Elvis Presley: If I Can Dream (1968)


There must be lights burning brighter somewhere
Got to be birds flying higher in a sky more blue
If I can dream of a better land
Where all my brothers walk hand in hand
Tell me why, oh why, oh why can’t my dream come true
Oh why

Elvis Presley lived in Memphis, where Martin Luther King was assassinated on 4 April 1968. According to actress Celeste Yarnall, Presley was devastated by the cowardly assassination and burst into tears while watching the television broadcast of King’s funeral. This is very credible, as Elvis had always felt great sympathy with Martin Luther King’s speeches defending the African-American community. Elvis’ musical roots also lay in the many African-American blues musicians living in his hometown. At the beginning of his career, Elvis was even launched as the white artist with the black voice.

A few months after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Walter Earl Brown wrote the song ‘If I Can Dream’ as a tribute to King. Elvis was recording at the time and immediately agreed to also record this song. During the recording he became so engrossed in the song that he fell to his knees while, according to the producer, the musicians in the studio all stared at him open-mouthed.

The first time Elvis sang ‘If I Can Dream’ to a large audience was as the last song in his legendary ‘Comeback Special’, which gave his career a new boost. So one King was resurrected thanks to the inspiring words of the other King.