heatwave" - Sun Studios. The epicenter of early rock music and where Elvis recorded.
    "White lightning, bound to drive you wild" - rock music and booze.

    "Mama's baby's in the heart of every school girl" - A reference to the baby in the early part of the song, being loved by all the young girls.

    "Love Me Tender leaves 'em cryin' in the aisle" - Love Me Tender was a huge hit for Elvis in 1956.

    "The way he moved, it was a sin, so sweet and true" - Elvis' legendary hips swivel, the Pelvis.

    "Every word of every song that he sang was for you. In a flash he was gone, it happened so soon, what could you do?" - Elvis died suddenly in 1977.
  • This was a Canadian production: the song was written by the Canadian musicians David Tyson and Christopher Ward, and Myles is from Toronto. Ward and Myles were a couple and also worked together - she sang on his 1981 solo album Time Stands Still. Teaming up with Tyson, Ward put together a demo tape for Myles which got her a deal with Atlantic Records.

    Produced by Tyson and Ward, Alannah Myles was her first album, and it was a huge hit in Canada, becoming the top-selling debut album in Canadian history. "Black Velvet" was the first US single, and it was a massive hit, rising to #1 in March 1990, where it stayed for two weeks. The US follow-up single was another song written by Tyson and Ward, "Love Is." That song went to #36 and was her last chart entry in America. She did have several more hits in Canada.
  • Christopher Ward got the idea for this song when he was a VJ for the Canadian music channel MuchMusic. He was sent to Memphis to cover the 10th anniversary of Elvis' death (August 16, 1987), which exposed him to many fervent Elvis fans. Inspired by their passion for the rocker, he took notes while he was working on the special (which was called Mecca in Memphis), writing lyrics based on what Elvis meant to his fans and what it must have been like for him growing up in the South.
  • Myles won a Grammy award for Best Female Rock Performance for this song, along with several Juno Awards. Additionally, this won a Diamond award for sales in excess of 1,000,000 in Canada, the only time an artist has won this for her debut record. ASCAP awarded the song a 'Millionaire Award' in 2005 for over 4 million radio plays in the USA.
  • According to the song's writer Christopher Ward, a key line in this song is "A new religion that will bring you to your knees." He says he got the idea for that line after realizing that Elvis' affect on fans was similar to what churchgoers would feel after being exhorted by Fundamentalist preachers.
  • The country singer Robin Lee, also signed to Atlantic Records, recorded a popular cover of this song on her 1990 album, which was also called Black Velvet.

    Another popular cover of the song was by Crystal Bowersox, who performed the song when she was a contestant on season 9 of American Idol, where she finished second. Released as a single, her version bubbled under at #124 on the Hot 100.
  • In a CBC Newsworld interview, Myles revealed that she was cheated by her record company, which kept her from cashing in on this song. Myles said she received her first-ever royalty check for the song on April 1, 2008.

    She signed that record deal when she was young and naive; the singer ended up paying $7 million on expenditures for her first three albums, all deducted out of her take. Myles said that when she should have been dining out on the success of this song and her other recordings, instead she had been living in poverty, at times struggling to pay her rent.
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Comments: 36

Give me a break - this song is about Elvis, period. NOBODY ELSE. Nobody else is important enough to warrant a song. "Love Me Tender leaves em cryin in the aisle"... Yeah, the song is about Elvis Presley for those geniuses who think otherwise. So many Elvis "tributes" are awful, this one is good - and he deserves it.Paul - Pa
This sounds exactly like Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin' by Journey.Katie Wyatt - London
I always understood "black velvet" to refer to the iconic prints of Elvis that were very popular at one time (all on black velvet).Cyberpope - Richmond, Canada
I've always loved this soulful, sexy song but for some reason, I thought it was done by Heart until last night when I heard it on Sirius and saw that it was by Alannah Myles, about whom I really know nothing. Alrighty, then! Good job, Alannah! I'm a Northern girl but have always been susceptible to Southern guys== NOT Elvis! So I hope it's OK if I fantasize about guys I have known over the years when I hear this smokin' tune.Sandy - Enterprise, Fl
Melissa Etheridge did NOT sing Black Velvet. I repeat: Melissa Etheridge did NOT sing Black Velvet. The song is NOT on any of her albums (CDs). That's the first clue that she did not sing this song. The second clue: She didn't write the song. Melissa Etheridge writes her own music and lyrics (I can only think of two exceptions). I repeat again: Melissa Etheridge did NOT sing Black Velvet.Pat - Virginia Beach, Va
Black Velvet by Alannah Myles is a fantastic song. The 'S. K. Shuffle' line dance was choreographed and danced to this song.Paddle - Melbourne, Australia
There was a controversy if you remember when this came out. It was said Alanah Myles was speaking of a womens crotch. Even religious groups wanted it banned but Myles later denied it saying it was about Elvis. The same year it was made into a country song by Robin Lee and also Melissa Etheridge sang it as wellGhostgetter - Dallas, Tx
It doesn't matter if thesong Black Velvet was or was not about Elvis in my opinion it is just a darn good song to listen to.
Mary lancaster,OH
Mary - Lancaster, Ohio, Oh
I agree.. "Black Velvet" is Elvis's hair, voice (which is like the whiskey, smoothe, sweet and smoky). Don't know about the sweater. In the south it is common to call your mother "Mama". Elvis did dye his hair - to black. January in Mississippi is part of the dry season. "The way he moved, it was a sin, so sweet and true" = I remember seeing an early recording of someone asking Elvis why he moved that way - he said it was ... automatic Sweet and true. That slow southern style.. we are know for taking things slow in th south (lol). Loved that little boy smile....Glenda - Eustis, Fl
Actually, Black Velvet refers to all these things: his hair, his voice (which is like the whiskey, smoothe, sweet and smoky), and that sweater.

