His songwriting gave Elvis Presley a pair of hits with “In the Ghetto” and “A Little Less Conversation,” he scored his own No. 1 with “Baby, Don’t Get Hooked on Me,” hosted his self-titled NBC variety show and even shifted over to acting in film (including the still-fondly-remembered North Dallas Forty) and on stage, but, now, singer/songwriter Mac Davis has died at the age of 78 following heart surgery.
His death took place on September 29, the same day (and at the same age) that singer Helen Reddy, who at the start of her career had recorded his “I Believe in Music”, died. Longtime manager Jim Morey issued a statement saying, “Mac Davis has been my client for over 40 years and, more importantly, my best friend. 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 many adventures on the road and his insightful sense of humor.”
Born Morris Mac Davis on January 21, 1942 in Lubbock, Texas, his childhood was spent living in and working at an efficiency apartment complex called the College Courts, which was owned by his father. His parents divorced, after graduating high school he decided to go live with his mother in Atlanta. Having given boxing a shot back in Texas, he shifted gears and started focusing on music, forming Zots, a rock and roll group. He worked for Vee Jay Records, recorded a pair of singles for OEK Records and came to realize that he had talent as a songwriter.
Striking Out On His Own
In the late 1960s he started working for Nancy Sinatra’s Boots Enterprises, Inc. and can be heard playing on a number of her singles and albums, which led to his becoming a part of her stage shows as well. Initially publishing his own music, at Boots he wrote songs like “Friend, Lover, Woman, Wife,” “It’s Such a Lonely Time of Year,” and what became a trio of Elvis tracks: the previously mentioned “In the Ghetto” and “A Little Less Conversation” as well as “Memories.”
In 1970 he signed a contract with Columbia Records and moved on from there, at one point becoming a country singer/songwriter, with his music managing to straddle the country and popular music worlds. Like many talented songwriters, he stopped writing for others and scored his own hits, the success of which lasted well into the 1980s.
Expanding his horizons, he hosted NBC’s The Mac Davis Show from 1974 to 1976 and also turned out to be an appealing actor, co-starring with Nick Nolte in the football comedy-drama North Dallas Forty (1979), and moving on to Cheaper to Keep Her (1981), The Sting II (1983), as a younger version of the original’s Robert Redford character, Jake Hooker; and between 1985’s Brother-in-Law and 2017’s Where the Fast Lane Ends (2017), scored 16 more roles in feature films and TV movies. As if all of that wasn’t enough, there were a number of specials he hosted on television, guest star appearances, and even stage work, including playing Will Rogers in the Broadway production and national tour of The Will Rogers Follies. Nobody could accuse Mac of being lazy.
In his personal life, Mac was married three times, to Fran Cook from 1963 to 1968, with them having a son, Joel Scott; Sarah Berg from 1971 to 1976 and Lise Kristen Gerard from 1982 until his death, with whom he had children Noah Claire and Cody Luke.
MORE TO COME