When Sir Tim Rice Wrote for Elvis

TimRiceI had Sir Tim Rice on the line the other day, to discuss the restaging of “Chess,” which he created with two members of Abba. It premieres at the Kennedy Center with a new book by Danny Strange (“Game Change,” “Empire”) tonight.

But I had to ask him about some earlier songs he wrote in his career — particularly ones that weren’t associated with musicals from “Evita” to “The Lion King,” such as “It’s Easy for You,” recorded by Elvis Presley.

“Haven’t done many pop songs not featured in a show or film,” he said via e-mail. “The Elvis connection was via The King’s music publisher, Freddy Bienstock. It was a great thrill to hear Elvis perform our song and even chat about the lyric before one of the takes.”

I also had to ask about an old story about John Lennon supposedly being asked to sing the title role in “Jesus Christ Superstar,” but refusing to do so unless Yoko Ono was cast as Mary Magdalene.

“We never offered him the part, but I think some journalist suggested it to him when the record came out, and he responded with his Yoko comment,” Rice said. As such, “this briefly became a news story.”

And so it is again. The meat of my Q&A with Rice can be found here in the Washington Post Express.

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