As with her take on “Imagine” decades later, Parton’s cover of the now-classic Elvis Presley single “In the Ghetto” is fatally flawed.
In both cases, Parton’s humanity makes the song resonate with her, but her performance indicates that she doesn’t understand the worldview that the lyrics are written from.
“Imagine” makes the case that the way to world peace is to reject religion, nationalism, and capitalism. Parton’s self-written work demonstrates that she believes all three of those are essential.
“In the Ghetto” documents the inevitable human cost of crippling, systemic urban poverty. Replace “urban” with “rural”, and you’re on Parton’s turf. But the urban experience is clearly still too foreign to her at this point in her career.
Long story short: When a multiple Hall of Famer is outsung by Eric Cartman, you know this isn’t one of her essential efforts.
Written by Scott Davis
Listen: In the Ghetto