09 Saturday Feb 2013
(I introduced the great American scholar, Leslie Fiedler, in Part I of these essays on children’s music. My comments are informed by concepts introduced in a graduate course Leslie taught on children’s literature.)
This is nothing more than a hokey collection of Elvis’s well-known songs, all of which were previously released on other albums, and here, repackaged with a bunch of really bad imitations of crayon drawings by children, under the title Elvis Sings for Children.
Brilliant! What kid wouldn’t love Elvis? I mean, what little kid would not hit the floor dancing after the first notes of “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear”? It’s too bad they didn’t think of this before “the authorities” accused him of promoting licentiousness and sent him into the army. I wish this album came out when I was a kid. I might have grown up knowing about cool instead of twitching through nurdhood.
Baby let me be,
your lovin’ Teddy Bear
Put a chain around my neck,
and lead me anywhere
Oh let me be
Your teddy bear.
According to Leslie Fiedler, works of art that become immortal have two characteristics: archetypes – basic stories about universal human feelings; and signatures – the presence of the writer that stamps itself on the story, the style of the story. In paintings the two are explicit: Here we have a painting of Christ on the cross. The crucifixion is the archetypal idea. Who painted it? El Greco. That’s the signature.
In “Teddy Bear” the archetype is a little kinky: sensuous cuddly submissive bondage. But it is the signature that renders this song immortal: Elvis!
Kal Mann and Bernie Lowe, “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear.” Gladys Music, Inc. (ASCAP) (1957). From Elvis Presley with The Jordanaires, Elvis Sings for Children and Growups Too!, RCA Records, CPL 1-2901 (1978). Art Director – Tim Bryant/Gribbitt; Album design – George Corsillo/Gribbitt; Photography – Ron Slenzak, Boxcar Enterprises Inc.