Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Mac Davis makes the short list of 20th century celebrities that made the whole world sing. He went from a dreamer in Buddy Holly's hometown of Lubbock, Texas to a star with enough mainstream appeal to host NBC variety show The Mac Davis Show from 1974 to 1976.
Davis' reach as an entertainer stemmed mostly from his talents as a songwriter and recording artist (though his good looks and chemistry on-stage and on-screen with everyone from Nancy Sinatra to North Dallas Forty co-star Nick Nolte helped matters). Consider our 10 favorite songs by Davis a jumping off point into a massive and rewarding discography that includes more than just crossover pop hits.
We skip some of Davis' reaches into popular culture, from Kenny Rogers and the First Edition's "Something's Burning" (1970) and Dolly Parton's "White Limozeen" (1989) to songs recorded by Weezer ("Time Flies"), Avicii ("Addicted to You") and Bruno Mars ("Young Girls").
"A Little Less Conversation"
Davis had a hand in multiple Elvis Presley hits, including "In the Ghetto" and this Billy Strange co-write from the Presley film soundtrack Love a Little, Live a Little. A remix of Presley's version became an unlikely global hit in 2002.
"Lucus Was a Redneck"
There's a lot of great songs missing from this list, including the breezy '80s superhit "One Hell of a Woman" and less obvious Elvis gem "Don't Cry Daddy," but we can't skip past this country-funk deep cut. It represents the quirky surprises to be found among Davis' album tracks.
"Watching Scotty Grow"
Steel guitar drives this sentimental tale about a proud papa. It's not to be confused with the Dead Milkmen's "Watching Scotty Die." In 1970, Bobby Goldsboro took "Watching Scotty Grow" to the top of the adult contemporary charts.
"You're My Bestest Friend"
"Who wipes me off when I get gravy on my shirt" begins this sweet celebration of someone who's more than the narrator's lover.
"I Believe in Music"
Helen Reddy, a fellow '70s and '80s crossover success story, helped solidify Davis' love letter to popular songs as one of his finest and most fiscally successful compositions.
"Texas in My Rear View Mirror"
Davis' high school memories from Lubbock and the success he later found in Atlanta, Nashville and Los Angeles inform his finest moment as a country music storyteller.
"Stop and Smell the Roses"
Davis and The Tonight Show bandleader Doc Severinsen wrote one of the brightest rays of country sunshine of the '70s with this 1974 call to appreciate the simpler things in life.
"It's Hard to Be Humble"
The popularity of this global hit from the early '80s might've faded over time, but Davis' first impactful single for Casablanca Records remains hilarious. Plus, it's as representative of the dawning of a new decade as anything by another legend we lost in 2020, Kenny Rogers.
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"In the Ghetto"
Davis pleads for the sort of empathy our society still needs with a song turned into an oldies radio standard by the King of Rock & Roll.
"Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me"
As the story goes, Columbia Records challenged Davis to write a song with a catchy hook for the follow-up to his first two albums, Song Painter and I Believe in Music. He delivered with the title track of his first platinum album and, if you ask us, his crowning achievement as a singer-songwriter.
Hooks and the word "hooked" remained kind to Davis. "Hooked on Music" became his highest-charted country hit in 1981 when it reached No. 2.