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).
First recorded (as “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke”) by The Hillside Singers (1971).
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, non-beverage product. A version of the jingle was then reworked into a full-length song 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‘). It was then recorded, titled ‘True Love and Apple Pie’, 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, Cook and Greenaway weres delayed at Shannon Airport in Ireland. After a 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 commercial jingle writer Billy Davis together then reworked the lyrics to fit 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 and producer Al Ham to record the jingle. Called ‘the Hillside Singers’, the sessions singers included Ham’s wife, Mary Mayo, and their daughter, Lorri.

“The jingle-cum-single 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 at 2+ minutes, when commercials rarely exceeded 1-minute; 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, for broadcast on television. The resulting TV commercial became an instant classic with the result that the jingle became so popular that radio DJs persuaded Davis to re-record it with adapted, non-commercial lyrics.

“That ‘non-commercial’ recording (‘I’d like to teach the world to sing’ vs. ‘I’d like to buy the world a Coke’), again recorded 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, topping the UK Singles chart and peaking Top-10 in the US.

“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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