About the song

Ah, yes, Clean Up Your Own Backyard by the one and only Elvis Presley. Released in 1969, this song occupies a fascinating space in Presley’s vast catalogue. As a music aficionado for many years, I find it particularly intriguing for a few reasons.

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Firstly, it represents a shift in Presley’s musical direction. The late 60s saw a cultural revolution brewing, and music, never one to shy away from social commentary, reflected this. Presley, the king of rock and roll whose early career was defined by electrifying performances and rebellious charm, began to explore more introspective and socially conscious themes. Clean Up Your Own Backyard exemplifies this.

The song’s message is clear and direct. It encourages a focus on personal responsibility and self-improvement before criticizing the world at large. The lyrics, penned by Mac Davis and Billy Strange, urge the listener to “mend a little piece of the world that’s just within your reach.” This introspective approach was a departure from Presley’s earlier, more carefree persona, and it hinted at a maturing artist seeking new avenues for expression.

However, it’s important to acknowledge the context surrounding Clean Up Your Own Backyard. Presley was, after all, still under the management of Colonel Tom Parker, a shrewd businessman known for his sometimes stifling control over the artist’s career. Some music historians argue that Clean Up Your Own Backyard was a calculated move by Parker to capitalize on the growing social consciousness of the era. While the song’s message undeniably resonates, it’s worth noting the commercial considerations that may have influenced its creation.

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That being said, the song’s power transcends its potential origins. Presley’s iconic voice delivers the message with a sincerity that cuts through. The gospel-tinged backing vocals and the steady, driving rhythm section create a sense of urgency, urging the listener to take action. Clean Up Your Own Backyard may not be Presley’s most celebrated work, but it holds a significant place in his evolution as an artist. It’s a song that reflects the cultural shifts of the late 60s and showcases Presley’s willingness to adapt and explore new themes. Whether a genuine expression of personal growth or a calculated move by his management, Clean Up Your Own Backyard remains a compelling listen, a reminder of Presley’s enduring legacy and his ability to connect with audiences on a deeper level.

Video

Lyrics

“Clean Up Your Own Backyard”

Back porch preacher preaching at me
Acting like he wrote the golden rules
Shaking his fist and speeching at me
Shouting from his soap box like a fool
Come Sunday morning he’s lying in bed
With his eye all red, with the wine in his head
Wishing he was dead when he oughta be
Heading for Sunday school

Clean up your own backyard
Oh don’t you hand me none of your lines
Clean up your own backyard
You tend to your business, I’ll tend to mine

Drugstore cowboy criticizing
Acting like he’s better than you and me
Standing on the sidewalk supervising
Telling everybody how they ought to be
Come closing time ‘most every night
He locks up tight and out go the lights
And he ducks out of sight and he cheats on his wife
With his employee

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Clean up your own backyard
Oh don’t you hand me none of your lines
Clean up your own backyard
You tend to your business, I’ll tend to mine

Armchair quarterback’s always moanin’
Second guessing people all day long
Pushing, fooling and hanging on in
Always messing where they don’t belong
When you get right down to the nitty-gritty
Isn’t it a pity that in this big city
Not a one a’little bitty man’ll admit
He could have been a little bit wrong

Clean up your own backyard
Oh don’t you hand me, don’t you hand me none of your lines
Clean up your own backyard
You tend to your business, I’ll tend to mine

Clean up your own backyard
You tend to your business, I’ll tend to mine