‘Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto’

Listen, people: The word “ghetto” dates to 16th- or 17th-century Venice, where Jews were restricted to living on an island near a foundry that produced a lot of ghet, or waste products. Or is it simply derived from borghetto — “little borough”? Help me, mothers and soul brothers, Wikipedia and various dictionaries are a bit vague on this.

“Ghetto” became a tag for any inner-city area dominated by a particular racial or ethnic group. By the 1960s, the usage usually was for urban areas in America where poor blacks were crammed. Brown was born in a rural setting, but he grew up poor as any big-city kid: Tell ’em James Brown sent you, huh/And go straight to the ghetto/You know that I know what you will see/’Cause that was once… me.

“Ghetto” is more often used these days as an adjective describing a narrow frame of mind — “That girl is so ghetto” — than as a geographical term. Which is not to say there’s less poverty now than in the 1960s.

Never mind. There’s nothing ghetto about “Santa Claus Go Straight To the Ghetto.” It’s funky, funny and wise, and has a very cool guitar lick that reminds me of “Highway 61 Revisited.” Hit it! Hit it!

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