Story of the Song: Elvis Presley, In The Ghetto (1969)

Robert Webb
Friday 11 September 2009 00:00
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Scott "Mac" Davis, an Atlanta-based songwriter, had some success in 1968 thanks to Elvis Presley and "A Little Less Conversation".

His real break came in 1969, with a social-comment number. He'd been struggling to pen a song about growing up on the wrong side of the tracks and thought back to his childhood in Lubbock, Texas. Working down in Georgia, Davis set his song way up north, on a grey Chicago morning.

It tells the story of how a hungry child turns to violence to escape his impoverishment. As the boy dies with a bullet in his back, another baby is born in the ghetto. His title was "The Vicious Circle" but it seemed to Davis that the desperation in the song wasn't so different to that in the wartime Jewish ghettos, so he changed it. Presley was heading for American Sound Studios in Memphis and needed material. "In the Ghetto" sounded right for the times, and it trailed the album From Elvis in Memphis in April 1969.

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