Written by Mac Davis, Elvis recorded this song on January 20, 1969 at American Studio in Memphis. Al Pachucki was the engineer and Chips Moman produced. Moman used four of his eight tracks to record a session, keeping the rest for overdubbing of horns, strings and additional vocals later. He also wanted the lead artist's voice on a track alone. This arrangement gave Moman the creative control to build and mix the song.
Elvis and Reggie Young played guitar. Tommy Cogbill and Mike Leech played bass. Gene Chrisman was on the drums, Bobby Wood on piano, and Bobby Emmons on organ. John Hugley played steel guitar. Strings, horns and backing vocals were added later.
Take 23 was chosen for the single, paired with "Any Day Now" as the B-side. It was shipped out April 14, 1969. "In the Ghetto" had a 13-week run on Billboard's pop singles chart, peaking at #3. It ran 7 weeks on the country chart, peaking at #60. On the British pop singles chart it peaked at #1 for one week in its 13-week run.
Other artists who have recorded the song include Bobby Blue Bland, Mac Davis, Bobbie Gentry, Lilith Fair, and Dolly Parton.