The Air That I Breathe

Album: Best Of The Hollies (1974)
Charted: 2 6
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • This was written by the songwriting team of Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood shortly after they moved to Los Angeles. Before Hazlewood's death in 2001, they wrote songs for many artists, including Johnny Cash and Olivia Newton-John.

    The song is about a guy whose every desire is fulfilled by the woman he loves. His list of things he can live without as long as he has her love:

    cigarettes
    sleep
    light
    sound
    food
    books
  • In the book Behind The Hits, Albert Hammond explained the inspiration for the song: "I just fell in love with a girl," he said. "We had some kind of short affair. I just fell in love so bad, I guess I needed to be with my family. I was so lonely in Los Angeles."

    So he moved to LA for a girl, but the song isn't really about her - it's more inspired by the loneliness he felt living there and his longing to be back with loved ones in a familiar place - he learned that in Los Angeles, everyone has a car and there's no mingling in the streets like there is in New York. And then there's the smog...

    In a 1992 interview on BBC radio, Hammond said: "When you listen to the song, you'd think this is a show stopper, and lyrically, you'd think I wrote it probably for the most beautiful woman that ever existed in the world. And in fact, The air that I breathe was written for quite an ugly person actually, I mean ugly outside, physically outside. She wasn't a great looking girl, but she was a terrific person inside. She was warm and kind.

    This person was the person who gave me shelter in Los Angeles when I didn't have any place to stay. I had no money, I had no Green Card, I couldn't work, I could have been a homeless. I sat down with Mike Hazlewood, and I said 'Mike, this is what's happened to me, and this is the person.' And I think Mike came up with [the line] 'the air that I breathe.'

    More than my story, it was because we lived in LA, and for the first time in our lives, we were introduced by smog. And every time we woke up, we'd look at the Hollywood Hills, and there was like a yellow monster up there. And I think that was his reason for coming up with [the line] 'the air that I breathe.' My reason was a love story, his was ecology or whatever you want to call it, you know. But it worked."
  • Hammond was the first to record this - it appeared on his 1972 album It Never Rains In Southern California. Phil Everly recorded it in 1973 on his album Star Spangled Banner.
  • Hammond Recorded a Spanish version in 1976 called "Necesito poder respirar."
  • In 1998, this was a UK #6 hit for Simply Red.
  • This was the last big hit for The Hollies.
  • KD Lang recorded this on her 1997 covers album Drag. She did it as a slow blues song.
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Comments: 32

  • Torq2 from UkIs Albert Hammond kidding? This song is clearly about someone who's just had sex and is lying in the after glow, as it were. I think that he is retrospectively trying to give the song another more respectable meaning. He got old I guess.
  • Peggy from GaBesides the Virgin Suicides, I know I've heard this song somewhere else. I can't remember if it was a movie or an episode of Supernatural!
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaIn the spring when the pollen is high this is the theme song of my asthmatic lungs.
  • Holly from Perry, GeorgiaI have always loved this song. I always thought the lead singer of the Hollies wrote it for his wife or girlfriend. It is a beautiful love song.
    I am almost 54 years old. I was 11 when this song came out, but I remember it being played at school dances even back then. At 11 years old, what do you know about Love? But this song reached out and grabbed my soul.
    I have always wondered what it would sound like with a woman on lead vocals.
  • Jeff from Largo, FlI seem to recall sometime in the 70's seeing this song used as music in a montage of NASA failures on the launch pad. The segment showed many rocket launches gone wrong and blowing up. It was weird seeing these images with this song. Of course I could be misremembering the whole thing, but his is vivid in my mind at times. Anyone else see this?
  • Camille from Toronto, OhFor years, I always thought the Bee Gees sang this song. I think the magic in this song is in the perfect pairing of the lyrics to the leisurely flow that they are delivered, heartfelt and calming, so you can actually picture this guy as 'peaceful, warm and tired' after making love to his lady.
  • Vince from Kerman, CaHey Michael from Wallington, NJ, you're completely wrong. Look it up. Radiohead was successfully sued for plagiarizing TATIB and Hammond/Hazlewood are now credited as co-composers of Creep. It's common knowledge, pay attention.
  • Kristi from Wexford, PaThere was a movie I saw a few times and I can NEVER remember the name of it bt it was a team or a group of people that worked on oil rigs or maybe it was those wind propellers. It had this song in it. Anyone know what I am talking about?
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScI recently found out that Phil Everly recorded this. After learning this bit of information, I listened to it and it immediately jumped to the top of the list. This is in no way a knock on the version by the Hollies who were apparently inspired to record this song after hearing Phill Everly's version.
  • Dane from Green Cove Springs Fla., FlTheir best song.I love the words & harmonies.So positive.
  • Pete from Sheffield, United KingdomSemisonic also recorded a great version of The Air that i breathe
    Also, Albert Hammond's Spanish version is in my opinion better than his original

