♫ In The Ghetto ♫ (Redux)

I last played this in November 2020, but it is a timeless story that will likely always resonate.  This song speaks … or should speak … to us all.  On the night I last posted this,  I had read the staggering statistics that 12% of households in the U.S. did not have enough food to eat. That was at the height of the pandemic, so I checked tonight to see if the situation had improved, and no … still some 11.6% of households live below the poverty line.  We have people starving in this country.  We have babies being born with no home to go to, no future to look to.  Yes, tonight … any night, really … this song resonates. 

I’m not a huge Elvis fan … never was, though back in the ’50s and ’60s, most of my friends were in love with Elvis.  However, he has done a few songs that I love, and this is one … his voice coupled with the tragic message of the song stir something inside me every time I hear it.

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

21 thoughts on “♫ In The Ghetto ♫ (Redux)

  1. I was never an Elvis fan either, but this song is very powerful and I think Elvis delivers it perfectly. I was about to watch the video clip when I read rawgod’s comment above. He makes a good point. Having never seen Elvis perform it, I’ve decided on this occasion not to watch it and have pulled up the Elvis audio track I have in my collection and played that instead. It’s still one of the very few songs that brings a lump to my throat and a slight misting of the eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You always pick wonderful songs ~ our musical tastes match! If I weren’t on an audio-video fast I’d love to click through, but even thinking of them is great! Thanks for the trips down memory lane…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: ♫ In The Ghetto ♫ (Redux) | Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News

  4. I can only say I wish Mac Davis or someone else had sung this song. Seeing Presley sing it in his clean white Vegas costume, singing to a bunch of rich fans, just makes me want to vomit. I cannot believe Davis gave it away, no matter how much he was paid for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jill, I think this is his best song. His voice lends itself to Mac Davis’ words and music. I remember a funny story Davis told. He said he was singing in a night club and he had just broken into “In the ghetto” and in walks Elvis after he released the song. Davis said he got so nervous, he forgot the words. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • I fully agree. This is my favourite of his … it combines a great tune, a great voice, and a story we should all be aware of, for it is one that is happening all over the nation every day. I heard that story … I think from you last time I played this … and LOVE it!


  6. I wasn’t a fan of Elvis either, but this was one of two of his hits that I liked – the other was Suspicious Minds. Both were way better than the rest of the dross he gave us in his later years.

    Liked by 1 person

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