I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing

Album: We'd Like To Teach The World To Sing (1971)
Charted: 1 7

Songfacts®:

  • By the time this was released as a full song, the melody was very much associated with Coke, so it amounted to free advertising. Most of the commercial is about honey bees, turtle doves and love anyway, so removing the Coke references didn't disrupt the song. The lines:

    I'd like to buy the world a Coke
    And keep it company


    Were altered to:

    I'd like to hold it in my arms
    And keep it company
  • The music was written by the British songwriters Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, who around this time also co-wrote the Hollies hit "Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)." The music they used for the commercial was based on something they had already written which they called "True Love And Apple Pie."

    They worked on the jingle with Backer and Billy Davis, who was the music director assigned to Coke's account. Davis was also a successful songwriter, having co-written some songs for Jackie Wilson. The four of them stayed up all night writing the song, which Davis then produced with The New Seekers.
  • William Backer came up with the line "I'd like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company" when his plane to London, where he was slated to create the commercial, got diverted to Ireland because of weather. He and his fellow travelers were not happy about this, but when they got together at the airport café for refreshments, Backer noticed their spirits lifted as they commisserated over their shared experience. He also noticed that many of them were drinking Coke, a beverage that crossed cultures. (The full story of how the Coke commercial came together is in Backer's book The Care And Feeding Of Ideas.)
  • At first, The New Seekers balked at recording the full version of the song, so Billy Davis put together a group of studio singers to record it and called them "The Hillside Singers." This version was released as a single and picked up steam, convincing The New Seekers to get in on the action. Their version was released a short time later - both renditions climbed the chart simultaneously, with The Hillside Singers version peaking at #13 the same week The New Seekers made it to #7.
  • The song was a global success, going to #1 in Japan, Ireland and the UK and reaching the Top 10 in a number of territories. It was recorded in a number of different languages.
  • What we have here is a hit song that started as a Coke commercial, sung by the group commissioned to sing the jingle. At first, it was a radio spot called "I'd Like To Buy The World A Coke," a slogan written by William Backer who worked for Coke's ad agency, McCann-Erickson. Backer had a track record of success, having created the "Things Go Better with Coke" and "The Real Thing" campaigns for Coke. The idea for this one was Coke bringing people together in harmony - it was actually part of "The Real Thing" campaign, with the line, "That's the real thing," inserted into the lyric.

    The commercial was sung by a British group called The New Seekers, whose biggest hit to that point was a cover of Melanie's "What Have They Done to My Song, Ma" that reached #14 US. The commercial started running on radio stations on February 12, 1971; it was so catchy listeners requested it like they would a song. Backer and his team knew they had a winner, so they commissioned a television commercial using the jingle, which became the iconic "Hilltop" commercial showing a group of children from various countries singing the song together outside of Rome. The TV spot started airing in July and proved very popular, boosting sales of Coke and imbuing it with an aura of goodwill and harmony. The New Seekers recorded a full version of the song as "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony)" with references to Coke removed so radio stations could play it as a song. It rose up the chart, reaching #7 on January 15, 1972.
  • In 1985, Coke brought this back when they introduced a new formula for their soda. "New Coke" was a huge flop, and is considered one of the biggest marketing failures ever.
  • Lyn Paul of The New Seekers recalled to The Daily Mail May 15, 2009 that none of the group particularly rated this number. She said: "We thought it was a silly, soppy song. So it was hilarious when they decided to make it into a single. I suppose it was a nice feel-good song, but seven million records! Even now I think, how did this very ordinary song ever do it?"
  • The New Seekers made little money out of this worldwide hit. They were on £50 a week until this song got into the charts when it went up to £100. Occasionally, they'd be given a bonus of, say, £1,000 to buy some new clothes. For this song the five group members were paid just a £2,000 session fee and the rest went to charity and their management.
  • This songs' writers successfully sued Oasis when they used parts of it in their 1994 song "Shakermaker."
  • The Coca-Cola commercial featuring this song was used as the final scene in the concluding episode of the television series Mad Men, which was broadcast on May 17, 2015. The showing of the famous ad implied that the series protagonist Don Draper had pulled himself out of his downward spiral and was responsible for producing the famous advertising campaign.

Comments: 19

  • Barry from Gagetown Nb CanadaThere was a COKE promotion .... I got a copy of the "Coke 45rpm" vinyl record .... Don't know what ever happened to it ..... Likely worth a small fortune today !!!
  • Tanya Romero from LouisianaApple trees honeybees snow white turtle doves- garden of Eden, sex, original sin & forgiveness. Predictive Apple tech conditioning. The rest is new world order. The loose guru style clothing, the eastern Hindu vibe is predictive programming for the guru peacemaker- the antichrist. Sing in perfect harmony- genetically modified humans, cloning and zenobots Plus it's Coca-Cola. That's really bad..tastes really good- love it but sneaky messages and a messed up future adgenda is their sin. Not so sure it'll be washed clean and white as snow as they repeat buy buy buy. But the worst? Biden copied it- ew. He just ruined any shred of. innocence with his corruption. He took any kind of genuineness from this classic and tainted it with artificial. In the future we will be repulsed by the flawless. Because we'll know what they are. It won't work. It's an aversion that's encoded in our DNA.we want the real thing, people, I mean. I suggest you capatilize on that in future ad campaigns & never change your flavor formula
  • Dean from Birmingham, AlA favorite of mine from childhood. The Coke commercial was awesome! Easy to listen to and sing along with!
  • Kawa from Tokyo, JapanHi Music lovers.