    by the way, the 1992 interview quoted at the top of this page was taken from my cassette recording which i gave or sent to the original webmaster of alberthammond.net
  • Paul from Detroit, MiA great song that takes me back to high school gradustion in 1974. I was in love with my girlfriend, who two years later became my wife. All these years later, I still love this song. What in God's name has happened to this beautiful, timeless music?
  • Antone from Chisholm, MnIn the Guitar White Pages, Vol. 3 published "Creep" by Radiohead, citing that the song contains elements of "The Air That I Breathe." "Words and Music by Albert Hammond, Mike Hazlewood, Thomas Yorke, Richard Greenwood, Philip Selway, Colin Greenwood and Edward O'Brian." So, Joshua from Twin Cities, MN is correct...however, we don't know if Radiohead is paying royalties to the Hollies...you will have to call their lawyers for that information.
  • Michael from Wallington, NjHey Joshua from Twin Cities, MN, Where do you get your (song) facts? Your post is completely untrue, Radiohead has never shared songwriting credits from "Creep" with anyone. While I do hear some similarities, there are simply not enough for a copyright infringement. By the way, all Radiohead songs are credited to all of the band members, not just Thom Yorke. I think you meant to place your post on the Songfiction web site.
  • Wayne from Salem, VaHey Don,from San Jose,CA---I agree 100% with you man. And the same goes for everyone else on this page.

    I am now 49 years old. And you can't beat all of the old songs we used to hear on Top-40 AM in the early 70s.

    And to Dee from Indiana, Right On!-My thoughts exactly. I love the guitar work on this song. And also the vocals and message and the entire presentation. It's Great People!
  • Stormy from Kokomo, InI'm surprised to read of Albert Hammond's description of this song. I always thought that it would have been the other way around. A beautiful, personable partner is all one need. I totally agree with Dee from Indy! I think that today's music SUCKS!
  • Jos from Utrecht, NetherlandsWhat else needs to be said about this tune? Albert Hammond and Mike Hazelwood did a phenomenal job writing this; it was just meant to be! "The Air That I Breathe" is a prolific masterpiece that encompasses every plateau imaginable, these guys deserve to be recognized as the geniuses in disguise that they are. Who would have imagined? Listen to The Air That I Breathe.
  • Edwin from Vancouver, BcOver the top, schmaltzy and and fabulous! Can't imagine anyone else pulling this off.
  • Siansonea from Denver, CoThis song was used beautifully in the movie 'The Virgin Suicides'. This song, along with 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother' are the best songs by the Hollies.

    k.d. lang's version was very well done. Her voice is perfectly suited to this type of material. The album, Drag, is unfairly criticized for it's 'concept' [all the songs refer to smoking in some way'] but many of the songs on the album are excellent.
  • Don from San Jose, CaThe Hollies version is the best and greatest, replete with great guitar work. What a tremendous song this is!
  • Susan from Westchestertonfieldville, VaI totally agree!!!! Dee of Indianapolis
  • Mary from Phoenix, AzI'm making a home video/slide show for mine and my boyfriend's 3rd 'dating anniversary. This is the song that I'm using for the video. I'm still working on it, but so far, I have done a damn good job, I must say. The song is perfect...not slow, not fast. I've never heard any other version, but until probably a year or two ago, I always thought Air Supply sang this. They sound like them and then there's the word "air".
  • Cheryl from Richmond, VaFor anyone that enjoys country music, Hank Williams, Jr does a fantastic version of this song! I've never heard his voice sound as pure as it does when he sings this song!
  • Tom from Gloucester Twp., NjOne of the best love songs ever written, and Alan Clarke's vocal is superb.
  • Joshua from Twin Cities, MnRadiohead retooled the melody of this song for "Creep", their first big hit in 1993. Hammond and Hazlewood share the songwriting credits (and royalties) for "Creep" with Radiohead's Thom Yorke as a result.
  • Dee from Indianapolis, InGreat classic all the way around. I agree that 70's AM played some of the best music ever, but now we have non-talented, look at me types trying to impress a fading generation of wanna be reality nobodies. So sad, so sad.
  • Lazlos from Pink, OkOne of the all time great songs. Every time I fly commercially I put on The Hollies and Roy Orbison on my 40GB Ipod and relax with a Cuba Libre and let the Ativan take over. Great flying. Man I am 71 and still enjoy the sounds. Keep rolling.
    Peace,
    Lazlos
  • Scott from Chicago, Ilso sad that top 40 70's AM radio hits blow away anything out now....
  • Chance from Melbourne, AustraliaSimply breathtaking, I just dream and driftaway whenever I listen to this masterpiece.
  • Aj from Cleveland, GaOne of the greatest songs of the 70s
  • Clarke from Pittsburgh, PaProminently (and hauntingly) featured in Sofia Coppola's movie "The Virgin Suicides".
  • Adam from Bradford, CanadaSong was at the end of one of the last episodes of Dawson Creek. Was pretty awesome, set the mood nicely!
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