In the Ghetto
"In the Ghetto" (originally titled "The Vicious Circle") is a song written by Mac Davis and made famous by Elvis Presley, who had a major comeback hit with it in 1969. It was released in 1969 as a 45 rpm single with "Any Day Now" as the flip side.
It is a narrative of generational poverty: a boy is born to a mother who already has more children than she can feed in the ghetto of Chicago. The boy grows up hungry, steals and fights, purchases a gun and steals a car, attempts to run, but is shot and killed just as his own child is born. The song implies that the newborn will meet the same fate, continuing the cycle of poverty and violence. The feeling of an inescapable circle is created by the structure of the song, with its simple, stark phrasing; by the repetition of the phrase "in the ghetto" as the close of every fourth line; and finally by the repetition of the first verse's "and his mama cries" just before the beginning and as the close of the last verse.
"In the Ghetto" was recorded during Presley's session in the American Sound Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. It was Presley's first creative recording session since the Elvis Presley's '68 Comeback Special|'68 Comeback. Other hits recorded at this session were "Suspicious Minds", "Kentucky Rain", and "Don't Cry Daddy".
The song was Presley's first Top 10 hit in the US in four years, peaking at number 3, and his first UK Top 10 hit in three years, peaking at #2. It hit #1 on Cashbox. It was a number 1 hit in what was formerly West Germany, Ireland, Norway, Australia and New Zealand.
As a major international hit, Presley included it in his setlist during his return to live performances at the International Hotel in Las Vegas in 1969. It was a staple of his shows in the first two seasons, however in his third (August/September 1970), he included it only once , at the dinner show on 13 August, for the benefit of the MGM cameras who were filming Elvis: That's the Way It Is (1970). This version started without pause at the end of another hit from 1969 - "Don't Cry Daddy".
Lisa Marie Presley duet version
After Elvis Presley, the song has been performed by many other artists. Among them were, most notably, Sammy Davis Jr., Susan Cadogan, Candi Staton, Dolly Parton, Bobby Blue Bland, Bobbie Gentry, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Ian Stuart Donaldson, The Cranberries, Merle Haggard, Leatherface, Three Six Mafia, DNX vs. The Voice, Natalie Merchant, Bad Lieutenant, Fair Warning, Beats International, and Eleanor Shanley. The Spanish singer and actor Enrique Castellon Vargas, also known as "El Principe Gitano" (The Gypsy Prince), recorded a Spanish version of the song. The KLF used a sample of the Elvis recording in their ambient DJ album Chill Out (1990). Mac Davis recorded a version of the song for a greatest hits album released in 1979. In 2011, Chris de Burgh covered the song on his album Footsteps 2.
In 2014, cricketer Andrew Flintoff was asked to sing Elvis, as commentator David Lloyd had recommended Flintoff's Elvis impersonation. He proceeded to sing In The Ghetto whilst the game was going on (he was miced up, as part of the entertainment).
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds version
"In the Ghetto" is the debut single by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. It was recorded at the Trident Studios in London and released as a 7" on June 18, 1984 with the B-side "The Moon Is in the Gutter". It reached 84 on the UK Singles Chart. While originally not present on any album, it was later included on the CD reissue of the band's first album, From Her to Eternity.
|Chart (1984)|| Peak|
|UK Indie Chart||1|
Paul Shanklin recorded a parody called "In a Yugo" for Rush Limbaugh, in which an environmentally conscious family buys a Yugo to save gas, only to get killed by a truck after swerving to miss a duck. Later, Shanklin updated his parody for a new generation too young to remember the Yugo, replacing it with its perceived equivalent, "In a Hybrid".
In the Comedy Central show South Park, Eric Cartman sings "In the Ghetto" on two separate occasions, once in "Chickenpox", then again when Kenny's soul is trapped in Cartman's body in "A Ladder to Heaven".
Dutch TV celebrity and comedian Paul de Leeuw released in 1992 in Dutch language translated version as his alter ego Bob de Rooy.
- "Nick Cave Discography on "From The Archives"". From The Archives. Retrieved 2008-06-09.
- "Everyhit.com". everyhit.com. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
- Lazell, Barry (1997). Indie Hits 1980-1989. Cherry Red Books. Retrieved September 5, 2014.
- Elvis and Lisa Marie Presley: "In the Ghetto" (music video) at Spinner.com
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics