Singer-songwriter Mac Davis, who wrote “In the Ghetto” and “A Little Less Conversation” for Elvis Presley, has died at the age of 78, his manager confirmed.
Born in Texas, Davis began working in the music industry in Atlanta, then moved to Los Angeles, where he wrote for and performed with Nancy Sinatra. After finding fame with his songs for Presley, he enjoyed solo success with a series of hit singles, including the Grammy-nominated “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me,” and fronted an NBC TV show in 1974. He also appeared as an actor in 19 movies and voiced two guest characters on the animated show King of the Hill.
“Mac Davis has been my client for over 40 years, and, more importantly, my best friend,” manager Jim Morey said in a statement. “He was a music legend, but his most important work was that as a loving husband, father, grandfather and friend. I will miss laughing about our misadventures on the road and his insightful sense of humor.”
Watch Mac Davis Perform ‘Don’t Get Hooked On Me’
In an undated interview, Davis recalled knowing Presley was “special” the first time they met. “I think Elvis took a huge chance in doing ‘In the Ghetto,’” Davis said of his breakthrough song as a songwriter. “It was a big risk. When they released it, I was totally surprised that he saw fit to put that out as a single. That was not his image at all. He was always middle of the road when it came to controversy.”
Davis noted the song “originally finished [with the line] ‘And another little baby child is born in the ghetto.’ That was the end of it. Elvis threw in ‘and his mama cries.’ … I think he definitely improved it by doing that.”
He also said Presley’s version of “A Little Less Conversation” was much faster and less funky than he’d envisioned and that he’d always wanted to hear the King do the song at its original tempo. Davis remembered his delight when the 1968 song was remixed by Junkie XL in 2002 and became a bigger hit.
“It was not my favorite recording of Elvis’,” Davis said. “I didn’t think Elvis really got into it the way he could have. But I was wrong.”
Davis is survived by third wife, Lise, and three children. No cause of death was confirmed, although he’d recently been receiving treatment for a serious heart condition.