“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 Presley often performed the song live, beginning in his January/February 1972 Las Vegas engagement. A number of rehearsal versions have also appeared over the years.
While Elvis publicly claimed that his 1973 Aloha From Hawaii television special would contain “no messages,” it did, in fact, contain at least one in the form of “An American Trilogy” – though not nearly as obvious as the message of “If I Can Dream” from his previous special.
“Trilogy” actually completes what Elvis began with “If I Can Dream” in 1968 and continued with “In The Ghetto” in 1969. For Elvis, “An American Trilogy” is a song of reconciliation and hope, bringing all 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 237th birthday today, 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
#3 January 14, 1973, Honolulu, HI
Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite
#4 January 12, 1973, Honolulu, HI
The Alternate Aloha
#5 February 15, 1972, Midnight Show, Las Vegas, NV
Elvis Aron Presley
Though it did not quite make the top five, I also have to give an honorable mention to the August 12, 1972, Opening Show, Las Vegas version released on 3000 South Paradise Road. It features one of the very best reprises of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Happy birthday, USA. May you continue to strive towards your ideals.