The Meaning And Story Behind The Song "Black Velvet" Friday March 1 2024, 6:30 PM
Yona Marie
Singer, Songwriter, Producer.
The Meaning And Story Behind The Song "Black Velvet"

The Story Behind Black Velvet

"Black Velvet" is one of those hits from decades ago that has been stuck in the back of my mind, and it's a song full of intriguing facts and has a fascinating history behind it.

This timeless track was written by Canadian songwriters David Tyson and Christopher Ward. The song's inspiration came to Ward while he was on a bus trip to Memphis, Tennessee, for a documentary about Elvis Presley.

The term "Black Velvet" itself refers to Elvis Presley and is a metaphor for his voice and the impact he had on his fans.

Alannah Myles' original version of "Black Velvet" was released in 1989 and became a massive hit, particularly in 1990, when it reached the top of the charts in the United States and other countries.

The song was part of Myles' debut album, which was released under Atlantic Records. Atlantic, like many major labels, operates various imprints and has a broad roster of artists spanning different genres, including country music.

Robin Lee, an American country music artist who was also signed to Atlantic Records at the time, recorded her own version of "Black Velvet" in 1990. This move was likely influenced by the song's massive popularity and its potential appeal to the country music audience.

Lee's version found success on the country charts, demonstrating the song's versatile appeal across different musical genres.

It wound up reaching the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart, proving that a powerful song can transcend its original context and find resonance with a new audience.

But on the sad side of things, In an interview with CBC Newsworld, Myles shared that her record company's deceptive practices prevented her from profiting from this song. She shared that she only received her initial royalty payment for the song on April 1, 2008.

Having signed the record deal in her youth, without fully understanding the implications, Myles ended up spending $7 million on costs associated with her first three albums, costs that were ultimately deducted from her earnings.

Myles noted that, despite the success of "Black Velvet" and her other music, she found herself in financial distress, at times barely able to afford her rent, instead of enjoying the fruits of her success.

Lyrical Breakdowns

The lyrics reference various aspects of Elvis Presley's life and career, including his roots in the Southern United States, his impact on his audience, and his untimely death.

Mississippi in the middle of a dry spellJimmy Rodgers on the Victrola up highMama's dancin' with baby on her shoulderThe sun is settin' like molasses in the sky

The opening lines set the scene in the American South, specifically Mississippi, where Elvis was born. It paints a picture of a humble, rural setting, with music already a central theme.

Jimmy Rogers, a country singer, playing on the Victrola, sets a historical context, linking Elvis's roots to the deep traditions of American music.

Black velvet and that little boy's smileBlack velvet and that slow southern styleA new religion that'll bring ya to your kneesBlack velvet if you please

The phrase "Black velvet and that little boy's smile" conjures an image of Elvis's charming, youthful demeanor that, combined with his smooth, rich voice (likened to the luxurious texture of black velvet), captivated audiences.

The line "A new religion that'll bring ya to your knees" suggests the fervent, almost religious devotion of Elvis's fans and the transformative power of his music and persona, which could deeply move listeners and viewers, sometimes to the point of hysteria.

Every word of every song that he sang was for youIn a flash he was gone, it happened so soonWhat could you do?

The mention of his sudden departure, "In a flash he was gone, it happened so soon," alludes to Elvis's untimely death at the age of 42, which was a shock to the world and left his fans grieving and wondering about what might have been.

The rhetorical question, "What could you do?" underscores the feeling of helplessness and loss that followed his passing, emphasizing the void he left in the music world and in the hearts of those who adored him.

The Success Of This One-Hit Wonder

"Black Velvet" was a massive hit, reaching the top of the charts in multiple countries. It hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States in 1990 and also reached No. 1 in Norway and Sweden, among other countries. In Canada, it peaked at No. 2 on the RPM Top Singles chart.

Alannah Myles' rendition of "Black Velvet" earned her several awards, including the Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance in 1991. The song also helped her win three Juno Awards in 1990, including Single of the Year.

Plus, this hit has been featured in movies, TV shows, and commercials, further cementing its place in popular culture.

The sad financial situation that Alannah Myles experienced is, unfortunately, not unique in the music industry. Throughout its history, numerous artists have found themselves in difficult financial or contractual situations despite achieving commercial success and critical acclaim.

These points underscore the importance of artists equipping themselves with knowledge about the industry, seeking fair representation, and advocating for their rights.

Organizations and movements aimed at reforming industry practices and supporting artists' rights have gained momentum in recent years, indicating a growing awareness and push for change.

Yona Marie

As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 300 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, and features, Yona spends her time creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Check out Yona’s latest releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share if you like it!

If you are in need of singer, songwriter or song producer services, see what Yona Marie can offer you on her services page.

Check Out My Latest Single Release Below:

You May Also Like