Remembering Mac Davis, 1942-2020

Elvis had already recorded one Mac Davis composition — a throwaway rocker used in the 1968 movie “Live a Little, Love a Little,” that, remixed, became an international chart-topper 34 years later, “A Little Less Conversation.” 

Again it was Strange who was soliciting songs for the movie. 

“The place where they needed a song was when he was seducing a girl at a pool and she’s talking too much and he’s trying to get her to leave with him. And I had this song already started that I was hoping Aretha Franklin might like it — I wrote it really with her in mind. 

“ It was a little funky, I guess, for his image at the time. So I changed his lyrics to fit the times. It’s not my proudest moment – the lyrics in “A Little Less Conversation,” in the verses. But God knows, how it became a hit 34 years later is just beyond belief. It was a huge, huge hit.”

The DJ Junkie XL had remixed a version of “A Little Less Conversation” after the song was used in the 2001 “Oceans 11” that was used in a Nike World Cup ad. Reception was so good it was released as a single and went straight to No. 1 in the UK, one of eight countries where it topped the charts. 

“This friend of mine called from Nashville and congratulated me on my No 1 and I didn’t know what he was talking about,” Davis said. “I didn’t even know it was out. You know, the writer’s the last guy to find out anything.”

It became Elvis’ first time on the charts in decades (having died in 1977) and the first big hit from the King this century. All that and it got Davis some respect from his kids. 

“we were having dinner at an outdoor place over in Century City, background music was playing and on comes “A Little Less Conversation,” the new version. And my wife says ‘You know your daddy wrote this.’ And their eyes got bigger than saucers. ‘Are you kidding?’ ‘Dad, everybody’s singing it at school! It’s a great big hit!’ And I thought, wow, it took all this  time to get street cred with my kids.”

It was the song “Memories” — and Davis’ own slate of hits — that got Elvis interested in getting some more of his songs to record. 

“According to Priscilla, Elvis liked my writing. He wanted to hear more of my stuff,” Davis said. “So they asked me to send in some songs for this Memphis album,” “From Elvis in Memphis,” released in 1969. 

“I had 19 songs, that I had done a tape of them, just me and my guitar and I just sent them the whole tape of everything I had, and the first song on the tape was ‘In the Ghetto.’ I had just finished writing it. And the second song was ‘Don’t Cry Daddy.’ And they recorded both of them.”

Both became big hits.

“It was a big brouhaha of him recording ‘In the Ghetto,’” Davis said. “He had to fight to get that out as a single. RCA was  afraid of it and Col. Parker was afraid of it. But Elvis believed in it, and he wanted to be taken seriously and he wanted to do a song that said something. 

“It was one of my prideful moments, one of my most exciting moments, because I didn’t know if anyone would ever cut that song. It was controversial at the time.”

It got Elvis in the Top 10 for the first time in four years. 

“It was my first big No. 1 and a pretty exciting time in my life,” Davis said. “I never thought I’d be involved with Elvis Presley.”

Davis had been more active as a songwriter in recent years, collaborating with the Swedish DJ Avicii on “Addicted to You” in 2014 and “Young Girls” with Bruno Mars in 2012, and other collaborations with Keith Urban and Rivers Cuomo of Weezer. 

When he appeared last near’s “Elvis: All-Star Tribute” on NBC, Davis was one of very few contemporaries of Presley represented. 

“ That’s my greatest accomplishment,” he told me. “To last as long as I have in this business and still be alive.”

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