“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.
A simple boy meets girl story, somewhat complicated by the presence of a motorcycle – Richard Thompson
1952 Vincent Black Lightning is a song by guitarist Richard Thompson from his 1991 album Rumor and Sigh. It tells the story of a thief named James and the girl Red Molly whom he charms with a ride on his 1952 Vincent Black Lightning motorcycle. Despite not being issued as a single, became a fan favourite and is one of Thompson’s most highly acclaimed solo compositions.
Some months ago me and some friends had a “music night”. Music Nights are gatherings where we pick a theme and each of us bring a playlist with 5 songs (and a few back up choices), we play our songs in turn, say why we picked the song and what it means to us. I’ve discovered many great songs and artists on these nights. This particular night the theme was “Story Songs” and one of my songs was 1952 Vincent Black Lightning by the great Richard Thompson. This made me listen, and “go into” the song even harder than I’d done before. What a great story song it is, a masterpiece.
“’Vincent’ started with the frustration of coming from Britain and wanting to reflect British culture. It’s hard to find mythological elements from my lifetime to build a song around, because American culture has been so dominant. The mythical places are Laramie and Cheyenne. ‘Going Back to Lancaster’ doesn’t have the same ring to it. It’s important to make music that incorporates elements from where you come from, so you’re contributing something of yourself into the music. If you’re from England and you’re writing about the Mississippi Delta, there’s something missing. You can be a good imitator, but what are you bringing to the process?”
– Richard Thompson, 2001
“When I was a kid, that was always the exotic bike, that was always the one, the one that you went ‘ooh, wow’. I’d always been looking for English ideas that didn’t sound corny, that had some romance to them, and around which you could pin a song. And this song started with a motorcycle, it started with the Vincent. It was a good lodestone around which the song could revolve”
– Richard Thompson to BBC radio
There was a time when I believed that you belonged to me
But now I know your heart is shackled to a memory
The more I learn to care for you, the more we drift apart
Why can’t I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold cold heart
“Cold, Cold Heart” is a country music and pop song recorded by Hank Williams. This blues ballad is both a classic of honky-tonk and an entry in the Great American Songbook. The first draft of the song is dated November 23, 1950, and was recorded with an unknown band on May 5, 1951.
This is dark stuff, filled with jealousy, bitterness and hopeless love.
Country music historian Colin Escott states that Williams was moved to write the song after visiting his wife Audrey in the hospital, who was suffering from an infection brought on by an abortion she had carried out at their home unbeknownst to Hank. Escott also speculates that Audrey, who carried on extramarital affairs as Hank did on the road, may have suspected the baby was not her husband’s. Florida bandleader Pappy Neil McCormick claims to have witnessed the encounter:
“According to McCormick, Hank went to the hospital and bent down to kiss Audrey, but she wouldn’t let him. ‘You sorry son of a bitch,’ she is supposed to have said, ‘it was you that caused me to suffer like this.’ Hank went home and told the children’s governess, Miss Ragland, that Audrey had a ‘cold, cold heart,’ and then, as so often in the past, realized the bitterness in his heart held commercial promise.”
“Another love before my time made your heart sad and blue, and so my heart is paying now for things I didn’t do.”
A lot of GREAT music was released in 1970, here are my 20 chosen songs.
Into the Mystic – Van Morrison
“Into the Mystic” is one of Morrison’s warmest ballads, an Otis Redding-style reverie with acoustic guitar and horns. The lyrics are truly mysterious: “People say, ‘What does this mean?’ ” said Morrison. “A lot of times I have no idea what I mean. That’s what I like about rock & roll — the concept. Like Little Richard — what does he mean? You can’t take him apart; that’s rock & roll to me.”
Written by Van Morrison and featured on his 1970 album Moondance. It was also included on Morrison’s 1974 live album, It’s Too Late To Stop Now. It was recorded during the Moondance sessions at A&R Recording Studios in New York City in September to November 1969. Elliott Scheiner was the engineer.
– We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the mystic
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic