Monday, July 2, 2012

Story Songs: In the Ghetto

Elvis Presley was in kind of a slump in the late 1960s, almost  to the point of appearing irrelevant on the music scene. But that all changed in 1969 when he recorded Mac Davis's "In the Ghetto."

The song is about the hardships facing a young boy growing up in a Chicago ghetto without the social supports to help him succeed. Davis pleads that the child needs our help:

"People, don't you understand

the child needs a helping hand
or he'll grow to be an angry young man some day"

We learn that the boy turns to crime on the streets as he learns to steal and fight to survive in the ghetto. As a young man he eventually purchases a weapon and steals a car, then becomes another victim in the cruel and harsh environment where he was born.

And in the final verse, Davis tells us that it's just part of a cycle as the mother loses a child on the streets while another baby is born in the ghetto:

"As her young man dies,

on a cold and gray Chicago mornin',
another little baby child is born
In the ghetto"

The song was originally titled "The Vicious Cycle."

Davis, who is from Lubbock, Texas, wrote many hits including "Memories," "Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me," and "Stop and Smell the Roses." He was inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006. 

Although "In the Ghetto" was recorded in the late '60s, it is still  timely and relevant song in the 21st century. 


  1. without a doubt a classic. i live in chicago and sing it every now and again when i drive through a bad hood.

    1. I've been to Chicago several times and know what you mean about the bad hoods. A great city in many respects but not so great in others.