Black Velvet” is a song written by Canadian songwriters Christopher Ward and David Tyson, recorded by Canadian singer-songwriter Alannah Myles. It was released in December 1989 as one of four singles from Myles’ 1989 eponymous album from Atlantic Records. It became a number-one hit for two weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1990 and reached number one on the Album Rock Tracks chart, as well as number ten in her native Canada and number two on the UK Singles Chart. It contains blues verses with a rock chorus.
Myles won the 1991 Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for the song and the 1990 Juno Award for Single of the Year. Since its release, the power ballad has received substantial airplay, receiving a “Millionaire Award” from ASCAP in 2005 for more than four million radio plays.
The song is a paean to Elvis Presley. Co-writer Christopher Ward, who was Myles’ then-boyfriend, was inspired on a bus full of Elvis fans riding to Memphis attending the 10th-anniversary vigil at Graceland, in 1987. Upon his return to Canada, he brought his idea to Alannah and producer David Tyson, who wrote the chords for the bridge. The song was one of three in a demo Myles presented to Atlantic Records which eventually got her signed to the label.
Atlantic Records, much to the disappointment of Myles, for whom the song had been written, gave the song for country artist Robin Lee to record. In the USA, Myles’ version was released in December 1989, while Lee’s version was released two months later, in February 1990. This led to Myles being promoted by Atlantic on the pop and rock radio stations, and Lee on the country radio stations. Lee even filmed a video clip to the song very similar to Myles’ video.
Myles released a new version of the song on a digitally-released Elvis tribute EP to commemorate the 30 years since his death in August 2007. It was later included on her 2008 Black Velvet CD.
The song is performed in the key of the D♯ minor with a swinging tempo of 91 beats per minute in common time. Myles’ vocals span from C♯4 to D♯6 in the song.
The music video, directed by Doug Freel, was partially shot in Myles’ family ranch in Buckhorn, Ontario. Myles is seen singing at a cabin porch with her guitarist, intercut with scenes from Myles in concert with her band.
Released as Myles’ second single off her debut album, it was first released in Myles’ native Canada in July 1989, peaking at #10 in September of that year, becoming her first of four top 10 hits in her homeland. Worldwide, it was released as Myles’ debut single. It was released in the USA in December 1989, and worldwide in early 1990, becoming a top 10 hit in most countries where it was released, and peaking at #1 in four countries: The USA, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland, receiving Gold and Platinum discs in several countries.
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