    I think that the idea of this song came from the song 'Teach Your Children', sung and played by the group 'CSN&Y, form the album 'Dajave' in 1970. The song was very famous and was also featured by a British film 'Melody' in 1971, too. What does that mean ? I think that the songwriters of the song 'I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing' liked the song,'Teach Your Children', when they heard this song and tried to write a song like this ! Let's take a look at the title of the both songs ! It was very similar. So were key words, too ! Also, the melodies were almost the same, too. The trace remains ! Always !

    P.S. I think that the original title 'True Love and Apple pie' came from a big hit song 'American Pie' in 1971. It was released in May that year and
    became a big hit when it was released. Very similar, too !
  • Steve from Wakefield West YorkshireAs stated above the original title was 'True Love and Apple Pie', the artist was little known Susan Shirley.
  • Randy from Houghton Lake, MiI thought Don Draper wrote this??? Just kidding but this was the perfect song for the Mad Men finale. When they started singing the memories just began flowing I was 16 when this song was originally released.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 22nd 1972, the Hilltop Singers performed "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand' (See below post concerning Top 100 info)...
    And on the same 'Bandstand' episode they sang their only other Top 100 hit, "We're Together", it stayed on the chart for one week, right at position #100 (and it was also from a TV commercial; McDonalds' "You Deserve A Break Today" jingle).
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 9th 1972, "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing" by the New Seekers peaked at #7 (for 2 weeks) on the Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; it had entered the chart on November 28th, 1971 and spent 11 weeks on the Top 100...
    And on January 8th, 1972 it reached #1 (for 4 weeks) on the United Kingdom's Singles chart; and across the Irish Sea in Ireland it also peaked at #1...
    Interestingly, the week the New Seekers peaked at #7, the Hilltop Singers' version also reached its highest position on the Top 100 at #13 (also for two weeks), but they did stay on the chart one week longer at 12 weeks.
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxOther than 'No Matter What Shape Your Stomach's In' (a 60s instrumental), this is the only commercial jingle I can think of that made it out (slightly altered) as a single.
  • Carolyn from Knoville, TnEvery time I drink a Coke I think of this song...to me, it's the best ad Coke has ever used. The polar bears are okay, but this one is the one I like best.
  • Ken from Pittsburgh, PaFirst of all, do people read the Songfacts before they comment? There are two versions of the song, one by The New Seekers and one by The Hillside Singers. Both versions were on the charts at the same time, as stated above. I am only 42 and I remember this song, mostly because of the commercial. I seem to remember this being played semi regularly around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in the years after the initial release. It was just a catchy, feel-good type song.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhI don't care what anyone else says, I agree with the statement "considered one of the most effective ads of all time". Those of my generation (I'm in my 50s) can still sing this tune at the drop of a hat. The harmonies are one reason for its popularity. The average person listening to it can just jump in and sing along at any time. Another reason it became a hit is the visual: a bunch of teens from every country singing about peace and harmony. It's as if the whole world was agreeing to interrupt the conflict of the 60s to say, hey, we really do want peace in the land. And of course, it's the teenagers leading the way.
  • Karen Ferrero from Alta Loma, CaThis song reminds me of when I was between the age of 8-10. I wanted to run through a field of dasies! I still do and I am 46 :) Karen CA,
  • Caitlin from Upper Township, Nji sang this song for a choir concert one year. i liked it at first but it got annoying the 5 hundreth time we practiced it
  • Bob from Ridgefield, CtI remember this song, but I don't think it's by the New Seekers. I believe it's by the Hillside Singers.
  • Patrick from Tallapoosa, GaI remember KidSongs from 20 years ago! They tried to revive it back in the mid- to late-90s, but not with as much success.
  • Rob from Vancouver, CanadaSmash Mouth takes a poke at this song with 'walking on the sun'. This became a typical corporate scam, attaching a product to a grass-roots cultural movement. Scumbags.
  • Howard from St. Louis Park, MnOne of TV's greatest commercial jingles of all time. I remember the scene with all the children singing. I also remember The Hillside Singers version. The song was their ony hit and released on the long defunct Metromedia label, the same label Bobby Sherman for.
  • Lee from Alpine, NjWhat I hate about this song is that it was also used on a Kidsongs video with the same name.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

They Might Be Giants

They Might Be GiantsSongwriter Interviews

Who writes a song about a name they found in a phone book? That's just one of the everyday things these guys find to sing about. Anything in their field of vision or general scope of knowledge is fair game. If you cross paths with them, so are you.

Devo

DevoSongwriter Interviews

Devo founders Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale take us into their world of subversive performance art. They may be right about the De-Evoloution thing.

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: '80s Edition

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: '80s EditionMusic Quiz

You know the scenes - Tom Cruise in his own pants-off dance off, Molly Ringwald celebrating her birthday - but do you remember what song is playing?

Andy McClusky of OMD

Andy McClusky of OMDSongwriter Interviews

Known in America for the hit "If You Leave," OMD is a huge influence on modern electronic music.

Modern A Cappella with Peder Karlsson of The Real Group

Modern A Cappella with Peder Karlsson of The Real GroupSong Writing

The leader of the Modern A Cappella movement talks about the genre.

Tanita Tikaram

Tanita TikaramSongwriter Interviews

When she released her first album in 1988, Tanita became a UK singing sensation at age 19. She talks about her darkly sensual voice and quirky songwriting style.