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"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.

"What the World Needs Now Is Love"
Jackie (world Love).jpg
Single by Jackie DeShannon
from the album This Is Jackie DeShannon
B-side"I Remember the Boy"
ReleasedApril 15, 1965
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"


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 historyEdit

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 versionEdit

"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
FormatVinyl record
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", 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 doesn't 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]

In popular cultureEdit

"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 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.[9]

Other RecordingsEdit

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 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. [10]

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


  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. ^ Andrew Hamilton. "Tom Clay | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  7. ^ " – Tom Clay". Retrieved 25 September 2014.
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel, Top Pop Singles: 1955–2006, 2007.
  9. ^ "I JOMFRUENS TEGN : Review". Retrieved 25 September 2014.
  10. ^ "Broadway Stars Release 'What the World Needs Now Is Love' Cover". 2016-06-20. Retrieved 2019-07-22.


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

External linksEdit