♫ In The Ghetto ♫

Today, thinking about the people who are suffering while our so-called president plays games over an ego-wall, thinking about the income disparity in this nation, the wealthy who cannot even see those living below the poverty line, this song seems to call out to me, saying … play me!

The song was written by Mac Davis …

“… it’s kind of a convoluted story, but it’s a true story. I had been trying to write a song called “The Vicious Circle” for what seemed like ages. I wasn’t old enough (for it) to be “ages,” but I was in my late 20s. The word “ghetto” was just becoming popular to describe the parts of urban areas where poor people were living and couldn’t get out. They were stuck there, and everybody took off to the suburbs.

I grew up with a little kid whose daddy worked with my daddy, and he was a black kid. We were good buddies, 5 or 6 years old. I remember him being one of my best buddies. But he lived in a part of town, and I couldn’t figure out why they had to live where they lived, and we got to live where we lived. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we didn’t have broken bottles every six inches. It was a dirt street ghetto where he lived.

At any rate, I’d always wanted to write a song about it, where a kid is born, he doesn’t have a male parent, and falls into the wrong people and dies just as another kid comes along and replaces him. It’s just a vicious circle. Long story short — I couldn’t find anything to rhyme with “circle.”

I was sitting in the office one day. Nancy Sinatra had signed me to her publishing company, and a buddy of mine, Freddy Weller, came over … He said, ‘Hey, I got this lick that Joe South showed me.’ He played this lick on the guitar, and boy, I just heard (sings) “In the ghetto.”

I didn’t say anything, went home that night and sat down with that lick. I started singing “In the ghetto,” and by about 2 o’clock in the morning, I had written the song. … of course, I called Freddy up as I was wont to do in those days and sung him the song at 2 o’clock in the morning. There was a long silence, and he said some foul cuss word and hung up on me. He wasn’t upset with me, he was just mad that he didn’t get to write part of that song.

Elvis almost didn’t do the song, though, according to his friend Marty Lacker …

“Elvis was hesitant to do ‘In The Ghetto’.  Colonel Parker had always drilled into his head, ‘Don’t do message songs. If you do a message song it’s just like taking a political side. Whatever side you’re gonna take is gonna offend the others’. I was in the control room after Elvis and the musicians had been working on ‘In The Ghetto’ a little bit. He said, ‘Look, I don’t think I should do this song’. I said, ‘Elvis, if you’re ever gonna do a song like this, this is the one’. He looked over at Chips and Chips said, ‘This is a hit record. But I’ll tell you what, if you don’t want it, can I have the song?’ Elvis didn’t blink. He said, ‘No, I’m gonna do it.'”

Listen to the words … they are powerful and every bit as relevant today as they were when this song was recorded in 1969.

In the Ghetto
Elvis Presley

As the snow flies
On a cold and gray Chicago mornin’
A poor little baby child is born
In the ghetto (in the ghetto)

And his mama cries
‘Cause if there’s one thing that she don’t need
It’s another hungry mouth to feed
In the ghetto (in the ghetto)

People, don’t you understand
The child needs a helping hand
Or he’ll grow to be an angry young man some day?
Take a look at you and me
Are we too blind to see
Do we simply turn our heads, and look the other way?

Well, the world turns
And a hungry little boy with a runny nose
Plays in the street as the cold wind blows
In the ghetto (in the ghetto)

And his hunger burns
So he starts to roam the streets at night
And he learns how to steal, and he learns how to fight
In the ghetto (in the ghetto)

Then one night in desperation
A young man breaks away
He buys a gun, steals a car
Tries to run, but he don’t get far
And his mama cries

As a crowd gathers ’round an angry young man
Face down on the street with a gun in his hand
In the ghetto (in the ghetto)

And as her young man dies
On a cold and gray Chicago mornin’
Another little baby child is born
In the ghetto (in the ghetto)

And his mama cries (in the ghetto)
(In the ghetto)

Songwriters: Mac Davis
In the Ghetto lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Raleigh Music Publishing

41 thoughts on “♫ In The Ghetto ♫

  1. Sadly, in the ghetto, Mamas still cry for much the same reason. I’ve always had a preference for Elvis’s version of this song, much more so than Mac Davis’s style of singing his own song. Elvis brings tears to my eyes every time, Mac doesn’t. I feel the same about “A Little Less Conversation”, another Mac Davis song (Elvis sang in one of his movies). A fact that I know only because youngest Daughter was and still is a devoted Elvis fan, even though born after his death…constant music and movies…we even had an Elvis Room when she still lived at home…filled with everything Elvis! To me the best song that Mac Davis ever wrote and released is “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me” back in the early 70’s. Since Mac Davis’s appearance on The Muppet Show in 1980 (my Son wouldn’t miss it), I will forever think of Mac, in swimming trunks and flippers, sitting on a huge fishhook singing this song with Miss Piggy, dressed as a mermaid! I’ve since forgotten the other of his songs that he sang on the show, although I think “It’s Hard To Be Humble” was another. Ah, the memories that songs can exhume! Thank-you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, my friend, I suspect there will always be ghettos and always be mamas crying for their young, for the lives they must lead, as long as humans walk this earth. Like you, Elvis’ version is my all-time favourite of this song, although I am not a huge Elvis fan.

