In the Ghetto

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"In the Ghetto"
Single by Elvis Presley
from the album From Elvis in Memphis
B-side"Any Day Now"
ReleasedApril 14, 1969
RecordedJanuary 20, 1969
StudioAmerican Sound Studio, Memphis
LabelRCA Victor
Songwriter(s)Mac Davis
Producer(s)Chips Moman
Elvis Presley singles chronology
"How Great Thou Art"
"In the Ghetto"
"Clean Up Your Own Backyard"
Music video
"In the Ghetto" (audio) on YouTube

"In the Ghetto" (originally titled "The Vicious Circle") is a 1969 song written by Mac Davis and recorded by Elvis Presley.[4] It was a major hit released in 1969 as a part of Presley's comeback album, and was also available on the single release of "Any Day Now" as the flip side.


The lyrics to the song were written by country music songwriter and singer Mac Davis. The version recorded by Presley is played in the key of B flat. "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 '68 Comeback Special. Other hits recorded at this session were "Suspicious Minds", "Kentucky Rain", and the Davis-written "Don't Cry Daddy".

The song was published by Gladys Music, Inc., Elvis Presley's publishing company, and was Presley's first Top 10 hit in the United States in four years, peaking at number 3, and number 2 in Canada. It was his first UK Top 10 hit in three years, also peaking at No. 2. It hit No. 1 on Cashbox and No. 8 Easy Listening.[5] It was a number-one hit in West Germany, Ireland, Norway, Australia and New Zealand.


A boy is born to a mother who already has more children than she can support in a Chicago ghetto. The boy grows up deprived, and turns to a life of delinquency. He purchases a gun and steals a car to begin a crime spree, but it is not long before he is killed. The song ends with another child being born the same day in the ghetto, implying that the newborn could meet the same fate, continuing the cycle of poverty and violence.


Chart (1969) Peak
Australia (Go-Set)[6] 1
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[7] 6
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[8] 1
Canada (RPM)[9] 2
Denmark (Hitlisten)[10] 3
Ireland (IRMA)[11] 1
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[12] 4
New Zealand (Listener)[13] 1
Norway (VG-lista)[14] 1
Spain (AFYVE)[15] 1
Sweden (Kvällstoppen)[16] 1
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[17] 2
UK Singles (OCC)[18] 2
US Billboard Hot 100[19] 3
West Germany (Official German Charts)[20] 1

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Ireland 4,200[21]
United Kingdom (BPI)[22] Platinum 600,000
United States (RIAA)[23] Platinum 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Cover versions[edit]

After Elvis Presley, the song has been performed by many other artists. Songwriter Mac Davis recorded his own version of the song for a greatest hits album released in 1979. In 1991, Norman Cook issued a dance version with his Beats International collective, which reached number 44 in the UK charts.[24] In 1996, a 'Fugees-esque' hip-hop trio called Ghetto People had a top ten hit in the German charts with a version recorded with local singer Detlef Malinkewitz [de].[25] As Malinkewitz was recording under the pseudonym L-Viz at the time, some broadcasters in the UK credited the record to El Vez by mistake.[26]

Gospel recording artist Reverend James Cleveland recorded a gospel version of the song, and won his first Grammy Award for Best Soul Gospel Performance in 1975 with the Southern California Community Choir for his 1974 album release, In the Ghetto.[27]

Following the death of Mac Davis, Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker recorded a duet version of the song to honor him. It was released on November 11, 2020, immediately following a live performance at the 54th Annual Country Music Association Awards.[28]

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds version[edit]

"In the Ghetto"
Single by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
from the album From Her to Eternity
ReleasedJune 18, 1984
RecordedMarch 1984
Songwriter(s)Mac Davis
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds singles chronology
"In the Ghetto"

"In the Ghetto" was covered by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and was their debut single. It was recorded at the Trident Studios in London and released as a 7-inch single on June 18, 1984, with the B-side "The Moon Is in the Gutter".[29] It reached 84 on the UK Singles Chart.[30] 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[31] 1


  1. ^ Carlin, Richard (2014). Country Music - A Biographical Dictionary. Taylor & Francis. p. 316.
  2. ^ Herrington, Chris (August 6, 2015). "The 50 Best Elvis Songs, 50-46: "In the Ghetto," "Stuck on You" and more". USA Today. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  3. ^ In the Ghetto - Elvis Presley on AllMusic; " A hauntingly lovely, dirge-like ballad rooted in gospel, "In the Ghetto" ..."
  4. ^ "Song info".
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 192.
  6. ^ "Go-Set Australian charts - 23 August 1969". Archived from the original on 7 September 2007. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  7. ^ "Elvis Presley – In The Ghetto" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  8. ^ "Elvis Presley – In The Ghetto" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  9. ^ "Song artist 2 - Elvis Presley". Archived from the original on 7 November 2007. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  10. ^ "Billboard". 23 August 1969.
  11. ^ "Irish Singles charts 1967-1969". UKMIX Forums. 26 August 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  12. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Elvis Presley" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  13. ^ "flavour of new zealand - NZ listener charts". Archived from the original on 27 August 2022. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  14. ^ "Elvis Presley – In The Ghetto". VG-lista. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  15. ^ "Listas de superventas: 1969". 12 February 2010. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  16. ^ "8 juli 1969".
  17. ^ "Elvis Presley – In The Ghetto". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  18. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
  19. ^ "Elvis Presley". Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  20. ^ " – Elvis Presley – In The Ghetto" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved April 30, 2020. To see peak chart position, click "TITEL VON Elvis Presley"
  21. ^ Stewart, Ken (August 16, 1969). "Single Slump Hits Ireland". Billboard. p. 73. Retrieved August 8, 2023.
  22. ^ "British single certifications – Elvis Presley – In the Ghetto". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved February 17, 2023.
  23. ^ "American single certifications – Elvis Presley – In the Ghetto". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
  24. ^ "BEATS INTERNATIONAL | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  25. ^ "Detlef Malinkewitz - about". Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  26. ^ "BBC Two - TOTP2, Elvis Special". Archived from the original on 25 December 2020. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Kelsea Ballerini Among Country Music Stars to Perform at CMA Awards". Entertainment Tonight. 11 November 2020. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  29. ^ "Nick Cave Discography on "From The Archives"". From The Archives. Retrieved 2008-06-09.
  30. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2007-02-17. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
  31. ^ Lazell, Barry (1997). Indie Hits 1980-1989. Cherry Red Books. Archived from the original on June 5, 2011. Retrieved September 5, 2014.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)

External links[edit]