Song Lyric Sunday — Perfect Harmony

For this week’s Song Lyric Sunday, Jim Adams chose as his theme “Harmony/Melody/Music.” As soon as I saw that theme, a song popped into my head and has been an earworm ever since. That song is “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” recorded by The New Seekers in 1971.

“I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” originated as the jingle “Buy the World a Coke” in a 1971 TV commercial for Coca-Cola. “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. Credits for songwriting go to William M Backer, Roger F. Cook, Roquel Davis, and Roger Greenaway.

Backer came up with the line “I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company” when his plane to London, where he was slated to create the commercial, got diverted to Ireland because of weather. Backer noticed that the spirits of the unhappy travelers were lifted as they commisserated at the refreshments area over their shared experience. He also noticed that many of them were drinking Cokes.

British songwriters Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway worked on the jingle with Backer and Billy Davis, who was the music director assigned to Coke’s account. The four of them stayed up all night writing the song, which Davis then produced with The New Seekers.

The New Seekers initially balked at recording the full version of the song, so Billy Davis put together a group of studio singers to record it and called them “The Hillside Singers.” This version was released as a single and picked up steam, which convinced The New Seekers to get in on the action, and their version was released a short time later. Both renditions climbed the chart simultaneously, with The Hillside Singers version peaking at number 13 the same week The New Seekers made it to number 7.

By the time the song was released as a full song, the melody was very much associated with Coke, so it amounted to free advertising. Most of the commercial is about honey bees, turtle doves and love anyway, so removing the Coke references didn’t disrupt the song. The lines “I’d like to buy the world a Coke / And keep it company” were altered to “I’d like to hold it in my arms / And keep it company.”

Here are the lyrics to the song.

I’d like to build the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees and snow-white turtle doves

I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I’d like to hold it in my arms and keep it company

I’d like to see the world for once
All standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills Ah, peace throughout the land

I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony

I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony

I’d like to build the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees and snow-white turtle doves

And here is the groundbreaking “Buy the World a Coke” commercial that started it all.

10 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday — Perfect Harmony

      • newepicauthor February 24, 2019 / 10:05 am

        Not yet, but if I were to listen to this again or hear it in the near future, I could see that happening.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Mary B February 24, 2019 / 10:29 am

    This was the very first song that came to my mind, but for some reason I just couldn’t settle on it. I remember when the commercial came out, and learning the song in elementary school – our music teacher taught us lots of ‘popular’ songs in our class.

    Liked by 1 person

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