“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 recorded January 20th 1969 and released in April the same year 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. Continue reading “January 20: Elvis Presley recorded In The Ghetto in 1969”→
I woke up this morning to the sad news about David Olney’s death. He died after a massive heart attack on stage during this years 30A songwriters festival.
8 years ago we published this post about his song, Jerusalem Tomorrow. Mr. Olney wrote to me after that to say how grateful he was that we loved the song and we talked a bit about songwriting and the life of being a songwriter. He was a lovely person and we will miss him and will honor his legacy by playing his music. Rest in peace, Mr. David Olney.
Jerusalem Tomorrow was first released on Olney’s album Deeper Well in 1989, but it was with Emmylou Harris’ magnificent interpretation in 1993 that it became well known, and it was then I discovered it.
Townes Van Zandt’s short list of favorite music writers included Mozart, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bob Dylan, and David Olney. Obviously Olney keeps pretty good company, and deservedly so. Jerusalem Tomorrow sounds like a song Townes would have been proud of.
The only time it bothered me that someone sounded like me was when I was living in Phoenix, Arizona, in about ’72 and the big song at the time was “Heart of Gold.” I used to hate it when it came on the radio. I always liked Neil Young, but it bothered me every time I listened to “Heart of Gold.” I think it was up at number one for a long time, and I’d say, “Shit, that’s me. If it sounds like me, it should as well be me.
-Bob Dylan (to Scott Cohen, September 1985)
Neil Percival Young (born November 12, 1945) is a Canadian singer-songwriter. After embarking on a music career in the 1960s, he moved to Los Angeles, where he formed Buffalo Springfield with Stephen Stills, Richie Furay and others. Young had released two solo albums and three as a member of Buffalo Springfield by the time he joined Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1969. From his early solo albums and those with his backing band Crazy Horse, Young has recorded a steady stream of studio and live albums, sometimes warring with his recording company along the way.
What I love about Bob is the fact that no one’s ever been able to really figure him out. With every reinvention, you never know if it’s a genuine shift or just him slyly ducking out of view. No one has had a more profound cultural and political impact on our generation.
Bonnie Lynn Raitt (born November 8, 1949) is an American blues singer, guitarist, songwriter, and activist.
Raitt has received 10 Grammy Awards. She is listed as number 50 in Rolling Stone‘s list of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time” and number 89 on the magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. Australian Country Music Artist Graeme Connors has said, “Bonnie Raitt does something with a lyric no one else can do; she bends it and twists it right into your heart.”
Well, no. but, then, Joni Mitchell is almost like a man [laughs]. I mean, I love Joni, too. But Joni’s got a strange sense of rhythm that’s all her own, and she lives on that timetable… Joni Mitchell is in her own world all by herself, so she has a right to keep any rhythm she wants. She’s allowed to tell you what time it is.
-Bob Dylan (to Kurt Loder, October 1987)
Roberta Joan “Joni” Mitchell (born November 7, 1943) is a Canadian singer-songwriter. Drawing from folk, pop, rock, and jazz, Mitchell’s songs often reflect social and environmental ideals as well as her feelings about romance, confusion, disillusionment, and joy. She has received many accolades, including nine Grammy Awards and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Rolling Stone called her “one of the greatest songwriters ever”, and AllMusic has stated, “When the dust settles, Joni Mitchell may stand as the most important and influential female recording artist of the late 20th century”.