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Mac Davis: The Godfather of Songwriters

You can choose a list of words to describe Mac Davis’ occupation. Songwriter, actor, entertainer, innovator, icon or legend would be appropriate. The man behind the most prolific and controversial songs of the last century. During his peak, the artist was considered one of the best songwriters to crossover multiple genres of music. Writing hits for powerhouse artists that included Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Nancy Sinatra and many more. But unlike his contemporaries, Davis’ career began sparingly as small-time manager for a record label. Little did his label know that they employed one of the most copious entertainers in music history.

Growing up in Lubbock, Texas Davis started his journey performing in various local rock groups for his city. Eventually, he shifted his focus into management and represented a plethora of artists for Vee-Jay Records. The successful stint landed him in Los Angeles to run the operations for publishing group Metric Music. This connected Davis to country music’s biggest stars including Glen Campbell and Kenny Rogers. He would write for both artists who praised his skills so much they became almost envious. Word of his skills as a songwriter broke out and soon Elvis Presley would request a collaboration with Davis. “A Little Less Conversation” was then written which became the forefront of Presley’s comeback in 1968. The King of rock ‘n’ roll wanted more from Davis and he provided him with the most landmark song of a generation.

“In the Ghetto” sent Presley soaring to the top of the charts internationally as his album From Elvis in Memphis flew off shelves. Critics lauded Davis for his writing as the single became a social study on life in poverty. But as much as he enjoyed writing for others, Davis’ stardom couldn’t be contained behind the scenes any longer. Davis landed a recording contract and debuted as a solo artist with the release of Song Painter in 1970. Davis continued to evolve his sound and showcased his crossover abilities with the hit single “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me.” The 1972 track started a revolving door of consecutive hit singles that followed soon after.

Davis’ songwriting aged like wine throughout the 70s as he released hit after hit. The release of “One Hell of a Woman” led the artist to claim Entertainer of the Year by the Academy of Country Music. He would follow his success into the 80s as the hit record It’s Hard to Be Humble held him in the mainstream. Throughout the rest of the decade he would continue to write and collaborate with other contemporaries including Dolly Parton. Though, no one predicted that Davis would pursue his success in another area; acting.

The artist would make his debut as an actor in the cult classic North Dallas Forty alongside Nick Nolte. Davis would continue a moderate success in acting and even performed with comedic legend Jackie Gleason. However, the artist would never match it the level of success he achieved as a songwriter. But Davis continued to grow his filmography which included roles in Murder She Wrote and The Dukes of Hazzard. The artist showed resilience throughout the ages as he sought to express his showmanship for all. But tragedy strikes at the most unexpected of times and for Davis it came at the cost of his life.

Davis’ family released a statement that the songwriter had passed at the age of 78 due to complications from heart surgery. The news of his death stunned the millions of others he inspired including Kenney Chesney. The artist had remarked on how he looked up to him as a legend and a personal hero who shaped his music. Davis’ past collaborator and friend grieved as well stating, “Many hearts are broken today, including my own, with the death of one of my dearest friends….I will always love you.” But time cannot erase the works of others and Davis left behind plenty for all to remember. An immortal whose heart and creative spirit will live on for years to come.

Written by Trenton Luber


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