But the "Mama's Baby's in the heart..." line, is not in fact referring to the 'baby Elvis' but the fact that he was always 'mama's baby'. Elvis was a notorious momma's boy.
Sandra - Jax, Fl
the next to last "If you please" is my favorite.Michelle - Sin, Nc
Black Velvet is the name of the Hair Dye Elvis used to get that shade (It's also called Blue/Black). Today it's very popular with the Punks, Goths and Emo's. The song is NOT about Robert Plant...lol. Read the lyrics and LISTEN to the song.Voodoo - Sydney, Australia
I think that "Black Velvet" refers to his singing voice -- dark, deep, smooth. I'm talking Elvis, of course. Not a big fan, but's it's a type of voice I like.Ae - Seattle, Wa
Black Velvet is also a brand of cheap Canadian whiskey.Lars Ulrich - Denmark, Sc
I also thought it was about Tiny Tim.Griffin - Middlesbrough, United States
check out her remastered re-arranged version of black velvet for the anniversary of Elvis' death at www.linusentertainment.com/alannah/Jon - Shrewsbury, Ma
Also..I Would Like 2 Add Is That During The Song When She Sings " A New Religion That'll Bring Ya All To Your Knees "...Could Refer To The Religion Of Rock And Roll And The Religion That Elvis Created!Sammy - Sydney
Alannah Myles had the rock version of this song and at the same time on the same label singer Robin Lee had a country version that was very simular. Infact at the time there was a rumor that they were the same person, but of course that was not true. Both were brunette's but look little to nothing alike.Troy - Pensacola, Fl
True Robert Plant and Jimmy Page fans will know this was sung for Robert Plant.Lana - Sydney, Australia
I would also like to point out that the first line in the song, "Mississippi in the middle of a dry spell"....Elvis was born in Tupelo Mississippi in January...
This song gives almost a short map of his life...
Mississippi, Memphis, and in a flash he was gone.
Larissa - Gainesville, Fl
Elvis' mom made him a black velvet sweater and this is what the song is about --> Elvis in black velvet. The sweater elvis' mama made him. True Story!Jessica - Memphis, Tn
Will somebody PLEASE tell me what she's whispering at the beginning??? I'v tried many different sites, but never found ANYTHING about it!Ken - St. Louis, Mo
Myles is usually thought of a one-hit wonder in the U.S., but she had more hits in Canada.Andy - Arlington, Va
This song scares meAshley Jade - Cleveland, Ga
FYI Black Velvet is a popular Rye....thats
Canadian Whisky to the rest of the world.
Rob - Vancouver, Canada
Crazy, I think someone told me once that it was about a woman's child she had with a black man. Haha, they were confused! Hmm, I think everyone's been romantically linked to Robert Plant.Tiffany Candelaria - Phoenix, Az
alanah used to be romantically linked to led zeppelins robert plantMarlow - Perth, Australia
when i first heard it on the radio, it sounded like an old olivia newton-john singingMarto - Sydney, Australia
I think that "black velvet" refers to the famous black velvet shirt worn by Elvis on stage :


It became a part of his style that all his fans know and that many have tryed to imitate. According to what I once read, it was handmade espacialy for him by his mother, which Elvis called "Mama" instead of Mummy, or something else. It's another reason why the song says "Mama's dancing...". Well, that's how I see it.
Sam - Toulouse, France
I have often wondered if Black Velvet refers to the coctail....Shyla - Didsbury, Canada
it's the only theory we have pete so i sort of believe it. it is a good theoryPaddymac - Newry, Ireland
yeah i'm jokin'....but you just never knowPete - Nowra, Australia
The song was written by Christopher Ward, who was Myles' beau at that time. Ward was one of the original "veejays" on Canada's "MuchMusic," along with present-day CBS news anchor, John Roberts, who was called "J.D." back then.Shell - Toronto, Canada
Actually all of the facts are correct except for one, black velvet doesn't refer to a velvet painting it refers to his hair which was really black!Clarissa - Valdosta, Ga
hey pete yur jokin right? lolJason - Wylie, Tx
how do we know it's about Elvis?? could be about Tiny TimPete - Nowra, Australia
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