      An ‘Elvis room’??? Seriously? Did you make her take it all with her when she moved out?

      You will think this odd, but I wouldn’t know Mac Davis if he popped up in my living room, and have no idea who he is, other than what you have just told me. But, if he was a guest on the Muppets, then he’s a good guy! I must check that out tomorrow!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • YOU don’t know Mac Davis!?! He had a very successful singing career on his own in the 70’s, after having written many great songs for others. His voice is definitely more country, but he did crossover from one chart to the other. He also had his own TV show for about two years in the mid 70’s, if I remember correctly, not to mention being in movies and other TV shows. Might I also say, he was quite the delectable hottie back then! Sadly, like many of us, it has diminished with age. If you can find that Muppet Show, it is in Benjamin speak, “the bestest”! Thank-you!

        Liked by 1 person

        • No … I thought maybe it was just his name that was lost somewhere in my bumfuzzle of a brain, so I checked out his song repertoire, and I haven’t heard of any of them. Looked at his picture and … nope, never seen him before. So, I am learning from you! I shall look for the Muppet Show episode … they were always my favourites!


          • I am flabbergasted that you don’t know Mac Davis’s song “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me”! I’ll admit that I never saw any of the movies that he had a role in, but I did see him in the Broadway show “The Will Rogers Follies” as the lead role of Will Rogers back in the summer of 1992. My Son took me as a birthday gift and we loved it. He wasn’t as cute anymore, but then he was supposed to look like Will Rogers. I was talking with my Son about this earlier today, no it was yesterday, as it is now Sunday. I wanted to see if he remembered the actual date, but he only remembered that it was in July or August. He asked if I remembered that Marla Maples was in it then too, I did not! He said she was Trump’s fiance at the time and that it was said that Trump bought the role for her…sounds believable, right? He also laughed about the Muppet Show and said that he was going to find it and watch, he never outgrew his love of Mr. Rogers or The Muppets! Oh yes, the Elvis Room went with her when she married the first husband and then returned with her when the marriage disintegrated ( another very sad story). To this day, “Elvis has (not) left the building” although she has!! Thank-you!

            Liked by 1 person

            • I Googled that one and yes, I do remember it (Don’t Get Hooked On Me), but perhaps my mind buried it, for I never did care for the song. I think the lyrics turned me off at the time. You have an awesome son! And wouldn’t you know … small world, isn’t it … Marla Maples … likely the only of Trump’s wives to produce a child with a brain! OH YES … Mr. Rogers is another favourite! Daniel the Striped Tiger! Ahhh … you are a bad influence on me, for I just spent 10 minutes watching a clip of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood! Sigh. The good ol’ days. The ‘Elvis Room’ remains, eh?


  2. Although I don’t like this version, it was probably the best song Elvis ever recorded. I had to listen to him from the start of his career, my three older sisters played nothing but for a long long time. Not to say he wasn’t good, but compared to some other singers I thought the title “King” was quite pretentious, not bad for an eight year-old kid. Still…
    Thanks to Mac Davis for a great song. There was a man with emotion.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. In the Ghetto turned my head when it was released. I’d always thought Elvis was part of another generation. Although I admired his skills and talents, I wasn’t a fan, but the power with which he sang this song increased my appreciation of him. Many good covers have been released since this Elvis’ hit, but none have surpassed it. Thanks for posting. Cheers

    Liked by 3 people

      • Jill, there is a two part documentary on Elvis on HBO. It is excellent. He was more involved in the production of his records. He insisted is early records have an bluesy song on one side and a country song on the other. This documentary has people like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen commenting on some of the musicality.

        I think he needed better guidance and more musicians around him pushing. He wanted to be a movie star and I think that took him away making music. I am not huge fan, but I do respect his talent.


        Liked by 1 person

        • That sounds interesting! I’ll see if I can find it online. Thanks! Like you, I wasn’t a huge fan, but did respect his talent. He’s another who, I think, messed up his life when he still had more he could have given the world.


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