Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing

First recorded (as “True Love and Apple Pie”) by Susan Shirley (1970).
Hit versions by The Hillside Singers (US #13/MOR #5 1972), The New Seekers (US #7/UK #1 1972).

From the wiki: “The original melody was derived from a commercial jingle first written by Rose Malka Freidman for another product. A version of the jingle was then reworked by songwriters Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, who had previously collaborated as performers and songwriters (‘You’ve Got Your Troubles’, ‘Softly Whispering I Love You‘) and then recorded into a full-length song, titled ‘True Love and Apple Pie’, sung by Susan Shirley, and released in 1970 with little promotion behind it.

“The idea for its use as a Coca-Cola advertising jingle came originally to an advertising executive named Bill Backer, working for McCann-Erickson — the worldwide advertising agency responsible for Coca-Cola. Backer, along with Cook and Billy Davis, was delayed at Shannon Airport in Ireland. After the forced layover with many hot tempers, the trio noticed their fellow travelers the next morning were talking and joking while drinking Coca-Cola. Backer wrote the line ‘I’d like to buy the world a Coke’ on a napkin and shared it with Cook and Davis.

“Cook, Greenaway, Backer, and Davis together then reworked the lyrics into the ‘True Love’ melody – this time, with the UK group The New Seekers in mind as the singers – to be recorded as a new Coca-Cola radio commercial. But, the New Seekers thought the song was trite and not just a little silly for them to perform, and they initially opted out of the session. Instead, session singers were assembled in the US by the McCann-Erickson agency to record the jingle.

“It first aired on American radio on February 12, 1971, but failed; many radio stations refused to play it. (It was very lengthy for a radio commercial; radio stations that didn’t play ‘Pop’ music [no pun intended] in their format were especially adverse to playing the commercial.) So, McCann-Erickson devised a new way to promote the jingle: with visuals. The resulting TV commercial became an instant classic and the jingle became so popular that radio DJs persuaded Davis to record it with adapted, non-commercial lyrics. Producer Al Ham put together a group of singers, called ‘The Hillside Singers’, for the project (including his wife, Mary Mayo, and their daughter Lorri).

“The single by The Hillside Singers hit #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #5 on the Adult Contemporary chart. That success convinced The New Seekers the song wasn’t so trite, after all, and the group set about to record the song for release in the UK. It would also be issued as a US single, too. It became The New Seekers’ highest-charting song in both the US and the UK.

“The New Seekers formed in 1969 by Keith Potger after the break-up of his group, the Seekers. The idea was that the New Seekers would appeal to the same market as the original Seekers, but their music had rock as well as folk influences. Over the next year, the group released a number of singles to little recognition, but it was in June 1971 that they released their breakthrough hit, ‘Never Ending Song of Love‘. The song became a big hit in the UK, spending five weeks at #2 in the singles chart and turned into one of the biggest selling singles of 1971 in the UK.”

Coca-Cola TV commercial, “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” (1971):

The Hillside Singers, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” (1972):

The New Seekers, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” (1972):

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