How Great Thou art – Almost in Elvis

How Great Thou Art Number Of The Week, Week, Week

By Almost In Elvis/ Dennis van Tiel, Feb 28, 2010

Oh Lord my God when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed
When Christ shall come
We shout a proclamation
To take me home what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim my God how great thou art
Then sings my soul my saviour God to thee
How great thou art (how great thou art)
How great thou art (how great thou art)
Then sings my soul my saviour God to thee
How great thou art, how great thou art
(Stuart Hine)


During the early days of summer in 1977 Elvis gave his last concerts on earth. Thankfully two concerts of his last tour in June were put on film for posterity. Otherwise we never would be able to witness the most famous pleading for euthanasia. An early ending of live by injecting an overdose heavenly morphine by the only doctor who is authorized to do so. Namely God himselvis.

Elvis had to accept hellish pains during the last years of his short live. His heart, liver and guts were too big, to narrow or just upset. It was a secret to us infantry that the great troubadour lost control over his little and big messages he posted in the lavatory. Also the pills had done their final job and caused a total goodbye for Elvis’ awareness of the real world he was living in. His mental state was broken by the prospect of the publication of the book Elvis, what happened?, written by some ex-bodyguards (with more than modest support of a ghost-writer). This book would reveal some doubtful hobbies of their former employer. Elvis simply had had enough of his immortality.

Elvis sang the gospel How Great Thou Art, or to put it stronger: he vomits the words on the audience in the big arena. The talent he still had was squeezed out of all of his pores that were still healthy enough to do so. He couldn’t salute at the finale of the song. Breath or no breath, it was very important to him that the Lord could hear his prayer. It took the echoes of his plead two months to reach the house of God. Finally the Maker of all was able to heal one of his most famous portraits. The Supreme Being granted Elvis the medicine ‘Eternal peace’. At last, free at last.

The king of the popular grades didn’t get much appreciation for his artistic and cultural achievements (from a non fan view).
But luckily enough his faith in a world outsides his own gave him some recognition. For the spirits on vinyl, called How Great Thou Art (1967) he got himself a Grammy for best sacred music. The same title of the album gave Elvis a second Grammy seven years later. This time he earned the award because of a tremendous version he performed live for his own neighbours in Memphis.
It’s a shame that the United States are as conservative as the famous Presley himself; otherwise the euthanasia-version of How Great Thou Art from 1977 would also be a big winner, Grammy-wise.

On the 25th of May 1966 Elvis entered the studio of RCA in Nashville, conscious of the fact his career was going down, to put it mildly. He was being laughed at by a new rebellious audience, the musicpress and the new stream of actors and musicians. The latter were busy with progressive art, social protests and eating candies outside their own homes. Presley didn’t have the power to give a straight answer to the new age. He simply didn’t understand it. Elvis was busy enough handling is own troubles. Priscilla and Colonel Parker were putting pressure on him to get married. And besides that they thought that his quest for God, truth and his own place on earth was complete gibberish. They almost wanted to call him a screwball, but their worries about their own incomes held them back. Elvis tried to find confirmation in the arms of a hair cutting guru, who would help him with his quest for the authenticity of everything and beyond.

But now big E. was confronted with a new session of music that would make him happy for a short while. He was going to record a brand new gospel album, so that his talent and friendship with Jesus Christ would melt together. And boy, my boy, that was noticeable for all our ears.
Elvis’ voice had never sounded so sincere, crystal clear, and strong as it did during his stay in the Nashville studio in the springtime of 1966. For a moment he was the homemade heaven on earth.
The second song that Elvis recorded was How Great Thou Art. Charlie Hodge, the chief lackey of the housekeeping, let his boss hear a version of The Sons of the Pioneers. The incarnated gospel-library, called Elvis Presley, was familiar with a version of a gospel-gang calling themselves The Statesmen. Mister Presley took the freedom to cannibalise and blender both versions and injected them with his holy fire. He knew exactly what he wanted and produced the song completely on his own. The rocking preacher even had the courage to sing every part of the vocals. Heroic and justly. From the sweet bas intro to the opera-like high climax, he did it all.
How Great Thou Art is maybe the magnum opus of Elvis’ career on earth. Honestly, well deserved and he didn’t need a heart failure to be heard.
Out of self protection, the editor doesn’t listen much to this masterpiece, because otherwise all the atheistic beliefs will disappear in the loo. You know, the kind of loo were Elvis encounters his mortality.

How Great Thou Art is from origin a Swedish sacred song and translated into English by a missionary called Stuart K. Hine.
‘Jag alskar dig, Stuart,’ said the fool.


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