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In the Ghetto

4.6 / 5

Words & Music: Mac Davis

As the snow flies
On a cold and gray Chicago mornin'
A poor little baby child is born
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

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

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

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

As her young man dies,
on a cold and gray Chicago mornin',
another little baby child is born
In the ghetto

Recordingdate: 1969/01/20, first released on: single (album)


Musicians who contributed to the first recording of In the Ghetto:



(steel guitar)
(french horn)
(french horn)

*Orchestra, overdubs


Find available albums with In the Ghetto.

Elvisonmymind wrote on July 24, 2008
How could Elvis pick up this song to sing? (Ah, what the heck, nobody is perfect). Why do everyone, particularly, the non-Elvis fans, like this song? Because of the message?
My boy, my boy wrote on August 22, 2008
A VERY good song. A catchy one too...it explains a little bit why even the non-fans like it also ! It was another new path to explore for Elvis and he once again succeeded ! The live version on TTWII is amazing as well...but without Lisa's voice ! I must admit though that I enjoyed watching the performance she gave on Oprah a year ago with the choir and everything !
Jim says hello wrote on August 22, 2008
I've always thought this was his finest vocal performance. The control, the timbre, the subtle Elvis vibrato... and even better raw, before the overdubs.
JLpResLey wrote on August 22, 2008
A good one, but never one of my favorites. The non-elvis fans likes In the ghetto. I don´t know why. He didn´t sing the song live for a very long time, I don´t know how many live versions there was after 1970, but not that many. Why? Maybe because of the political message. And Elvis Presley was not a political artist. He didn´t want to affect his fans in that way, like others artists did. And the live versions was not that good either
dressingroomrehearsa wrote on August 22, 2008
Well, I consider the studio version(s) as the best approach and performances. I kinda never understood the vegas versions, sometimes combined with "Walk A Mile...". I always missed the fervor of the studio version. Or let's say, I somehow cannot imagine Elvis recording it at the American studios, being aware of the context of the song and then perform it for a Dinner Show audience in Vegas. It kinda kills the song. Message songs back then were en vogue and Elvis had his share. As I remember his reply during the MSG press conference: "An enterntainer is one thing, a human being is another." Does somenone know any reasons why he didn't do the song beyond 1971/72?
Steve V wrote on August 22, 2008
This was really the song that brought Elvis back to the charts in the amazing year of 1969. Many non-Elvis fans love this song and Suspicious Minds so Chips & Elvis must have been doing something right at American. Fantastic controlled performance with Elvis sounding ever so soulful. The studio versions are dyanamic. The live versions , like most songs Elvis sang live, are rushed and lack the soul & depth of the song. Yes I feel he stopped singing it live because of its 'message'.
FLASHBOY wrote on August 22, 2008
The studio version is magical and Elvis sing it with such love and passion the live version is another thing.
old shep wrote on August 22, 2008
1969 was a great year for Elvis and this is the song that really turned his career around.Having said this I very seldom play the track prefering the B side Any day Now
theoldscudder wrote on August 22, 2008
A landmark performance. Surprising it was ever released what with the Col. probably wetting his pants over this great song. Bravo Elvis.
Rob Wanders wrote on August 22, 2008
Superb. specially the early (undubbed) studio-takes.
Volker Stockel wrote on August 22, 2008
what a great song, what a great voice. In The Ghetto had a 13 week stay in the US Billboard Hot 100 chart where it reached up to number 3, in the US country chart number 60 and recieved platinum. In the UK it climbed up to Number 2 and in Germany it becam a number 1 hit.
JerryNodak wrote on August 22, 2008
A great song. A top notch vocal. A song that resonates as much today as it did back in '69. A classic. The flip side? Never cared for it.
GEORGE (GK) wrote on August 23, 2008
"In the Ghetto", without a doubt, is one of the best in the Elvis catalog. And the flip side "Any Day Now" is another great performance! (which got "lost" in the shuffle, because the "A" side, was such a strong song.) It should have been released, as an "A" side at a later date). I wish more of the "Memphis recordings" had been released as singles such as "Power of My Love" "Wearing that Loved on Look", " Only the Strong Survive".. etc. All very strong performances !!!
marco31768 wrote on October 02, 2008
A masterpiece !
Marty_TCE wrote on December 26, 2008
Elvis did not sing many more powerful songs than this. Legendary.
Natha wrote on December 26, 2008
This is one of the (many) great highlights of Elvis' career. At the time it was a shocking surprise that he did this song. I recall my brother, being steeped in the music of that time and always argueing about 'Elvis not writing and singing his own songs', being swept off his feet by this song. After that he really appreciated Elvis and did let go of his argument. As globally not so much has changed, this is a reminder we should hear more often.
JimmyCool wrote on December 26, 2008
One word: Timeless!
NONE000000 wrote on December 26, 2008
