Most of us have a song or many songs/albums that when we hear them later on in life immediately transport us back in time to a particular place, to a particular event and/or to a particular person. As William Shakespeare famously stated in the first line of Twelfth Night: “If music be the food of love, play on.” Indeed! If you “came of age” (a tired cliché, if there ever was one, and really not entirely accurate if you consider that it means gaining prominence, respectability, recognition, or maturity, what every teenager experiences!) in the sixties, as I did, you were, by default, part of an epochal era of music. I also know that those that came after the now infamous Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z, and now Gen A, are sick and tired of hearing ad nauseum about how amazing the music was from that era (it was), and I can’t say I blame them. I, for one, have never said that our/my music was better, but it was different and definitely a reflection of the times.
It is for this reason that many of us can recall, perhaps not the exact moment in time, when we heard one of our most cherished songs being used in an advertisement and gasped in shock. How could they take the song associated with my first kiss, my first-time driving, my first of many firsts, and use it to sell dish soap? Reactions to this phenomenon ran from curiosity to outright rage, and everything in between. How could these artists let crass commercialism completely destroy a song’s meaning, and even worse, what it meant to us on a personal level? In some cases, it was not always the artists’ fault, as was the case for The Beatles’ music catalogue, which was famously purchased by Michael Jackson on August 14, 1985, outbidding Paul McCartney and shelling out $47 million! There is, of course, a long history of “popular” music being used in advertising, one of the earliest being the McGuire Sisters (1950s) doing numerous ads for Coca-Cola as you can see in this short compilation:
All of which brings me to the partial song title in this “musing” title and the accompanying photo. If you guessed that I am referring to that “catchy” tune from 1971, “I’d Like to Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony),” give yourself two points…okay five! I’m sure some of you are humming it to yourselves right now. There were two groups that recorded this song that year: The Hillside Singers from the U.S., and The New Seekers from England. You also may know this song from the 1971 Coca Cola (yes, them again!) commercial “I’d Like To Buy The World a Coke” (and keep it company) …catchy, right? Just in case you don’t remember it:
What you may not know is that the advertisement and jingle came before the song, not the other way around, which is the norm! In fact, the ensemble, The Hillside singers (who later changed the lyrics and recorded it as a “pop” song), were created by the advertising agency McCann Erickson to sing in the television commercial. It was the agency that wrote the jingle and initially wanted The New Seekers to do the ad, but they could not fit the project into their schedule, giving birth, so to speak, to the Hillside Singers. The reason why they initially wanted The New Seekers, is that two members of that band wrote the song “True Love and Apple Pie,” sung by Susan Shirley and released in, you guessed it, 1971! When you listen to it you will understand the symmetry here!
And all of this brings me right back to my title yet again. My “play” on the song title stems from my feeling that the three verses and chorus of the 1971 song are, shall we say, tired and containing just a little too much saccharine for my taste, especially given what was going on in the world at that time. So, I decided that an update might have a whole new generation humming along to this “catchy” tune. Or not! Here are the original words:
I’d Like to build a world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow white turtle doves
I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I’d like to hold it in my arms
And keep it company
I’d like to see the world for once
All standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills
For peace throughout the land
That’s a song I hear
Sing it along
Let the world sing today
Over and over
I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony`
La, la, la, la
To, do, do, do, do, do
La, la, la.
And now the revision. Look out Ira Gershwin and Rodgers and Hammerstein!
I’d like to teach the world a thing or two
I’d like the world to build a home
For all of those in need
Proper housing and basic needs
A place for them to thrive
I’d like to teach the world to care
In many different ways
I’d like to feel it’s possible
We all need to lead the way
I’d like to see the world out there
Concerned for one another
And working towards a common goal
For that’s what needs to be
That’s the song I sing
And you can sing it too
Let’s start the song today
Over and Over
I’s like to teach the world to shine
In every kind of way
It must be done
And it won’t be fun
It’s the price we have to pay
If your guitar is handy the chords are D, E, A, G, D!
I am sure that many of you can conjure up memories of songs used in ads that left you, shall we say, less than enthusiastic about the song and certainly about the product. Here are a few examples of famous groups/musicians that have made questionable choices and ads.
Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” used for a Preparation H (It really doesn’t get any better than this!
Jane’s Addiction “Jane Says” used in a Jack Daniels ad.
The Zombies’ “It’s the Time of the Season” (Or month as it were. I know, I’m going to hell for this one!) used in a Tampax ad.
Los Angeles 2022
2 thoughts on “I’d Like To Teach The WOrld A Thing Or Two”
Great article. Love the Ring of Fire and Tampax one. I remember the Beatles “All you need is Love” for the Salvation army considering John Lennon was chastised for saying we are more popular than Christ!
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I remember that!