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By Mahnuel Muñoz

“In The Ghetto”, composed by Mac Davis and recorded by Elvis between January 20 and 21, 1969 at the American Sound Studios in Memphis, is the song that changed the artistic image of Elvis, diluting the performer of light musical comedies. and reinventing the transcendence of the former teen idol and rock and roll icon.

After his cathartic television special in 1968, Elvis began what, for me, is his richest and most honest professional period. With as much meticulousness as passion, he embarked on some very severe days of recording between January and February 1969 during which he completed more than thirty songs that would make up, among others, the superb albums “From Elvis In Memphis” and “Back In Memphis.” . The material recorded in those historic weeks is extraordinary and makes it difficult to choose a single song, but, apart from the commercial success “Suspicious Minds”, for me the most relevant piece is “In The Ghetto”, the wonderful creation of Mac Davis.


With “In The Ghetto,” Elvis added his voice to the cry for the disadvantaged. In the fifties, Presley was the standard bearer of an adolescent rebellion that, after all, aspired to occupy the place – and the privileges – of the ruling class. With Davis’ anthem, in the full agony of the pacifist dream of the 60s, the King launches an unexpected vindictive and accusatory speech, more typical of Bob Dylan or Johnny Cash, raising blisters on many more skins than those of conservative prudery; For the first time he crudely appeals to the established power, which forgets the desperate, and to society, which prefers not to stain its hands or its soul.

Elvis’s voice here is new, although it is what it should always have been. It sounds chilling, endowed with an authority that seems to be born from the black gall that covers the corners of the suburbs; The arrangement that surrounds it has the somber and silent beauty of a funeral procession and the chorus could speak for mothers mute by crying.

Much of the value of this musical monument is the sad fact that Elvis will not work again with a catalyst material for the scourges that sicken society as a system. I delight in creating in my head an alternative, minority Elvis, far from Las Vegas and Colonel Parker, recording simple country and folk albums, occasionally sharing social and profound messages, inspired by his own experiences. But it is even better to listen a thousand times to the great work of Mac Davis and Elvis, a basic pillar of their respective conditions of eternity and an eloquent rebuke for us to stop, at least for a moment, looking at our navels.

Article written and provided by Mahnuel Muñoz

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