I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)

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"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
B-side"I Believed It All"
ReleasedNovember 1971
Producer(s)Al Ham
"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
B-side"Boom Town"
ReleasedNovember 1971
LabelPhilips (Germany)
Polydor (UK)
Elektra (USA/Canada)
Songwriter(s)Roger Cook, Roger Greenaway, Bill Backer and Billy Davis
Producer(s)David Mackay
The New Seekers singles chronology
"Never Ending Song of Love"
"I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing"
"Beg, Steal or Borrow"

"I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)" is a pop song that originated as "True Love and Apple Pie", by British hit songwriters Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, and sung by Susan Shirley.[3]

The lyrics were rewritten by the songwriters, together with US advertising executive Bill Backer and US songwriter Billy Davis, as a jingle for The Coca-Cola Company's advertising agency, McCann Erickson, to become "Buy the World a Coke" in the 1971 "Hilltop" television commercial for Coca-Cola and sung by the Hillside Singers.[4] "Buy the World a Coke" was produced by Billy Davis and portrayed a positive message of hope and love, featuring a multicultural collection of teenagers on top of a hill appearing to sing the song.

The popularity of the jingle led to its being re-recorded in two versions: one by the New Seekers and another 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 Bill Backer, an advertising executive 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 Cook and Roger Greenaway.

The melody was derived from a previous jingle by Cook and Greenaway, originally called "True Love and Apple Pie" that was recorded in 1971 by Susan Shirley.[3] Cook, Greenaway, Backer and Billy Davis reworked the song into a Coca-Cola radio jingle, which was performed by British pop group The New Seekers and recorded at Trident Studios in London. The radio jingle made its debut in February 1971 before being adapted for the Coca-Cola "Hilltop" television commercial later that year.

The commercial ended with the statement:

On a hilltop in Italy,
We assembled young people
From all over the world...
To bring you this message
From Coca-Cola Bottlers
All over the world.
It's the real thing. Coke.

The song became so popular that its creators revised it, adding three verses and removing product references to create a full-length song appropriate for commercial release. The full-length song was re-recorded by both The Hillside Singers and The New Seekers and both versions became huge hits.[5]

TV commercial[edit]


"Buy the World a Coke" contains the line "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" and repeats "It's the real thing", which was Coca-Cola's marketing slogan. The Coca-Cola Company introduced that slogan in October 1969.

Versions as an ad[edit]

Several versions of the ad have been made.

  • The song first aired on American radio on February 12, 1971, but not all of the Coca-Cola bottlers were impressed. DJs reported that they were receiving requests to hear the commercial. Backer persuaded McCann-Erickson to film a commercial using the song.[3] The TV commercial, titled "Hilltop", was directed by Roberto Malenotti.[6] The ad cost $250,000 ($1.9 million today), then the most expensive commercial in history.[7]
The first attempt at shooting was ruined by rain and other location problems.[8] The finished product, first aired in July 1971, featured a multicultural group of young people lip synching 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.
  • In 1990, a follow-up to this commercial, called "Hilltop Reunion" and directed by Jeff Lovinger, aired during coverage of Super Bowl XXIV. It featured the original singers (now adults) and their children, and culminated in a medley of this song and the current "Can't Beat the Real Thing" jingle.[9]
  • G. Love remade the song for the Coca-Cola Zero commercial "Everybody Chill", which aired in 2005.[10]
  • In 2006, the song was used again in a Coca-Cola commercial in the Netherlands, performed by Dutch singer Berget Lewis.[11]
  • 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.[12]
  • In 2011, 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.[13]
  • In 2012, As part of the Google Project Rebrief campaign, the Hilltop ad was reimagined for the digital age. Via the web, people were able to "send" a Coke to special vending machines located around the globe. Recipients of the Coke could then record a thank-you message to send back to the sender. Machines were located in Buenos Aires; Cape Town; Mountain View, California; and New York City.[14]
  • In 2015, a public service announcement was made by Center for Science in the Public Interest about the consequences of excessive soda consumption and contained an altered version of I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing. The advert featured hospital doctors and dentists and patients struggling with obesity-induced diseases (type 2 diabetes, hypertension and tooth decay). Near the end it showed Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Mountain Dew in beverage cups named "Obesity", "Diabetes Type Two" and "Tooth Decay" in the respective typefaces being poured away. The campaign was named "Change the Tune".[15]

Significance and reception[edit]

In 2007, Campaign magazine called it "one of the best-loved and most influential ads in TV history".[16] It served as a milestone—the first instance of the recording industry's involvement with advertising.[17]

Marketing analysts have noted Coca-Cola's strategy of marrying the idea of happiness and universal love of the product illustrated by the song.[18][19]

The commercial has continued receiving accolades; in 2000, Channel 4 and The Sunday Times ranked the song 16th in the 100 Greatest TV Ads, while in 2005, ITV ranked the advertisement 10th in its list of the greatest advertisements.[20][21]


The Hillside Singers[edit]

After the TV commercial aired, radio stations began to get calls from people who liked it. Billy Davis' friends in radio suggested he record the song, but not as an advertising jingle.[8] 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, #5 on Billboard's Easy Listening chart, and #58 in Canada,[22]. Billboard ranked this version as the No. 97 song for 1972.

The New Seekers[edit]

The New Seekers later recorded the song[3] and sold 96,000 copies of their record in one day, eventually selling 12 million total. "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)" climbed to UK #1, #3 Canada, and US #7 in 1971 and 1972. The song became a gold record in the U.S., and has also sold over a million copies in the UK.[23] The Coca-Cola Company waived royalties to the song, and instead donated $80,000 in payments to UNICEF.[3] Billboard ranked this version as the No. 93 song for 1972.

