That Song That Gives You Chills

All right, let me start this one off with a disclaimer: I am, under no circumstances, a huge Elvis fan. I don’t have any kind of velvet painting in my home. I don’t have a shot-glass purchased in a roadside stand in Memphis that says “I Brake for Graceland.” (I swear.) I don’t even know all of his songs by heart. (Well … okay … except “Blue Suede Shoes” … because Steve Porter sang that song in the 6th grade, and we 6th grade girls swooned.)

Anyway, now that my non-huge-fan status is solidified, I do have to say: There’s this one song of his …

I was borrowing my husband’s car the other day and this song came on his iPod: “If I Can Dream.”

My husband and I saw a documentary about Elvis about a year ago (because, ahem, I’m not a big fan, did I mention?). And, in it, Elvis performed “If I Can Dream” in front of a live audience. And, I have to say, I can’t remember ever seeing a more moving performance.

Now I’ve seen a few concerts in my day – I was a Journey fan in the ‘80s, and did the Duran-Duran thing. Saw Prince. Saw Bob Seger. (I know none of you are relating to me at all right now!) I’ve seen Don Henley several times, and Lyle Lovett a few. Saw James Taylor. Smokey Robinson (free tickets). I’ve watched a gazillion performances on television: U2. Rob Thomas. John Mayer. Jason Mraz. Van Morrison. Jack Johnson. Donovan Frankenreiter. …

But this performance by Elvis was above and beyond. And for me – not even a fan.

My husband had downloaded the song onto his iPod and I sat in the parking lot and listened to the entire thing. And I have to say – even the audio performance is moving. It gives me chills. Really.

So what is it about this song?

I’m thinking it has to do with how sincerely it’s delivered. I don’t even really know what he’s singing about, so I know it’s not that I’m relating to the words – it has to do with his delivery. I mean, he really seems to be experiencing the words as he sings them, thinking about every word, meaning them as he conveys them. It has a bit of a gospel sound, and he seems to be truly feeling each word as he sings it. Really connecting. Sometimes we hear performers sing a song and they don’t even seem to be hearing the words anymore. (Although, truly, who can blame them? I heard James Taylor say he’s performed “Fire and Rain” at least a thousand times.) But this one that Elvis does – I don’t know if it was only the third time he’d ever sung it, or what, but he was clearly feeling every single word. It’s terrific.

So what song gives you chills? Which one will you sit in a parking lot and listen to? 

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0 thoughts on “That Song That Gives You Chills

  1. I have heard that song and I know the feeling yu’re speaking of. Though another song for me is “a change is gonna come” by Sam Cooke. Take a listen and you’ll see what I mean.

  2. http://www.last.fm/music/Elvis+Presley/_/If+I+Can+Dream I just had to go look up the song you described and listen to it. I have a few of Elvis’s songs recorded. I love quite a few of them actually. I’d never heard him sing that one though. As far as concerts and artists go, my kids think I’m “out-of-it”. And I am, always have been. Seems everyone I know can rattle off musicians and groups, everyone but me. I consider myself an anachronism. I like to listen to singers from days gone by (Oldies from before my time) —like Elvis, Dean Martin, Louis Armstrong, Andy Williams, Perry Como, Bobby Darrin, Nat King Cole, etc. There’s one bit of music not so much chilling as soul wrenching, yet I can’t help but lean back and listen…and feel—the lonely violin playing Ashokan Farewell from the documentary The Civil War. Even though it was written in 1982 the sadness the composer felt when he wrote it is timeless.

  3. I know what you mean about songs like that. I have a few that still give me chills every time I hear it. “Running to Stand Still” by U2 is one. I got chills the first time I saw Rattle and Hum and every time since. And in concert, well…back in the 80’s one of Bono’s best friend’s od’d on heroin or so the story goes, and you can still hear the agony in his voice as he sang the song.
    I was a Journey fan too. There was a song on Departure called People and Places…It was an amazing song. Sigh…I’m going to go dig out my old cassette tape and listen on the way to work.

