It has been said that no one covers Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah like Rufus Wainwright. That was of course until Elvis Blue came along. His soulful rendition of the Cohen standard elicits a wave of emotion from even the most stoic listener. But, what the world has begun to realise is that Elvis Blue resonates with a creative force that transcends any cover version – no matter how great the song is.
“It’s just one of those songs that has real depth to it,” Elvis, whose real name is Jan Hoogendyk, tells The Beat. “It just grabs you when you listen to it the first time.”
One simply has to listen to the hauntingly beautiful Things My Father Said or Lighthouse or Save Me, or any of his original compositions for that matter, to realise that you are in the company of greatness. Balance this divine gift with great humility, a kind heart and the work ethic of Henry Ford and you begin to understand the soul within this artist.
The gifted musician’s journey started when he was a young boy, singing in school choirs, and busking in the streets of Joburg and Scotland. His one and only goal was to make and perform music. After a stint overseas as a street musician, Elvis returned to South Africa where he decided to study contemporary music.
“People probably don’t know this, but as a teen, I worked in the Spur. I didn’t do to great there, but management decided to keep me on but not as a waiter, but rather as Chico the Clown,” he says laughing. “The was quite a bit of a problem because what girl wants to date a guy who works as a clown in a restaurant!”
After appearing in numerous bands Elvis started a project where he sang under the name MONO. He released three albums under this time. When MONO’s record deal came to an end, Elvis decided that he would move to George where he would become a music teacher, write his own music, and live a quiet life.
After spending some time in George, Elvis was approached by a record company who wanted him to record an Afrikaans album. “The first album I did was under the name Jan Hoogendyk, my real name, and the album did really well. It won an ATKV Lier Toekening award. His second Afrikaans album, Ontskemer also under the name Jan Hoogendyk, was nominated for a 2010 SAMA Award.
While living in George he met the friend whose name he would adopt in 2008. “My wife works at an organisation that is a hospice and children’s home and I met this little boy there when I used to go and play my guitar for them. He really wanted to be a keyboard player, and his name was Elvis Blaauw”, he says. When he passed away in 2009, as a tribute to this amazing young man, Jan Hoogendyk adopted his name and Elvis Blue was born.
In 2010, Elvis Blue won the title of Mnet Idol for that year – sharing half the profit with runner up Lloyd Cele.
Elvis Blue released the album that would change his life as a musician and consolidate all his years of hard work. This album was simply titled Elvis Blue. On the album’s release in November 2010, it shot up the radio and sales charts and reached Gold status. The first two singles Things My Father said and Lighthouse were massive hits, and with the third single, Save Me, is currently on playlists across the country.
“Of all the songs on the CD, Save Me is one of my favourites. It’s just something that feels good when I sing the lyrics and perform the song.” His CD just went gold and he is overjoyed but the feat. “I mean, people have such a large selection of CDs to choose from when they go to buy CDs, and for my CD to be gold, oh man, it’s great.”
Since the release of his album, Elvis has set himself apart as an exceptional performer of live music, using some of the best local musicians to round out his band on stage, insisting on delivering music with depth to audiences across the country. Elvis is also a dedicated husband and father besides being a world class musician and a household name in South Arica.
The success Elvis Blue over the past few years enabled himself to invest in something very near and dear to his heart – The Elvis Blue Music Academy. The Academy was started by Elvis to teach underprivileged children the joy of music. The organisation provides instruments and instruction in a safe, warm environment. “Music has the ability to heal,” Elvis says. “This venture is living proof of that.” The Elvis Blue Music Academy operates in the Western Cape, George and is rolling out in Alexandra in Gauteng in the near future.
Elvis’ success is due to years of hard work, passion and commitment, and even though the path has been long and sometimes never ending, the real journey has only begun now.
There is a lingering feeling of awe when you meet this humble artist. True talent begets respect and admiration. And that’s exactly why Elvis Blue has our country at his feet.
Full Gig Guide of Elvis’ Performances in the Western Cape:
Event: Elvis Blue Live in Hermanus – 10 July
Venue: Gecko Bar, Site 24A New Harbour, Hermanus
Ticket Prices: R 60
Doors open at 18:30
Event: Elvis Blue Live in Worcester – 11 July
Venue: The Damas Theatre, Worcester
Ticket Prices: Visit www.damas.co.za for ticket prices and starting times.
Event: Elvis Blue Live in Durbanville – 12 July
Venue: Die Boer Teater, Chenoweth Street 6, Durbanville
Ticket Prices: R 120
For more information call Elsa at 021 979 1911
Event: Elvis Blue Live in Tulbach – 13 July
Venue: The Saronsberg Theatre in Tulbach
Ticket Prices: R 120
For more information call Cliff at 023 230 1782
Event: Elvis Blue Live in Paarl – 14 July
Venue: Ou Meul Teater, Meul Street, Paarl
Ticket Prices: For more information and starting times, call Vicky on 083 564 0056
Event: Elvis Blue Live at the George Cheese Festival – 31 July
Venue: The George Cheese Festival, Mead, George
Ticket Prices: R56 per adults, R30 for children under 13.
Gates open early till late