Chart performance[edit]

New Seekers version[edit]

Hillside Singers version[edit]


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[53] Gold 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Covers and inspiration for other music[edit]

  • The British rock band Oasis was sued after their recording "Shakermaker" borrowed its melody and some lyrics directly; they were forced to change their composition.[54]
  • Oasis tribute band No Way Sis released a cover of "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing", entering the British charts at number 27 in 1996.
  • In 1997, the rock band Smash Mouth put a reference of the song in early lines of their first major single "Walkin' on the Sun".[citation needed]
  • A version of the song was included in a Kidsongs video.[55]
  • The VeggieTales covered the song on their album Bob and Larry Sing the 70's.[citation needed]
  • In 2015, US health advocates Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) created a parody in an effort to spread awareness of the dangers of drinking too much soda.[56]
  • In 2016, Lucy Layton (daughter of New Seekers singer and bassist Paul Layton) released a cover. Her official video, posted to YouTube on September 23, depicted the violence faced by Syrian refugees, with the visuals of war being in stark contrast to the song's message of peace and harmony.[57]
  • In 2018, the People's Republic of China promoted its Belt and Road initiative with a video of a song called "I'd Like to Build the World a Road" based on the lyrics, melody, and imagery of Coke's Hilltop ad and song.[58][59]

In popular culture[edit]

The commercial was used as the final scene (minus the It's the Real Thing statement at the end) in the Mad Men series finale, "Person to Person" (airdate May 17, 2015), which was set in November 1970, at an oceanside spiritual retreat in California. It is implied that the show's fictional protagonist, Don Draper, was behind the commercial's creation.[60]

A version of the song was used in the trailer for Resident Evil.[61][importance?]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stanley, Bob (September 13, 2013). "The Golden Road: San Francisco and Psychedelia". Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop. Faber & Faber. p. 236. ISBN 978-0-571-28198-5.
  2. ^ Breithaupt, Don; Breithaupt, Jeff (October 15, 1996). "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding?: Utopian Pop". Precious and Few - Pop Music in the Early '70s. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 75. ISBN 031214704X.
  3. ^ a b c d e Ryan, Ted (January 1, 2012). "The Making of Coca-Cola's "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" Ad". The Coca-Cola Company. Archived from the original on October 26, 2016. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  4. ^ The New Seekers: Buy The World a Coke (single release) at Discogs
  5. ^ Zanger, Doug. "Coca-Cola: Behind the scenes of its most celebrated advert 'Hill Top'". The Drum. Carnyx Group Limited. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
  6. ^ "Coca Cola "Hilltop"". Coloribus.
  7. ^ Marlow Stern (May 18, 2015). "Mad Men's Series Finale: Don Draper's Moment of Zen and the Betrayal of Peggy". The Daily Beast.
  8. ^ a b "Moving Image Research Center (Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress)". Lcweb2.loc.gov. July 14, 2016. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  9. ^ Dale, Arden (December 22, 1989). "'Hilltop Reunion' has McCann and Coke Humming". Backstage.
  10. ^ Williams, Damon C. (June 16, 2005). "G. Love, Coke Zero take '71's 'Hilltop' to another level". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  11. ^ "Berget Lewis, Biografie". Berget Lewis Music. Retrieved January 25, 2017.
  12. ^ "Coke Nascar Harmony Ad". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 11, 2021.
  13. ^ "Coca-Cola – I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke (the story of Hilltop)". This is Not Advertising. Retrieved January 25, 2017.
  14. ^ Judkis, Maura (March 15, 2012). "Google's 'Project Re:Brief': Rethinking web advertising". The Washington Post.
  15. ^ "Change the Tune". YouTube.
  16. ^ Hamilton, James; Tylee, John (May 18, 2007). "Ten ads that changed advertising". Campaign. p. 20.
  17. ^ "All about ... Advertiser-funded music". Campaign. February 8, 2008. p. 15.
  18. ^ Gieryn, Thomas F. (Spring 1987). "Science and Coca-Cola". Science & Technology Studies. Vol. 5, no. 1. pp. 12–31.
  19. ^ Holbrook, Morris (July 1987). "Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall, What's Unfair in the Reflections on Advertising?". The Journal of Marketing. Vol. 51, no. 3. pp. 95–103.
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  28. ^ "InfoDisc : Tous les Titres de l'Artiste choisi > Choisir Un Artiste Dans la Liste" (PHP) (in French). infodisc.fr. Retrieved February 23, 2024.
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  30. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved December 23, 2018.
  31. ^ Israel Charts Archive - 1972
  32. ^ "Japan #1 IMPORT DISKS by Oricon Hot Singles". Hbr3.sakura.ne.jp. Archived from the original on September 11, 2010. Retrieved January 24, 2018.
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  39. ^ Hallberg, Eric (1993). Eric Hallberg presenterar Kvällstoppen i P 3: Sveriges radios topplista över veckans 20 mest sålda skivor 10. 7. 1962 - 19. 8. 1975. Drift Musik. p. 130. ISBN 9163021404.
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  54. ^ Mundy, Chris (May 2, 1996). "Ruling Asses: Oasis Have Conquered America, and They Won't Shut Up About It". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 4, 2023.
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  56. ^ "Health Advocates Remake Famous "Hilltop" Ad | Center for Science in the Public Interest". cspinet.org. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  57. ^ Lucy Layton ‘I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing’ (Official Video), "Produced by K Warren, for Syria Relief charity"
    (Interview where she explains her motivation for covering her father's song, and why she used it for relief of Syrian refugees.)
  58. ^ "'I'd Like to Build the World a Road' - China Pitches Trade Initiative with Cover of Iconic Coke Ad". September 10, 2018.
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External links[edit]