The creators behind Elvis documentary The King embarked on the road trip of a lifetime to make the documentary about the life and death of The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and the America he left behind. Traveling in Elvis Presley’s actual 1963 Rolls Royce, which he sold sometime in the ‘70s and was only recently unearthed, filmmakers toured the U.S. in search of Elvis landmarks—in cities like Nashville, Memphis, New York, L.A., Las Vegas and his native Tupelo, Miss.—and insights into how the country has changed since his death. Along the way, they welcome droves of everyday people, musicians and celebrity guests, including Alec Baldwin, Ethan Hawke and Emmylou Harris, to sit for a spell in the backseat of the car.
We’ve got an exclusive look at one of those visitors, Americana folk singer M. Ward, playing his track “Sad Sad Song” from 2003’s Transfiguration of Vincent in Elvis’ car. Watch the Paste-exclusive clip, which also incorporates scenes from the film, below.
Ward said the decision to play “Sad Sad Song” happened organically:
We drove around Hollywood for about an hour and songs just came out. We did a few Elvis covers to get in the moment and then I think Eugene requested “Sad Sad Song” specifically. I didn’t know where the film would go with that song in terms of Elvis or America but it makes sense now.
Ward, who had been in L.A. at the time to perform on Conan, went straight from taping in Burbank to cruising in Elvis’ Rolls. “I was disoriented and feeling a strong sense of where-am-I-but-this-is-comfortable-can-I-sleep-here,” Ward said. While the in-car performance may have felt improvisational, it lands with a certain poignancy in this clip, supported by footage from the film.
Ward is also an Elvis fan himself, and he has a special appreciation for King collaborators like James Burton and Scotty Moore. “Jailhouse Rock,” “Such A Night” and the live version of “Baby What You Want Me To Do” rank at the top of his list of favorite Elvis songs. The King, directed by Eugene Jarecki, is now playing in select theaters.
Last month, M. Ward ambushed fans with a surprise album, What a Wonderful Industry. A trim 35 minutes, the LP is an assessment of the ups and downs of the music industry that follows 2016’s More Rain. Stream the album here. For more M. Ward magic, check out his 2012 Daytrotter Session, along with an eloquent, Ward-penned letter about the long road from “Sad Sad Song” to The King, further down below.
In the summer of 2002, i made a record called “Transfiguration of Vincent” with my friend mike coykendall in his attic studio in SE portland on a shoestring. The whole thing happened pretty fast so the idea of making any music videos to promote it never crossed my mind.
I was younger and just starting to realize how truly absurd the world can be. So if someone were to tell me in 2002 that one day mike and i would be performing song #3 – “sad, sad song” – whilst riding around hollywood in elvis presley’s 1963 rolls royce i would have thought – “yes that sounds about right” – BUT i never would have imagined that a video of the performance would be connected to the great mind-bending film that is “The King.”
Im telling everyone i know about this film because i love it – and i think it expresses what a lot of people are thinking but unable to say because its not simple and its not tweet-sized. i think our national angst is hard to talk about because it involves summing up the lives of a billion people living, dead and yet to be born – i think good films, like good photography and good music, can sometimes do it for us. In that way, the release of this film feels like getting something heavy off the chest.
So it took 16 years, but here friends is the video for “Sad sad song.”