On one of his most famous compositions, Scott “Mac” Davis sang, “I could just sit around making music all day long/As long as I’m making my music, ain’t gonna do nobody no harm/And who knows, maybe I’ll come up with a song…” The singer-songwriter-actor never had difficulty coming up with a song, including that memorable one. Davis, who died yesterday at the age of 78, recorded “I Believe in Music” on his second Columbia album in 1970, and the group Gallery took it up the charts in 1972. (Helen Reddy, who also passed away yesterday at the same age as Davis, also recorded it.) But the uplifting anthem always belonged to its author, and it became his signature song – no small feat when his discography also includes the chart-topping “Baby, Don’t Get Hooked on Me” and a quartet of Elvis Presley standards: “Memories,” “In the Ghetto,” “Don’t Cry, Daddy,” and “A Little Less Conversation.”
The favorite son of Lubbock, Texas got his start in the music business working for Nancy Sinatra as a staff songwriter and musician; in 1970, he moved to Columbia Records under the aegis of producer Jerry Fuller where he recorded the concept album Song Painter. It included his rendition of “In the Ghetto,” an international hit single that was just one of the Davis songs Elvis Presley had made his own. “In the Ghetto” was just one of the socially conscious songs penned by Davis. He had the ability to address weighty themes with accessibility and a universal approach. While he was often considered a country singer-songwriter, he transcended genre lines of country, pop, and soul in his own recordings and the songs he wrote for others. B.J. Thomas, Bobby Goldsboro, O.C. Smith, Vikki Carr, Perry Como, and Kenny Rogers were just some of the diverse artists who savored Davis’ timely and melodic tunes.
He remained at Columbia for the duration of the 1970s, building on the success of 1972’s catchy “Baby, Don’t Get Hooked on Me” with other hits including “One Hell of a Woman,” “Stop and Smell the Roses,” and “Rock and Roll (I Gave You the Best Years of My Life).” In 1980, he moved to the Casablanca label where he scored the tongue-in-cheek Country hit “It’s Hard to Be Humble.” By then, Davis had crossed over into the domain of the multimedia superstar without ever losing sight of his roots or his art. He hosted his own successful NBC variety show, and pursued acting fame beginning with 1979’s football-centric dramedy North Dallas Forty. Guest appearances on TV were frequent, too, whether on The Tonight Show or The Muppet Show. In 1992, Davis brought his charm and laid-back style to Broadway when he portrayed another all-around entertainer, Will Rogers, in Peter Stone, Cy Coleman, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green’s splashy musical The Will Rogers Follies.
An inductee into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the recipient of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he continued recording into the 1990s for MCA, Mercury, and once again, Columbia even as his older songs stayed relevant. “A Little Less Conversation” became a posthumous hit for Elvis Presley in Junkie XL’s 2002 remix. The song which Davis co-wrote with fellow Nancy Sinatra collaborator Billy Strange went to the top of the charts in nine countries and was certified Gold or Platinum in ten.
The singer-songwriter implored, “Baby, baby, don’t get hooked on me.” But it’s too late – we’ll always be hooked on the music of Mac Davis.