You're The Voice

Album: Whispering Jack (1986)
Charted: 6 82
Play Video


  • The uplifting "You're The Voice" is wildly popular in Australia, where it is considered the unofficial national anthem. It was written, though, by a team of British songwriters led by Chris Thompson, who was the lead singer in Manfred Mann's Earth Band. Thompson wrote it with Andy Qunta and Maggie Ryder, who were writers from his publishing company. The song was inspired by a protest march for nuclear disarmament that took place in London's Hyde Park on October 25, 1985, the day they started writing the song. Thompson planned on attending the march, but overslept; he, Qunta and Ryder watched it on TV while they were writing the song.

    "I was annoyed at myself and that's where the idea for 'You're the Voice' came from," he told News Corp Australia. "If you want to do something you have to go out and do it yourself."
  • Chris Thompson sang the demo version of "You're The Voice" and planned to record it for a solo album he was working on, but his publisher talked him out of it, telling Thompson protest songs were old news. The demo made its way to Australia via co-writer Andy Qunta, who was working with the Aussie band Icehouse (he co-wrote their hit "Crazy"). That's where John Farnham heard the song. As "Johnny Farnham," he was a teen idol in his native Australia and took over as lead singer of The Little River Band from 1982-1985. Chris Thompson knew Farnham from his 1967 novelty song "Sadie The Cleaning Lady" and wanted him nowhere near "You're The Voice." He had to be convinced that Farnham was now a legitimate singer and could do the song justice.

    After Thompson relented, Farnham made it his first release under the name "John Farnham." After a careful promotional campaign to sidestep the stigma of "Johnny Farnham," the song picked up airplay in Australia and took off, going to #1 and winning the ARIA Award for Single of the Year. Farnham's album Whispering Jack was also a mighty seller, spending 25 weeks at #1. He became one of Australia's most popular performers.
  • Chris Thompson called in Procol Harum lyricist Keith Reid for help with the words. Reid told Songfacts: "Chris called me and said, 'I've got something and I don't know what to do with it lyrically. It feels as though it should be slightly political, but I don't know. Have a listen.' And we sat down, he played me the tune, and I got the title idea, 'You're The Voice.' It's an anti-war song in a way, but it was more of a 'make your voice heard' kind of thing. Wake up to your own power."

    Thompson's demo version of the song was released on Keith Reid's 2008 album The Common Thread.
  • This song contains one of the most famous bagpipe solos ever recorded (go ahead, name another bagpipe solo). It was played by a group of four pipers.

    The original demo didn't have bagpipes, but Farnham thought they could be a good fit. Like most Australians, he's a big AC/DC fan and loves their song "It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'N' Roll)," a rare rock song with bagpipes that inspired him to use the instruments on "You're The Voice."
  • The song was a hit throughout Europe and did well in Canada, but it barely made a dent in America, where it peaked at #82 in March 1990, long after it conquered Australia.
  • The American band Heart released a live version as a single in 1991 that reached #56 in the UK. Their lead singer, Ann Wilson, heard the song when she was in London.

Comments: 5

  • Toby Bridson from MelbourneRoss the BagPiper used to live over the road from me when i was living in North Ringwood as a child. I was friends with his kids Jamie and Alex and the pipe music used to travel up and down the street. Even weirder story and complete coincidence, Ross was recruited to play the bagpipes at our wedding by my now wife completely unbeknownst to me until the day!!!
  • Katrina from Australia One of John Farnhams favorite songs is AC/DC - It's a long way to the top (If you wanna rock n roll) in which they play bagpipes. The original demo had a bass solo and John swapped it out for bagpipes
    John used to perform "It's a long way to the top" on stage. When he was inducted into the 'hall of fame', he performed "Your the Voice" and injected a segment of the Acca Dacca bagpipes. It was pretty cool
  • Leon89 from The NetherlandsI know another song that has a Bagpipe solo.

    AC/DC - It's A Long Way To The Top If You Wanna Rock & Roll
  • Howard from St. Louis Park, Mn I remember hearing this song in the late 80s and it was one of the few rock and roll songs to have the sound of bagpipes in the instrumental track.
  • Greg from Fort Wayne, InThis is such a great anthem, in a time, at least here in America, and around the rest of the world, where the regular people need to declare our feelings under no uncertain circumstances to the supposed, "World Leaders", that it's time that they realize that we're fed up with their crap, and that there needs to be put into place some sort of rules that limit the power they actually have over the very people who gave them their position. They need to be reminded that we are the employers, not the slaves to their every whim, and that we're not made of money for them to spend. They are only guardians, not Lords!!!!!
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Dan Reed

Dan ReedSongwriter Interviews

Dan cracked the Top 40 with "Ritual," then went to India and spent 2 hours with the Dalai Lama.

Millie Jackson

Millie JacksonSongwriter Interviews

Outrageously gifted and just plain outrageous, Millie is an R&B and Rap innovator.

Tony Banks of Genesis

Tony Banks of GenesisSongwriter Interviews

Genesis' key-man re-examines his solo career and the early days of music video.


WeezerFact or Fiction

Did Rivers Cuomo grow up on a commune? Why did they name their albums after colors? See how well you know your Weezer in this Fact or Fiction.

Jesus Christ Superstar: Ted Neeley Tells the Inside Story

Jesus Christ Superstar: Ted Neeley Tells the Inside StorySong Writing

The in-depth discussion about the making of Jesus Christ Superstar with Ted Neeley, who played Jesus in the 1973 film.

Oliver Leiber

Oliver LeiberSongwriter Interviews

Long before she was judging contestants on American Idol, Oliver was producing Paula Abdul. Here's how he helped turn this unknown choreographer into a star.