  4. Charles: Yes, Sam Cooke has that amazing voice that can really draw you in. But I wonder why that song (recording) in particular is your favorite? Like did he record it when he was feeling particularly emotional? Or did he record it when he hadn’t sung it a million times already? I’ll have to go listen for that one. ….

  5. Oh my gosh, Sonja, my husband loves to listen to all those “oldies,” too — but he does just have a VAST musical interest and mixes it up with tons of modern-day singers also. He especially loves Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, so we have a lot of that playing at our house and in the car. But we love what we love, right? I think we select our music for how it makes us feel, and if those singers make you feel wonderful, then go for it! I love that you mentioned the lonely violin in the The Civil War documentary — sad and timeless, absolutely! That’s a perfect example of what I was describing — maybe these are songs that give us chills because the exact right feeling is coming through loud and clear.

  6. Hi, Patti! I didn’t know that story about Bono’s friend. I’ll have to take another listen to “Running to Stand Still.” That’s a perfect example, too — the emotion is just so real in the song, from what you’ve described. It really makes the amazing songs stand out from the rest, huh?

  7. Goodness… There are so many songs I could list but I’ll go with the classics. Marvin Gaye’s “Distant Lover” live. Barbara Lewis’ “Hello Stranger”. Mathe Reeves and the Vandellas song “Heat Wave” is on of my favorites. And if anyone has ever heard Bob Marley’s live version of “Waiting in Vain” they will know just how spine tingling that song is. And since you started with Elvis, I’ll add “Pocket Full of Rainbows” to the list. I associate songs with memories in my life so it gives them an extra bit of power in stirring up feelings.

  8. Well “Both Sides Now” by Judy Collins jumps straight to mind and heart! All about our life experiences and how our views will inevitably change. Brings a dear tear to my eye just thinking about it!

  9. David, those are great songs! Though I’ve never heard Marvin Gaye’s “Distant Lover” live. (It reminded me, though, of his national anthem live, which was amazing.) Cool how the songs just leap to mind once you get going, huh?

  10. Laura, yeah, those folk singers really did it right, huh? Many of them seem to have true emotion behind them.

  11. Mizright, I don’t know what the circumstances were (though that gives me a good “Wiki” search…) but I also think it is the way he sings it. If you were to really take a listen you can hear the pain and yet hope in his voice. I feel odd about talking about Sam Cooke’s vocal chops as it is much like saying that James Brown was drenched with soul…Very cliche. Though, When you couple the lyrics with Cooke’s amazing voice, style and emotion. Wow! Also, the lyrics are very moving. I think the the one verse that just kills me is the one in the song where he’s singing about being just worn out with the struggle (you name it) and ready to give up, but still clinging to hope. The line is: “I’m tired of living, but I’m afraid to die ’cause I don’t know what’s up there beyond the sky. It’s been a long, a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come…” Combine that with whatever struggles you know he must have gone through growing up in a racially divided country and so beautiful and meaningful voice. I am not sure if his change is death or something better in this life, but it actually speaks of hope to me.
    So there is my short answer, long.

  12. Hi,
    I’m really getting into these blogs and adding my 2 cents worth.
    It was fun to read these comments about songs that gave/give you chills. Hearing most singers sing “America” always gives me chills, or any patriotic song.
    One song that comes to mind is from the Academy Awards tv show many years ago, when Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand sang “You Don’t Send Me Flowers” (sorry if that’s not the right name). Just watching them sing their duet to each other was magical. And it wasn’t even a favorite of mine before that.
    As for Elvis Presley, I wasn’t a great fan of his back in his time, but he was a truly great performer. I’ve only seen his concerts on tv, but he seemed to sing his songs as if it was the first time he sang them, and the older he got, the better his voice got. I liked how he sang “My Way”. He sang it with such feeling. My goodness!!
    It’s not that I got chills from it, but did anyone see David Foster’s “Hitman” prodution on tv? I would love to have that DVD. I didn’t know anything about Peter Cintera, but he sang D. Foster’s songs really good.
    It’s funny when you look back over the years and remember whose music you loved to listen to. I remember coming home from high school to watch the original American Bandstand. !!! Talk about “oldies but goodies”! But……that would be another blog page wouldn’t it? Arlene

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