"In the Ghetto" (originally titled "The Vicious Circle") is a song was written by Mac Davis and made famous by Elvis Presley, who had a major comeback hit with it in 1969. It was released in 1969 as a 45 rpm single with "Any Day Now" as the flip side.


 [hide*1 Song information

Song information[edit]Edit

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 another 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.

"In the Ghetto" was recorded during Presley's session in the American Sound Studio in MemphisTennessee. It was Presley's first creative recording session since the '68 Comeback. Other hits recorded at this session were "Suspicious Minds", "Kentucky Rain", and "Don't Cry Daddy".

The song was Presley's first Top 10 hit in the US in four years, peaking at number 3, and his first UK Top 10 hit in three years, peaking at #2. It hit #1 on Cashbox. It was a number 1 hit in Germany, Ireland, Norway, Australia and New Zealand.

Lisa Marie Presley duet version[edit]Edit

The song was recorded in 2007 by Lisa Marie Presley as a duet to raise money for the Presley Foundation. The song was released on iTunes, it reached #1 on iTunes in the US.

Cover versions[edit]Edit

After Elvis Presley, the song has been performed by many other artists. Among them were, most notably, Sammy Davis Jr.Susan CadoganCandi StatonDolly PartonBobby Blue BlandBobbie GentryNick Cave and the Bad SeedsThe CranberriesMerle HaggardLeatherfaceThree Six MafiaDNX vs. The VoiceNatalie MerchantBad LieutenantFair Warning, and Beats International. The Spanish singer and actor Enrique Castellon Vargas, also known as "El Principe Gitano" (The Gypsy Prince), recorded a Spanish version of the song. The KLF used a sample of the Elvis recording in their ambient DJ album Chill OutMac Davis recorded a version of the song for a greatest hits album released in 1979. In 2011, Chris de Burgh covered the song on his Footsteps 2 CD.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds version[edit]Edit

"In the Ghetto"
Single by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
from the album From Her to Eternity
Released June 18, 1984
Format 7"
Recorded March 1984
Label Mute Records
Producer(s) Flood
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds singles chronology
"In the Ghetto"




"In the Ghetto" is the debut single by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. It was recorded at the Trident Studios in London and released as a 7" on June 18, 1984 with the B-side "The Moon Is in the Gutter".[1] It reached 84 on the UK Singles Chart.[2] 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.


Paul Shanklin recorded a parody called "In a Yugo" for Rush Limbaugh, in which an environmentally conscious family buys a Yugo to save gas, only to get killed by a truck after swerving to miss a duck.[3] Later, Shanklin updated his parody for a new generation too young to remember the Yugo, replacing it with its perceived equivalent, "In a Hybrid".

El Vez recorded a version titled "En el Barrio" that mixed humor with details about Chicano struggles.

Danish Radio group "Selvsving" also recorded a parody called "Ned i NATO", which makes fun of former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen's path to a leading post at NATO.

In the Comedy Central show South Park, Eric Cartman sings "In the Ghetto" on two separate occasions, once in "Chickenpox", then again when Kenny's soul is trapped in Cartman's body in "A Ladder to Heaven".

The BBC radio comedy programme Radio Active broadcast a version titled Tim the gecko.

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