What the World Needs Now Is Love

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"What the World Needs Now Is Love"
What the World Needs Now Is Love by Jackie DeShannon 1965 Italian single.png
1965 Italian single
Single by Jackie DeShannon
from the album This Is Jackie DeShannon
  • "I Remember the Boy" (1965)
  • "When You Walk Into the Room (1965, Italy)
ReleasedApril 15, 1965
RecordedMarch 23, 1965, Bell Sound Studios, New York City
GenreFolk rock, jazz, soul
LabelImperial Records
Songwriter(s)Hal David, Burt Bacharach
Producer(s)Burt Bacharach
Jackie DeShannon singles chronology
"When You Walk in the Room"
"What the World Needs Now Is Love"
"A Lifetime of Loneliness"

"What the World Needs Now Is Love" is a 1965 popular song with lyrics by Hal David and music composed by Burt Bacharach. First recorded and made popular by Jackie DeShannon, it was released on April 15, 1965, on the Imperial label after a release on sister label Liberty records the previous month was canceled. It peaked at number seven on the US Hot 100 in July of that year.[1] In Canada, the song reached number one.


Co-songwriter Burt Bacharach revealed in his 2014 autobiography that this song had among the most difficult lyrics Hal David ever wrote, despite being deceptively simple as a pop hit. He explained that they had the main melody and chorus written back in 1962, centering around a waltz tempo, but it took another two years for David to finally come up with the lyric, "Lord, we don't need another mountain." Once David worked out the verses, Bacharach said the song essentially "wrote itself" and they finished it in a day or two.[2]

The song's success caught the two songwriters completely by surprise, since they were very aware of the controversy and disagreements among Americans about the Vietnam War, which was the subtext for David's lyrics. Bacharach has continuously used the song as the intro and finale for most of his live concert appearances well into the 2000s.

Recording history[edit]

The song was originally offered to Dionne Warwick, who turned it down at the time, saying she felt it was "too country" for her tastes and "too preachy"[3] though she later recorded it for her album Here Where There Is Love. (Warwick also recorded a second version in 1996, which scraped the lower reaches of the US Hot 100.) Bacharach initially did not believe in the song, and was reluctant to play it for DeShannon.[4] The song was also rejected by Gene Pitney, reportedly over a financial dispute. DeShannon's version was recorded on March 23, 1965, at New York's Bell Sound studios.[5] Bacharach arranged, conducted and produced the session.

Tom Clay version[edit]

"What the World Needs Now Is Love/Abraham, Martin and John"
Single by Tom Clay
from the album What the World Needs Now Is Love
B-side"The Victors"
ReleasedJuly 1971
RecordedEarly 1971
GenrePop, spoken word
LabelMotown (MoWest MW5002F)
Songwriter(s)Hal David, Burt Bacharach
Producer(s)Tom Clay
Tom Clay singles chronology
"What the World Needs Now Is Love/Abraham, Martin and John"
"Whatever Happened to Love"

In addition to the DeShannon hit recording and the numerous cover versions, "What the World Needs Now is Love" served as the basis for a distinctive 1971 remix. Disc jockey Tom Clay was working at radio station KGBS in Los Angeles, California, when he created the single "What the World Needs Now is Love/Abraham, Martin and John" (combining with the top 5 hit, in 1968, by Dion), a social commentary that became a surprise hit record that summer.[6] The song begins with a man asking a young girl to define such words as bigotry, segregation, and hatred (to which the girl says she does not know); she says that prejudice is "when someone's sick". Following that is a soundbite of a drill sergeant leading a platoon into training, along with gunfire sound effects, after which are snippets of the two songs – both as recorded by the Blackberries, a session recording group.[7] Interspersed are excerpts of speeches by John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, the eulogy given (by Ted Kennedy) after Robert's assassination, and Martin Luther King Jr., and soundbites of news coverage of each assassination. The ending of the song is a reprise of the introduction.

"What the World Needs Now is Love/Abraham, Martin and John" rose to No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1971, and was Clay's only Top 40 hit.[8]Popular Youtube Version

Chart history[edit]

One of side-A labels of the 1965 US single

In popular culture[edit]

Jerry Lewis and MDA's live Labor Day telethon used the song for the timpani and tote board cues each year from 1966 to 2010. "What the World Needs Now is Love" has been used in many film soundtracks, notably Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and For the Love of Fred (used as the film's closing theme song in both), Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, My Best Friend's Wedding, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, The Boss Baby, Hot Shots!, Happy Gilmore, and Last of the Red Hot Lovers and Forrest Gump. In the Danish zodiac porn comedy I Jomfruens tegn (1973), an extended version is used for the hardcore underwater orgy that ends the film.[20]

Other recordings[edit]

The Broadway Stars singing "What the World Needs Now is Love" during the Democratic National Convention in 2016

Cilla Black recorded a version of the song for her 1967 hit album Sher-oo!. Black's version was arranged by Mike Vickers, and showcased her powerful vocal styling that readily lent itself to solid interpretations of Burt Bacharach & Hal David songs. For Bacharach's part, he said "… there weren't too many white singers around, who could convey the emotion that I felt in many of the songs I wrote but that changed with people like Cilla Black".[21]

British legend Petula Clark recorded a version live at the Royal Albert Hall on February 14, 1974, with a musical arrangement by Peter Knight. It was released by Polydor later that year on her Live in London album.

Luther Vandross recorded a version of the song in his 1994 album "Songs", which include remakes of songs recorded in the 1960s and 1970s.

Singer/songwriter Aimee Mann recorded a version of the song on a compilation album called Sweetheart: Love Songs (2004). The CD is part of a series of albums put out by the coffee chain Starbucks.

In 2005, Rick Astley released a cover version of this song for his 6th studio album Portrait, but with the lyrics slightly different from Jackie DeShannon's version.[22]

In 2015 Will Young released a version of the song from his album 85% Proof which became the fourth single from the album.

In the wake of the June 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, a group of performers under the name "Broadway For Orlando" recorded a charity single to raise money for the LGBT Center of Central Florida. Participants included Sarah Jessica Parker, Carole King, Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Audra McDonald, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Whoopi Goldberg, Nathan Lane and Kate Shindle.[23]

American rock band Chicago also covered the song on their 2019 Christmas album Chicago XXXVII: Chicago Christmas, which was their first Christmas song in eight years. It was the group's first recording due to the departure of bassist/vocalist Jason Scheff who left in October 2016 citing "family health reasons" in early May who was first being replaced by Jeff Coffey, who was later subsequently succeeded by vocalist Neil Donell and bassist Brett Simons in late 2018, saxophonist Walter Parazaider who retired from touring in 2017, and longtime drummer Tris Imboden departed in January 2018.

The Supremes recorded a cover of the song, on their 1968 album Reflections.

Bill Frisell included the song in his 2020 album Valentine.[24]


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits: Eighth Edition. Record Research. p. 174.
  2. ^ "Anyone Who Had a Heart: My Life and Music" by Burt Bacharach, 2014, New York, NY: Harper ISBN 0062206079
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-11-30. Retrieved 2009-04-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Burt Bacharach interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969)
  5. ^ Are You Ready For This reissue liner notes
  6. ^ Hamilton, Andrew. "Tom Clay | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  7. ^ "Tom Clay". Answers.com. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel, Top Pop Singles: 1955–2006, 2007.
  9. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  10. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  11. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, , 1965
  12. ^ Joel Whitburn's Bubbling Under the Billboard Hot 100 1959-2004
  13. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 66. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  14. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. 1971-09-11. Retrieved 2020-03-24.
  15. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  16. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, August 28, 1971
  17. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  18. ^ Musicoutfitters.com
  19. ^ Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 25, 1965
  20. ^ "I JOMFRUENS TEGN : Review". Uncut.dk. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
  21. ^ "Cilla—What's It All About". Stage & Screen. Lily Savage. 21 December 2003. Archived from the original on 27 October 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2008.
  22. ^ "Rick Astley - What the World Needs Now". Genius. Retrieved 24 August 2021. Check |archive-url= value (help)
  23. ^ "Broadway Stars Release 'What the World Needs Now Is Love' Cover for Orlando, Will Perform on NBC's Maya & Marty". People.com. 2016-06-20. Retrieved 2020-12-04.
  24. ^ Jurek, Thom (2020). "Valentine - Bill Frisell | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 24 August 2020.


  • Platts, Robin (2003) Burt Bacharach & Hal David: What the World Needs Now, Collector's Guide Publishing, ISBN 1-896522-77-7

External links[edit]