Softly, As I Leave You (Singer Sherrill Nielsen, 1942-2010)

“Listen to his voice, ladies and gentlemen”

Sad news this morning. Singer Sherrill Nielsen passed away on December 10, reports Elvis Information Network and ElvisMatters. He was 68.

Nielsen first performed with Elvis as a member of the Imperials gospel group on the 1966 album How Great Thou Art. He left the Imperials shortly thereafter, but returned to the Elvis world in 1973 as a member of a new group, Voice. Voice provided backup singing in concert and in the studio, including work on 1975’s Elvis Today album.

Nielsen features prominently on two live recordings released shortly after Elvis’ death. On the 1977 album Elvis In Concert, which compiled songs from two stops on his final tour, Elvis introduces Nielsen and asks him to sing “O Sole Mio” – the original Italian version of “It’s Now Or Never.” As Nielsen sings solo during the June 21, 1977, performance in Rapid City, South Dakota, Elvis playfully gibes him as a “smart aleck” while hitting the high notes. Elvis soon takes over to do a solid version of “It’s Now Or Never.”

Softly, As I Leave You (1978 single)

Softly, As I Leave You (1978 single)

In February 1978, six months after Elvis’ death, RCA released a single from that same concert – a haunting version of “Unchained Melody,” with piano accompaniment by Elvis himself. The flip side of that 45 RPM record was “Softly, As I Leave You,” which includes almost no singing by Elvis. Instead, in this December 13, 1975, recording from a Las Vegas concert, Elvis tells a fictional story about a dying man composing the song as a final letter to his wife. As Elvis delivers the dramatic tale and speaks the lyrics of the song, Nielsen provides the nearly operatic vocals.

They close in harmony together on the final line, “I will leave you there.”

My condolences go out to Nielsen’s family and friends.

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Research Source: Elvis Presley: A Life In Music – The Complete Recording Sessions by Ernst Jorgensen, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1998.

4 thoughts on “Softly, As I Leave You (Singer Sherrill Nielsen, 1942-2010)

  1. Dear ones,

    My dear friend Sherrill Nielsen passed away on Friday, December 10, 2010.
    I met Sherrill’Shaun’Nielsen and his wife Brenda for the first time on a performance
    in Zaffelaere, near Ghent, Belgium at the end of 2004 That is where we decided
    to start with a Gospel Album. The first album “Jerry Deewood sings with and from
    Shaun Nielsen” was released in 2006 at the premises of the fabulous Sun Studio,
    Memphis, Tennessee, where all recordings took place. The album hit all major
    websites worldwide and even became a 7 months long Top 20 Favorite and a
    Hot Top CD Review of the Southern Gospel News, a worldauthority. Not long afterwards,
    a new album was realized in the Kelley road Studio, Memphis Tenn. and released in 2010.
    This album almost got the same title as the first but we added “& Friends. Again the
    album was good for a worldwide interest and in an amazing good interview on
    ‘Blues Again’, I clearly stated that Sherrill had a major influence on my singing career
    if not THE major influence. Each album was good for 7 songs of Sherrill and one
    song from myself. So, we spent a lot of time together, in spite of his many obligations
    and performances in the States and in Europe. On this occasions he performed as a
    duo with his devoted wife Brenda.
    It was a real pleasure to see how we figured out what must be done. As we got further
    into association I experienced Sherrill as a man with a great sense of humour, giving
    so much and never asking something back, but most of all I knew him as a brother in
    arms. That’s what we really were: brothers in arms, for the good music from rock over
    blues to gospel and for the good cause.
    So, I’m asking myself over and over again: Sherrill why do you have to leave us so soon?
    I know for sure, that I’m gonna miss you for the rest of my days. May the music we
    made together, and the songs we sang together, be your legacy for all those who understand.
    Your devoted friend,
    Jerry Deewood Bruges BELGIUM EUROPE

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  2. I had never heard this song by Sherrill and Elvis until today. I still love Franks verson but this is so beautiful I’m ready to weep. Time takes us all but when voices such as these are stilled, I think even God weeps

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