…And Also Mac Davis

It’s just so weird and uncanny that Mac Davis died on the same day as Helen Reddy — they were both the same age, they came to fame at the same time, they both had similar careers (encompassing hit songs, tv variety shows, and movie roles), their careers faded at the same time, and Reddy’s second single (“I Believe in Music”) was a Mac Davis song (thus I had occasion to mention him only yesterday).

Unlike Reddy, Davis is not associated with an anthem celebrating an entire gender, and thus I think he really was forgotten, in spite of the fact that in the mid ’70s no one was hotter. I mean FORGOTTEN. A couple of years ago I stumbled across a reference to him somewhere and it was like, I hadn’t even thought of him once in decades, really had to struggle to recall how he had come to fame, though I had followed him avidly as a kid. Davis had shot to everyone’s consciousness in 1972 with a #1 hit song called “Don’t Get Hooked On Me”. That same year a group named Gallery had a hit with his song “I Believe in Music”, which Davis ever afterward used as his signature tune. He had his own TV variety show, The Mac Davis Show from 1974 through 1976, and had some additional hits with “Stop and Smell the Roses” (#9), “One Hell of a Woman” (#11) in 1974. Texas-born Davis had come out of the country music scene, and that was a strong element of his public persona, He wore a lot of cowboy hats and denim, but he also had this big curly mane (at times almost an afro) and sideburns that were not unlike that of Michael Cole’s on Mod Squad, so there was a hippie beefcake aspect to him. He also had a self-deprecatory sense of humor. His TV variety and movie presence was not unlike that of Glenn Campbell’s or John Denver’s, mixed with that of Burt Reynolds. He then went on to appear in the films North Dallas Forty (1979, with Nick Nolte), Cheaper to Keep Her (1981, with Tovah Feldshuh), and The Sting II (with Jackie Gleason). These were his years of high visibility.

Though Davis hadn’t, as we said, written a major anthem, he DID in fact write a pseudo, wanna be anthem. He had originally come to notice by writing numerous songs that were recorded by Elvis Presley in 1968 and 1969 as part of his comeback phase, the most successful of which “In the Ghetto”, went to #3. These were more contemporary, “relevant” tunes than the kind Elvis had been doing, and the King had been gradually sliding down the charts since the mid ’60s. Davis was widely associated with Elvis’s celebrated “return”.

In the years since since the early ’80s Davis continued to act in movies (mostly made-for-tv ones), write and record music, and make guest appearances on television. He even acted on Broadway (replaced Keith Carradine in The Will Rogers Follies). In 2019 he was on an episode of Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings.