The Way It Is (song)

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Not to be confused with That's Just the Way It Is or That's the Way It Is.
For other uses, see That's the Way It Is.
"The Way It Is"
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
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 American Civil Rights Movement.[3]


The song portrays 1980s America from a critical perspective. 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.

Usage as theme music[edit]

In the UK, a version of the tune is used as the theme song to the BBC 1 daytime program City Hospital and an edited 'loop' of the final instrumental section was also used as background music for the BBC's sports programme Grandstand in the late 1980s, where it was played while the presenter read the results and ran down the football league tables at the end of the programme. In the UK (where the song only reached no. 15 in the charts), the song was possibly more well-known from Grandstand than for its appearance in the charts. The song was also featured in Australia as the background theme of the Nine Network's weekend news sports wrap up as well as during AFL Football telecasts in the 1990s. In this case, the song was used as a background theme while other weekly match results appeared on screen. In the Pilot episode of Smallville, the song is used in the opening scenes as background music to life in 1989.

In the 1990s and 2000s, "The Way It Is" was used as the theme music for Sean Hannity's syndicated radio talk show. Hornsby, a progressive Democrat, has stated his disapproval of Hannity's politics and the usage of "The Way It Is." Afterwards, Hannity criticized Hornsby and has since stopped using "The Way It Is" as the main theme for his show. The repeat of the final lyrics is attributed to Robbie Devol's unique speak. "That's just the way it is, it is."

The Brazilian radio station Antena 1 uses the introduction of the song as its theme.

Cover versions[edit]

  • In 1992, Undercover covered the song on their first album Check Out the Groove.
  • In 1996, house producers Brothers In Rhythm remixed the song using Hornsby's original vocals; however, Bruce vetoed the commercial release of the remix. Hornsby's vocals were then replaced with Tom Blaize's and the remix was commercially released as a cover, under the name "Chameleon".
  • In 1996, American rapper E-40 sampled "The Way It Is" in "Things'll Never Change" from his album Tha Hall of Game.
  • "The Way It Is" was prominently sampled in Tupac Shakur's 1998 single "Changes".
  • In 2002, Danish producer Corny released a house version of the song with his own vocals.
  • In 2007, the song was sampled in a song by Emily King called "Alright", from her album East Side Story.
  • In 2008, a modified version of the piano chorus was used throughout the song "Can't Say Goodbye" by Snoop Dogg and Charlie Wilson, which appears on the album Ego Trippin'.
  • In 2009, on NBC's Community in the episode 'Advanced Criminal Law', Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase) composes a school song for Greendale Community College and unintentionally plagiarizes 'The Way It Is' as 'Greendale's The Way It Goes'.
  • 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 2015, Sharon Robinson covered the song on her release EP1.


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]