Elvis Presley's performance of "If I Can Dream" was, in many ways, an anomoly. Colonel Tom Parker had originally wanted Elvis' 1968 television special for NBC-TV to be a Christmas program, in which "his boy" sang an hour's worth of holiday classics. The producers, however, had something more challenging in mind. And for once, the Colonel did not get his way. Even with the change in format for the program, however, the Colonel still expected Elvis to close the show singing "Silent Night." Supposedly, Elvis was filmed singing the Christmas carol just to appease Parker, but things still didn't turn out the way the Colonel had planned.
program, which was simply titled Elvis, closed with the moving contemporary
spiritual "If I Can Dream." The song was written at the last minute
at the request of the show's producer, Steve Binder. The musical director for
Elvis, W. Earl Brown, wrote the song as a response to the assassinations of
Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. It was intended as a statement of hope
for the future of
The instrumental track was recorded on June 20 or 21, 1968. Elvis sang the song in front of the string section of the orchestra while the instrumental part was being recorded. Though his vocals were not to be used on the final version, he still sang it with all the passion the song inspired, even dropping down on his knee at one point. The effect left the string section with their mouths open. Later, Elvis rerecorded the vocals in a darkened studio, and once again, he performed the song rather than merely recording it.
The single was released in November, just prior to the telecast of the special. In perhaps one of RCA's worst marketing decisions, the flip side contained "Edge of Reality," a poor tune from one of Elvis' worst films, Live a Little, Love a Little.
Despite this, "If I Can Dream" climbed to the number 12 position on the charts and earned Elvis another gold record.
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