The Way It Is (song)

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"The Way It Is"
Artwork for UK and European vinyl releases
Single by Bruce Hornsby and the Range
from the album The Way It Is
B-side "The Red Plains"
"The Wild Frontier"
Released August 25, 1986
Recorded Studio D, Sausalito, CA 1986
Genre Soft rock
Length 4:55
Label RCA Records
Writer(s) Bruce Hornsby
Producer(s) Bruce Hornsby, Elliot Scheiner
Bruce Hornsby and the Range singles chronology
"Every Little Kiss"
"The Way It Is"
"On the Western Skyline"
Audio sample
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"The Way It Is" is a song recorded by Bruce Hornsby and the Range from their 1986 album The Way It Is. It topped the charts in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands in 1986,[1][2] and peaked inside the top twenty in such countries as Ireland, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Written by Bruce Hornsby, it made explicit reference to the Civil Rights Movement.[3] Musically, the song is characterized by two long lyrical piano solos.


The opening verse recounts a story taking place at a line for welfare that illustrate a divide between the rich and poor. The chorus presents several lines insisting that social ills are "just the way it is", and repeatedly suggests resigning oneself to them as a fact of life—however, the chorus ends with the author rebuking this attitude by insisting "but don't you believe them."

The second verse recounts past social issues from the voice of someone supporting racial segregation. The author responds in a narrative voice, insisting his view that if those who make laws took them into careful consideration they would be convinced that laws enforcing principles like racial segregation are morally wrong. The song reminds the listener that it was at one time argued that racial segregation was "just the way it is", and suggests that legislation and what the author views as progress on current social issues should be pursued without regard to those who insist "some things will never change."

The third verse recounts the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a victory in the civil rights movement, but insists that more is needed. In particular, the verse highlights individual prejudice and employment discrimination as an enduring form of racism. The third chorus suggests that it only feels like "some things will never change" when we wait for social problems to change themselves rather than taking steps ourselves to actively change them.

Cover versions and samples[edit]

  • In 1992, Undercover covered the song on their first album Check Out the Groove.
  • "The Way It Is" is one of two songs sampled in E-40's "Things'll Never Change" from the album Tha Hall of Game.
  • The song was sampled in the Beata Kozidrak song "Siedzę i myślę" released in 1998.
  • The song was sampled in the Tupac Shakur song "Changes" released in 1998.
  • "Same Niggas" from Mase's 1999 album Double Up uses lyrics from the chorus of "The Way It Is".
  • Hornsby collaborated with Ricky Skaggs on a bluegrass version of the song for their 2013 album Cluck Ol' Hen. They performed it live on Conan October 17 of that year.[4]
  • In 2014, Karen Souza covered the song on her album Essentials II.
  • In 2015, Sharon Robinson covered the song on her release EP1.
  • Kirk Fischer features a slow paced and jazz infected version on his album "Friends", released in 2017.


Chart (1986–87) Peak
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[5] 3
Canada Top Singles (RPM) 1
Germany (Official German Charts)[6] 16
Ireland (IRMA)[7] 8
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[8] 1
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[9] 23
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[10] 15
South Africa [11] 13
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[12] 15
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[2] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[2] 1
US Mainstream Rock Tracks (Billboard)[2] 3
Preceded by
"Love Will Conquer All" by Lionel Richie
Billboard Adult Contemporary number-one single
December 6–13, 1986
Succeeded by
"Love Is Forever" by Billy Ocean
Preceded by
"The Next Time I Fall" by Peter Cetera and Amy Grant
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
December 13, 1986
Succeeded by
"Walk Like an Egyptian" by The Bangles
Preceded by
"Stand By Me" by Ben E. King
Canadian RPM number-one single
December 27, 1986 – January 10, 1987
Succeeded by
"Everybody Have Fun Tonight" by Wang Chung
Preceded by
"Sing Our Own Song" by UB40
Dutch Top 40 number-one single
September 20, 1986
Succeeded by
"The Final Countdown" by Europe


External links[edit]