Ann-Margret: Born to be Wild

By Steve Beard
The legendary entertainer Ann-Margret, now 81, just released an album of early rock and roll and pop hits. The New York Times correctly observes that she “has always spoken in a voice that falls somewhere between a purr and a coo” in a recent story about her latest recording endeavor. The guest musicians include The Who’s Pete Townshend, The Fuzztones, and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, and features duets with Pat Boone, Cliff Richards, and Mickey Gilley.

Her set list includes hits from a different era: “Rock Around The Clock,” “Bye Bye Love,” “Son Of A Preacher Man” (my favorite), “Earth Angel,” “Why Do Fools Fall In Love,” “The Great Pretender,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” Born To Be Wild,” “Splish Splash,” and “Volare” (featuring Lee Rocker & Slim Jim Phantom).Good to see these musicians step up to help her fulfill a rock and roll dream. After all, Joan Jett stepped in to help rock pioneer Wanda Jackson record “Encore” a few years ago when Jackson turned 83.“Being offered an opportunity to work with Ann-Margret, especially on an Everly Brothers song, was just too romantic to pass,” said Pete Townshend. “Ann-Margret’s work on the ‘Tommy’ movie back in 1974 (when she was most certainly not old enough to pretend to be Roger Daltrey’s mother) was a joy from beginning to end. Her sonorous voice, her Scandinavian beauty, her sense of humor, her stamina and her strength all shone through.”

Ann-Margret has been nominated twice for an Academy Award, won five Golden Globe Awards, won an Emmy (and five other Emmy nominations). She was also nominated for a Grammy for her album “God Is Love: The Gospel Sessions.” She has received presidential citations for entertaining the U.S. armed forces overseas and performed at the White House. She has made over fifty-five films – and she still rides a purple Harley Davidson.

According to the Times, “Born to be Wild” will be Ann-Margret’s first album to “focus squarely on rock standards, all of which she handpicked, including Steppenwolf’s biker anthem referenced in the title and ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,’ which Elvis famously gyrated through in his own version.”

If you’ve ever seen Ann-Margret in “Viva Las Vegas,” you will understand the Elvis nod. Having just crushed it the year before with her film “Bye Bye Birdie,” the 23-year-old Swedish actress established herself as an entertainment sensation. She exuded charm and talent by the trainload. Col. Tom Parker – Elvis’ manager – was even worried that she was getting too many close-ups. This was, after all, an Elvis movie. The two co-stars were pure electricity.

Filmink argued Ann-Margret had “so much energy and pep that she had blown her previous three male co-stars off screen, but Elvis could match her. He was the best on-screen partner she ever had, and she was his.”

“Music ignited a fiery pent-up passion inside Elvis and inside me,” Ann-Margaret wrote in her autobiography. “It was an odd, embarrassing, funny, inspiring, and wonderful sensation. We looked at each other move and saw virtual mirror images.”

That was my first exposure to Ann-Margaret – but not my last. I backtracked to watch some of her early movies. What a classy knockout. Congratulations on the new album, Ann-Margret. All the best. Rock on. 

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