Mac Davis Dies: Singer-Songwriter & ‘North Dallas Forty’ Star Was 78

Mac Davis Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP

Mac Davis, a singer-songwriter who recorded 20 albums, wrote the Elvis Presley hit “In the Ghetto” and also starred with Nick Nolte in the football movie North Dallas Forty and had his own TV show, died Tuesday in Nashville. He was 78.

His manager and longtime fried Jim Morey said Davis died after complications from a recent heart surgery.

The Lubbock, Texas-born Davis recorded 20 albums and charted 40 singles and was as prolific a songwriter, with song titles to his credit including “In the Ghetto” and “A Little Less Conversation,” both made famous by Elvis Presley. Other Elvis hits included “Memories” and “Don’t Cry Daddy.” Davis’ songs also included “I Believe in Music” — the B-side of the first U.S hit by Helen Reddy, who died Monday — “Something’s Burning,” “It’s Hard to Be Humble.”

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His own singing career took off with another of his own songs, “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me,” which spent three weeks at No. 1 in 1972. Known as “Song Painter” after the name of his first album, he is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and received the BMI Icon Award in 1985.

Like so many hitmakers of the era, Davis also starred in his own variety series. The Mac Davis Show aired on NBC for three seasons from 1974-76 and won an Emmy. He later co-started with Nolte in Ted Kotcheff’s 1979 movie North Dallas Forty, based on Peter Gent’s book about the Dallas Cowboys; his film credits would also include The Sting II with Jackie Gleason and Karl Malden. He also starred on Broadway as Will Rogers in The Will Rogers Follies.

His TV credits include Murder She Wrote, The Muppets, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Freaks and Geeks and voice-over roles in his signature Texas drawl on Oswald, Johnny Bravo and King of the Hill.

He most recently appeared in an episode of Netflix’s Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings last year, and his family split time between Tennessee and California.

“Mac Davis has been my client for over 40 years, and more importantly, my best friend,” Morey said. “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.”

Davis is survived by his wife of 38 years Lise; sons Scott, Noah and Cody; a granddaughter, Lindsey; mother Edith; and sister Linda.

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