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Pauline Lerner

Suzuki and Elvis

March 20, 2007 at 6:25 AM

Many times I have heard students play Allegretto, #10 in Suzuki Book 1, the tune which introduces accent marks, and I dimly recall a German folksong that I heard many years ago which sounds similar. One day recently, after eavesdropping on one of my lessons, my boyfriend told me, “I know that tune. Elvis recorded it in the early 60s when he was in Germany.” To my query about the name of the song, he replied, “I don’t remember. It was something like Don’t be mean to me. I don’t have a wooden heart.” Curious and skeptical, I rushed to you tube and found it at It’s a gem! A sweet, clean cut Elvis sings, first in English and then in German, to a sweet little doll in a puppet show.

Can't you see
I love you
Please don't break my heart in two
That's not hard to do
'Cause I don't have a wooden heart
And if you say goodbye
Then I know that I would cry
Maybe I would die
'Cause I don't have a wooden heart
There's no strings upon this love of mine
It was always you from the start
Treat me nice
Treat me good
Treat me like you really should
'Cause I'm not made of wood
And I don't have a wooden heart

Muss i denn, muss i denn
Zum Stadtele hinaus
Stadtele hinaus
Und du, mein schat, bleibst hier?

There's no strings upon this love of mine
It was always you from the start

Sei mir gut
Sei mir gut
Sei mir wie du wirklich sollst
Wie du wirklich sollst
'Cause I don't have a wooden heart

The song, called “Wooden Heart,” was written by Wise, Weisman, Twomey, and Kaempfert, and was based on a German folksong. The Elvis version appeared in the 1961 film G.I. Blues.

I feel that it’s my duty as a violin teacher to pass this information on to my students. I explained it to a 10 year old girl and asked her whether she knew who Elvis was. “Sure,” she said. “He’s a singer. His full name is Elvis Costello.” Ow!

I had remembered Elvis as a decadent singer of sexy songs, but Wooden Heart is so different that I had to reconsider. I looked up all the Elvis songs I could remember on youtube and read what later rock and jazz musicians had to say about Elvis. I watched Elvis perform Jailhouse Rock, You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hound Dog, Blue Suede Shoes, Love Me Tender, and Wise Men Say. I was impressed. Elvis did a variety of styles of music and did them all well. Musicians who followed him had some very good things to say about him, including his innovations and his talent.

Anyone who thinks that Suzuki leads students only to classical music had better think again.


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