Black Velvet

Album: Alannah Myles (1989)
Charted: 2 1
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  • This song is about Elvis Presley. Some lyric analysis:

    "Jimmie Rodgers on the Victrola up high" - Jimmie Rodgers, a country music pioneer from Elvis' home state of Mississippi, 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.

Comments: 47

  • Doe from Jax FlWhoever said Melissa Etheridge never sang this song should have tried google before opening their mouths.
  • Donna from New JerseyPat from Virginia Beach - check out YouTube. Melissa Etheridge did sing Black Velvet and it was recorded whether it is on an album or not.
  • Lily from Los Angeles, CaI hate it when someone puts down Elvis' talent like the last guy who commented. He did not just imitate black folks, he was influenced by them, as well as by white gospel and country artists. He was great at many musical styles, so he naturally combined them and came up with something original. He was definitely one of the founding fathers of Rock n' Roll and by far the most popular one. His influence on the popular culture can not be underestimated, just because some of you are very jealous about his good looks does not change this. Btw I'm Asian, just in case you want to know.
  • NellElvis is revered for everything that he borrowed from black folks back then. Style of singing, dancing, everything except his good looks of course. Other than that, he doesn't deserve as much praise as he gets, not one bit.
  • The Maestro from Cincinnati, Oh"Black Velvet" refers to the oil paintings of Elvis on black velvet that were practically everywhere you'd stop along I-75 from Michigan to Florida. You could buy one most anywhere from the mid-70's until the early 80's. Several sit-coms, well in advance of this 1989 song, would use the Elvis oil painting on black velvet somewhere in the story/episode.
  • Joanne from Pittsfield MaGeorge from Vancouver, Canada he used BrillCreme (Spell check)
  • George from Vancouver, CanadaUncorroborated: Black Velvet was also the name of the stuff he put in his hair to keep it black and shiny.
    Anybody know more, with citations? Also, was it the brand, or just a name he called it?
  • George from Vancouver, CanadaThis song charted #1 in the USA, Sweden, & Switzerland, but only reached #10 in her home country, Canada.
    #2 in Germany, New Zealand, & UK.
  • George from Vancouver, CanadaAlannah Myles was born Christmas Day in 1958! Making her 31 years old when this song was released -- much older than usual for an artist with a big hit!
  • George from Vancouver, CanadaMissed one on lyrics analysis:

    A new religion that'll bring you to your knees - refers to he Church of Elvis, a legally registered religion in the USA, that has Elvis as their primary saint.
  • Luke from London, UkMy Mum used to play this one an awful lot. With good speakers, the bass just crushes.
  • Paul from PaGive 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.
  • Katie Wyatt from LondonThis sounds exactly like Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin' by Journey.
  • Cyberpope from Richmond, CanadaI always understood "black velvet" to refer to the iconic prints of Elvis that were very popular at one time (all on black velvet).
  • Sandy from Enterprise, FlI'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.
  • Pat from Virginia Beach, VaMelissa 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.
  • Paddle from Melbourne, AustraliaBlack Velvet by Alannah Myles is a fantastic song. The 'S. K. Shuffle' line dance was choreographed and danced to this song.
  • Ghostgetter from Dallas, TxThere 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 well
  • Mary from Lancaster, Ohio, OhIt 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
  • Glenda from Eustis, FlI 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....
  • Sandra from Jax, FlActually, 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.
  • Michelle from Sin, Ncthe next to last "If you please" is my favorite.
  • Voodoo from Sydney, AustraliaBlack 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 Read the lyrics and LISTEN to the song.
  • Ae from Seattle, WaI 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.
  • Lars Ulrich from Denmark, ScBlack Velvet is also a brand of cheap Canadian whiskey.
  • Griffin from Middlesbrough, United StatesI also thought it was about Tiny Tim.
  • Jon from Shrewsbury, Macheck out her remastered re-arranged version of black velvet for the anniversary of Elvis' death at
  • Sammy from SydneyAlso..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!
  • Troy from Pensacola, FlAlannah 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.
  • Lana from Sydney, AustraliaTrue Robert Plant and Jimmy Page fans will know this was sung for Robert Plant.
  • Larissa from Gainesville, FlI 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.
  • Jessica from Memphis, TnElvis' 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!
  • Ken from St. Louis, MoWill somebody PLEASE tell me what she's whispering at the beginning??? I'v tried many different sites, but never found ANYTHING about it!
  • Andy from Arlington, VaMyles is usually thought of a one-hit wonder in the U.S., but she had more hits in Canada.
  • Ashley Jade from Cleveland, GaThis song scares me
  • Rob from Vancouver, CanadaFYI Black Velvet is a popular Rye....thats
    Canadian Whisky to the rest of the world.
  • Tiffany Candelaria from Phoenix, AzCrazy, 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.
  • Marlow from Perth, Australiaalanah used to be romantically linked to led zeppelins robert plant
  • Marto from Sydney, Australiawhen i first heard it on the radio, it sounded like an old olivia newton-john singing
  • Sam from Toulouse, FranceI 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.
  • Shyla from Didsbury, CanadaI have often wondered if Black Velvet refers to the coctail....
  • Paddymac from Newry, Irelandit's the only theory we have pete so i sort of believe it. it is a good theory
  • Pete from Nowra, Australiayeah i'm jokin'....but you just never know
  • Shell from Toronto, CanadaThe 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.
  • Clarissa from Valdosta, GaActually 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!
  • Jason from Wylie, Txhey pete yur jokin right? lol
  • Pete from Nowra, Australiahow do we know it's about Elvis?? could be about Tiny Tim
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