July 5, 1969 – Elvis Presley’s “In The Ghetto” hits #2 in the U.K.
It’s interesting in that originally I found this song thick in laying on the sentimentality and a bit schmaltzy. It doesn’t seem so at all today, Indeed, with everything surrounding us, it seems more relevant than ever.
Then, as I read this in a FB group today, I discovered a bit of background about it. Presley and his producer were set to record it when Presley’s manager, Tom Parker, voiced an objection, citing that it was “too political and too controversial.” Presley overshot his manager’s objections with a memo, “did you grow up poor? We’re recording this song.”
Since his death, there’s been a tendency to label Presley a racist, he stole black music, etc. These comments are always made by people who never met him and yet it’s easy to see why that is assumed; after all he was southern, politically conservative, and a redneck (he was). It only goes to stand… only it doesn’t.
Presley was raised in a black Pentecostal church. It was the music he knew. He grew up dirt poor in a racially mixed neighborhood. No one who knew him, either well or casually, makes claims of his being a racist; quite the reverse, indeed they vehemently deny it, and peers such as Chuck Berry, James Brown, and B.B. King frequently tried to set the record straight and quash the myth of his being bigoted.
It matters, even today, so many years after Presley’s decline and self-willed death because, even if unintentionally, he serves as a model of sorts; one can be southern, politically conservative, and even a good old boy, without mantling systematic racism or traditions of white supremacy. The late Little Richard called Presley an integrator. “In the Ghetto” is perhaps the Presley song that best manifests Richard’s claim and advocates the long past due need for cultural and spiritual integration.
Look inside Alfred Eaker’s debut Novel:
About Alfred Eaker:
Alfred Eaker is a prolific fine arts painter and muralist, an award-winning filmmaker and film critic, and a traditionally-published author. Following on the success of his debut novel, “Brother Cobweb,” Eaker is currently collaborating with Todd M. Coe on the related Graphic novel: “The Brother Cobweb Chronicles.” It will be available in the spring 2021. The audiobook version of Brother Cobweb is also being produced, and will soon be released too.
As an inquisitive American artist, he has always been deeply engaged in social, religious, and political climates. Eaker is currently working on a mural painting entitled “Elvis: An American Hymn.” Through it, Eaker is trying to bring affirming answers to issues of race, integration and hope so desperately needed at this moment in America.