I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)
|"I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)"|
|Single by The Hillside Singers|
|from the album I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing|
|"I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing"|
|Single by The New Seekers|
|from the album We'd Like to Teach the World to Sing|
|Writer(s)||Roger Cook, Roger Greenaway, Bill Backer and Billy Davis|
|The New Seekers singles chronology|
"I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)" is a popular song which originated as the jingle "Buy the World a Coke" in the groundbreaking 1971 "Hilltop" television commercial for Coca-Cola. "Buy the World a Coke" was produced by Billy Davis and portrayed a positive message of hope and love, sung by a multicultural collection of teenagers on the top of a hill. "Buy the World a Coke" repeated "It's the real thing" as Coca-Cola's marketing theme at the time.
The popularity of the jingle led to its being re-recorded by The New Seekers and by The Hillside Singers as a full-length song, dropping references to Coca-Cola. The song became a hit record in the US and the UK.
The idea originally came to an advertising executive named Bill Backer, who was working for McCann-Erickson — the agency responsible for Coca-Cola. Backer, Roger Cook and Billy Davis were delayed at Shannon Airport in Ireland. After a forced layover with many hot tempers, they 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 British hit songwriters Cook and Roger Greenaway. The melody was derived from a jingle by Cook and Greenaway originally called "True Love and Apple Pie". A version of the song was rerecorded by Susan Shirley and released in 1971. Cook, Greenaway, Backer, and Billy Davis reworked the song and recorded it as a Coca-Cola radio commercial.
The song first aired on American radio on February 12, 1971, but failed. Although many radio stations refused to play it, Backer persuaded McCann-Erickson to film a commercial using the song. The TV commercial, entitled "Hilltop", was directed by Roberto Malenotti. The first attempt at shooting was ruined by rain and other location problems. The eventual total cost of the commercial was $250,000—an unheard of price in 1971 for an advertisement. The finished product, first aired in July 1971, featured a multicultural group of young people lip syncing the song on a hill in Manziana, outside Rome, Italy. The global unity of the singers is emphasized by showing that the bottles of Coke they are holding are labelled in a variety of languages. It became so popular that it was recorded by The New Seekers and by The Hillside Singers as a full-length song and became a hit.
In the mid-1970s, another version of the commercial was filmed for the holiday season. This reworking featured the same song, but showed the group at night, with each person holding a lit white candle. In the final zoom-out crane shot, only the candle flames remain visible, forming a triangle reminiscent of a Christmas tree; this impression is cemented by a Coke-bottle logo superimposed at the top of the "tree", and the words "Happy Holidays from your Coca-Cola bottler" below. This version was reused for many years during the holiday season. One variation had a different ending, with Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters decorating a giant Christmas tree in front of the Sleeping Beauty Castle before the establishing crane shot captures an animated Tinker Bell lighting it up with her wand.
In 1991, a follow-up to this commercial, called "Hilltop Reunion" and directed by Jeff Lovinger, aired during coverage of Super Bowl XXV. It featured the original singers (now adults) and their children, and culminated in a medley of this song and the then-current "Can't Beat the Real Thing" jingle.
In 2006, the song was used again in a Coca-Cola commercial in the Netherlands. In 2007, Campaign magazine called it "one of the best-loved and most influential ads in TV history". It served as a milestone—the first instance of the recording industry's involvement with advertising. Marketing analysts have noted Coca-Cola's strategy of marrying the idea of happiness and universal love of the product illustrated by the song. In 2010, Coca-Cola once again used the song in a television commercial featuring the entire line of its sponsored NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers. The commercial included the drivers singing the song while driving in a race. The following year, information on how many dollars it would take "to buy the world a Coke" was given in a commercial featuring the red silhouette of a Coke bottle and the melody of the song.
The advert has received accolades in more recent times. The original advertisement was ranked in 2000 by Channel 4 and The Sunday Times at 16th in its list the 100 Greatest TV Ads, whilst ITV ranked the advertisement at number 10 in their list of the greatest advertisement of all time by in 2005.
After the TV commercial was aired, radio stations began to get calls from people who liked it and Billy Davis' friends in radio suggested he record the song, but not as an advertising jingle. It became so popular that the song was rewritten without brand name references, and expanded to three verses. Davis recruited a group of studio singers to take it on because The New Seekers did not have time to record it. The studio group named themselves The Hillside Singers to identify with the ad, and within two weeks the song was on the national charts. The Hillside Singers' version reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #5 on Billboard's Easy Listening chart. Billboard ranked this version as the No. 97 song for 1972.
The New Seekers later found time to record the song, and sold 96,000 copies of their record in one day, eventually selling 12 million total. The recording shot lead singer Eve Graham and the other members of The New Seekers to super-stardom. "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)" climbed to UK #1 and US #7 in 1971 and 1972. The song has sold over a million copies in the UK. The Coca-Cola Company waived royalties to the song and instead donated $80,000 in payments to UNICEF. Billboard ranked this version as the No. 93 song for 1972.
The song was covered by the Dutch singer Berget Lewis when the song was used again in a Coca-Cola commercial in 2006.
The British rock band Oasis were sued after their recording "Shakermaker" borrowed its melody and some lyrics directly; they were forced to change their composition. Oasis tribute band No Way Sis released a cover of "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing", entering the British charts at No. 27 in 1996. A version of the song was also included in a Kidsongs video. The song was covered by VeggieTales on the album Bob and Larry Sing the 70's.
- "First Time" (Robin Beck song), which also came to prominence via a Coca-Cola TV commercial
- The New Seekers: Buy The World a Coke (single release) at Discogs
- "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" - The Hilltop Story, The Coca-Cola Company (2006). Retrieved on May 4, 2009.
- The "Hilltop" Ad: The Story of a Commercial, Library of Congress. Retrieved on May 4, 2009.
- Dale, Arden (December 22, 1989). "'Hilltop Reunion' has McCann and Coke Humming", Back Stage
- Hamilton, James and Tylee, John (May 18, 2007). "Ten ads that changed advertising", Campaign, p. 20.
- "All about ... Advertiser-funded music", Campaign, (February 8, 2008), p. 15.
- Gieryn, Thomas F. (Spring 1987). "Science and Coca-Cola", Science & Technology Studies, 5 (1) p. 12-31.
- Holbrook, Morris (July 1987). "Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall, What's Unfair in the Reflections on Advertising?" The Journal of Marketing, 51 (3), p. 95-103.
- Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1972
- Culley, Maureen (March 22, 2008). "I've Finished Teaching the World to Sing", Daily Mail (London), p. 18.
- Ami Sedghi (4 November 2012). "UK's million-selling singles: the full list". Guardian. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
- Williams, Damon C. (2005-06-16). "G. Love, Coke Zero take '71's 'Hilltop' to another level". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
- Mundy, Chris (May 2, 1996). "Ruling Asses: Oasis", Rolling Stone, p. 32-35, 68.
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