American Trilogies

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” –From Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863

Arranged by Mickey Newbury, who had a hit with it in 1971, “An American Trilogy” brings together three traditional songs that symbolize distinct portions of America during the Civil War:

  • “Dixie,” representing the seceded, Confederate states (the South)
  • “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” representing the remaining Union states (the North)
  • “All My Trials,” representing the slaves – whose fates the war would decide

Though he never recorded a formal studio version, Elvis often performed the song live, beginning in his January/February 1972 Las Vegas engagement.

This song completes what Elvis began with “If I Can Dream” and continued with “In The Ghetto.” For Elvis, “An American Trilogy” is a song of reconciliation and hope, bringing all of the parts of American culture together.

Indeed, that is exactly how this medley is structured. After moving through “Dixie,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and the quiet “All My Trials,” the performance returns in full, blazing force to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” – no longer representing just the North, but now the entire, reassembled United States of America.

In honor of my country’s 235th birthday on Monday, below are the top 5 Elvis recordings of “An American Trilogy.”

#1 April 9, 1972, Evening Show, Hampton Roads, VA
This Is Elvis

#2 February 16, 1972, Midnight Show, Las Vegas, NV
(Single version)

#3 January 14, 1973, Honolulu, HI
Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite

#4 January 12, 1973, Honolulu, HI
The Alternate Aloha

#5 April 14, 1972, Greensboro, NC
Elvis On Tour (Movie)

13 thoughts on “American Trilogies

  1. What an OUTSTANDING commentary Troy!! And I have to agree with you 100% about the version of TRILOGY from THIS IS ELVIS as being the best version of the song…simply stunning each and every time I hear it!!

    Happy Fourth of July my friend and THANK YOU for letting me (and all of us) ride on the Mystery Train!

    TCB!
    Mike

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    • Thanks, Mike. It’s my pleasure. I’m glad you’re enjoying the ride!

      It’s a shame that Elvis’ greatest version of this song is not widely available today. Sony should release the entire Hampton Roads concert, reportedly one of the best from this era. Why continue holding it back?

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      • I can’t believe Sony will hold the Hampton show back much longer. Considering next year is the 40th anniversary of ELVIS ON TOUR, I highly suspect that we’ll see the Hampton show released in some form…either on the main label or (most likely) on the FTD label as part of the anniversary celebration.

        At least, let’s hope so…like you, I agree that the Hampton show is one of Elvis’ best shows from ’72 and I also can’t believe we haven’t seen an official release already.

        Again, MANY THANKS for the ride my friend!!!
        TCB!
        Mike

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  2. Troy, I agree with Mike. Absolutly stunning version in This is Elvis, that has always been my favorite! And as for your list, couldn’t agree more, that’s how I’ve got them in order. Great song great versions! Thank you Troy! Have a Happy 4th! Keep the train Rollin’!! TCB….

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  3. I’d like to add the Trilogy-version from February 15, 1972 (Midnight Show), included on the Elvis Aron Presley box set, to the list. I’ve always had a soft spot for that one. At the same time I agree that the one from This Is Elvis is outstanding and concur that it should be number one on the list! Happy 4th of July to all of you living in the US, and especially to you, Troy!

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    • Thanks, Thomas! Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays.

      Though it ultimately didn’t make my top five, the February 15, 1972, Midnight Show, performance of “An American Trilogy” from Elvis Aron Presley was definitely in the running.

      He sings it very reverentially, and it’s one of the few versions where he sings the entire portion of “Dixie” that is normally reserved for the Stamps.

      That’s why it’s hard to pick favorites on an Elvis classic like this.

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  4. Pingback: Hey Sony, isn’t it about time for an Elvis On Tour boxed set? « The Mystery Train Elvis Blog

  5. on one of the fan shot concerts I have on DVD, there’s an Elvis spoken word America

    and despite not being American, it brings a patriotic chill down the spine

    it would be interesting to do a cd of the spoken word performances that Elvis did of songs in concert

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