One of Elvis' best! Those undubbed studio versions are phenomenal! As far as the "message", because of the sincerity in Elvis' voice, everything he sang felt like a message. He had the ability to convey emotion better than any singer that ever lived. Whether it was a love song or gospel or whatever. I do not feel that this song is any more "political" than "If I Can Dream", another of Elvis' most heartfelt songs. It is hard to imagine a human being not liking this song--unless they just do not like music period. Beautiful, beautiful song perfectly sung by the man who proved over and over again why the title "King" was bestowed upon him.
ger wrote on December 26, 2008
you should get the remiexd version by Lee it's outsanding
Ruthie wrote on December 26, 2008
Of course, it's a wonderful song but I like the other side, Any Day Now, just as much.
Deano1 wrote on March 28, 2010
While not a song I listen to a lot (I have to be in the mood for this type of song), this one is a beautifully sung song with exceptional lyrics. A five star performance on a five star LP ("From Elvis In Memphis"). I think Elvis quit doing this song in concerts after 1970 due to the content of the song. He wanted his concerts to be happy events and even though he sang sad love songs, this songs tragic lyrics and Elvis' rendering of them is heart-wrenching beyond lost love.
shoesuedeblues wrote on March 28, 2010
Why oh why didn't Elvis stick with Chips Moman? Moman saw the capabilities of Elvis' talent and range that no other producer had been able to see since the Sun days. Hence recordings such as this and the other gems cut at the American Sound Studio in Memphis.
derekd wrote on March 28, 2010
Elvis at his peak (again). Just as he was with Heartbreak, Jailhouse, Now or Never, Burning Love. And the rest. No one comes near.
bajo wrote on July 18, 2011
What is there to add which has not already been said about this beautiful classic. Again a song and Elvis in a class of their own. Both In The Ghetto and From Elvis In Memphis went to #1 here in Norway in 1969. Elvis never captured the same emotion in his live rendition. Almost like two different songs. I never really liked the Vegas arrangement to In The Ghetto.
Pedro Nuno wrote on July 18, 2011
Eternal! Brilliant! Unique!
Lpool kid wrote on July 18, 2011
one of elvis's greatest if not the greatest song he ever recorded.the power,the emotion,no has ever captured this song like he did.a definate 5 stars.
TCB1974 wrote on July 18, 2011
This is one of those recordings that is so strong that it is timeless and will still be known many years from now. Definitely 5 stars from me, Elvis at his very best.
Gorse wrote on December 05, 2012
Yep, an absolute classic, a message song conveyed with every ounce of emotion the man could give in under 3 minutes. I equally enjoy take 3, a magnificent stripped down version.
ElvisSacramento wrote on January 21, 2013
This is such a spectacular and unique song and Elvis easily has the very best renditions of it. It rightfully was a massive hit for Elvis worldwide and it was written by Mac Davis. The other six songs that Elvis recorded that were written or co-written by Mac Davis are "Don't Cry Daddy", "Memories", "A Little Less Conversation", "Clean Up Your Own Back Yard", "Charro!" and "Nothingville".
GEORGE (GK) wrote on February 20, 2013
I too, wish, Elvis, had continued to work with Chips Moman, after 1969. I Love everything Elvis, recorded, with Chips and the studio musicians, in Memphis, and, "In the Ghetto" was just one, of many great songs, recorded there. I keep hoping that someone at RCA Records, will find, some "lost recordings" from the Memphis sessions, because of the great material that came from these recording sessions.
Great Dane wrote on February 20, 2013
This is a good song but give me the B-side any day of the week. 4 stars.
sugartummy wrote on March 15, 2013
Never one of my favourites, but when I heard a "naked" version, I appriciated it a lot more. Elvis himself doubted if he should use the female background vocals, but in the end decided to go for them. A pity.
TheMemphisFan wrote on August 08, 2015
Over the years this has become one of my least favorite songs. Lyrics should've been - "He steals a gun, steals a car..." It's too bad that this song is included on the new "If I Can Dream" Elvis project with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (October 2015). It's high time that black Americans stop blaming society for their problems and start taking personal responsibility for their careless decisions and actions. I fully agree with Dr. Benjamin Carson's intelligent way of thinking and reasoning on such issues. He would make a fabulous President for the United States Of America!
marty wrote on August 17, 2020
When I was growing up in Greece I used to make lists of my favorite Elvis songs and "In The Ghetto" would always be in the top ten. While English is not my mother tongue, I could understand the lyrics well but it was the melody and his voice that drew me to this song. The undubbed studio version is also remarkable but his live versions are not as good and feel rather rushed. Some events of the year seem to resonate with the message of the song. For me this song is not so much about poverty or color, it is about the effects of a bad environment to a young child and as such can be appreciated regardless of someones political views. Five stars from me.
DerekH wrote on August 12, 2022
Elvis made this song his own, 5 star performance, never skip this one.
Milky White Way wrote on August 12, 2022
5 million stars. A timeless classic, but sometimes like Suspicious Minds, I skip it because I’ve listened to it 5 million times.
Gorse2 wrote on August 13, 2022
This song whether it be the record or live performance along with If I Can Dream and American Trilogy is doing big business with the reactors on YouTube. All appear relevant to our times while In The Ghetto floors many reactors with its warmth, soul and meaning projected by Elvis
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