What the World Needs Now Is Love

This article is about the song. For the Wynonna Judd album, see What the World Needs Now Is Love (album). For the Glee episode, see What the World Needs Now (Glee). For the Stan Getz album, see What the World Needs Now: Stan Getz Plays Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
"What the World Needs Now Is Love"
Single by Jackie DeShannon
from the album This Is Jackie DeShannon
B-side "I Remember the Boy"
Released April 15, 1965
Genre Folk rock, jazz, soul
Length 3:10
Label Imperial Records
Writer(s) Hal David, 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. The song reached number 7 on the US Hot 100 charts in July of that year.[1]

Recording history

The song was originally offered to Dionne Warwick, who turned it down at the time,[2] 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.[3] DeShannon's version was recorded on March 23, 1965, at New York's Bell Sound studios.[4]

In 1968, The Supremes record the song for their album Reflections.

It has been recorded or performed live by over 100 artists, including Cilla Black, Carla Thomas, Tom Clay, The Staple Singers, Judy Garland, The Chambers Brothers, McCoy Tyner, Barry Manilow, Jad Fair with Daniel Johnston, Ed Ames, Johnny Mathis, Zwan, Steve Tyrell, Luther Vandross, Andrea Ross, Aimee Mann, Rigmor Gustafsson, Stacey Kent, Mr. Bungle, The Young Americans, Rick Astley, Coldplay and most recently My Morning Jacket at the Lockn Music Festival in Arrington, Virginia. It even made the country charts in a version by a little-known singer/songwriter, Ron Shaw, on the Pacific Challenger label in the late 1970s.

In 2011, Ronan Keating recorded the song for his album When Ronan Met Burt.

Kree Harrison, in 2013, made a cover of the song in the 12th season of American Idol. The studio version was recorded by Idol Studio Recordings.

On June 15, 2016, the song was recorded by Broadway for Orlando, with all proceeds going to the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting.[5]

Tom Clay version

"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"
Released July 1971
Format Vinyl record
Recorded Early 1971
Genre Pop
Spoken word
Length 6:10
Label Motown Records
MoWest MW5002F
Writer(s) Hal David
Burt Bacharach
Producer(s) Tom Clay
Tom Clay singles chronology
- "What the World Needs 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 boy to define such words as bigotry, segregation, and hatred (to which the boy says he doesn't know); he 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 after Robert's assassination by Ted Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., and soundbites of news coverage of each one's 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]

"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, 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]

In April 1968, Cilla Black released a rendition of the song on her third studio album Sher-oo! which was a Top 10 hit on the UK album chart.

In June 1968, following the shooting of Robert Kennedy but before he died (approximately 26 hours), the Jackie DeShannon version was played over and over on Los Angeles radio stations as an audio vigil. This also continued for a few days following his death.

The first few notes of the song have also been used as a toteboard cue for the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon.

A recording by Des O'Connor featured in episode #3.1 ("The Early Birds") of The Good Life.

A shortened version of the title is used in a biography of Burt Bacharach and Hal David by Robin Platts.

It was featured in the fourth season of Beverly Hills, 90210, in the episode "Twenty Years Ago Today".

In the Philippines, it was also used as the theme song of an event dubbed as Close-Up Lovapalooza to break the record of most people kissing simultaneously in 10 seconds to celebrate Valentine's Day.

Jessica Mauboy sang "What The World Needs Now Is Love" on Australian Idol in 2006.

American experimental band Mr. Bungle covered the song live at least twice in 2000.

Alec Baldwin sang a part of the song in the episode "Somebody to Love" of 30 Rock while playing a piano, as his soon to be lover CC walked down the stairs at the party which they met.

It was a top 5 song in American Idol season 2 in 2003.

Two versions of the song, one performed by Burt Bacharach himself, were played near the end of the film Austin Powers in Goldmember.

The song was covered by Jad Fair and Daniel Johnston on the album It's Spooky, with revised lyrics, referencing crack houses and Satanism.

Andy Fletcher of Depeche Mode used to play it as the last song for his DJ sets in 2004.

The song was used as the unofficial theme tune of the improvised BBC One drama series True Love (TV series), being played at the beginning of the episode, and at the end when the credits rolled.

In 2010, Connecticut musician Michael Occhionero used the song during the fade out of his song "Hey! Mr.", which includes samples of "Paperback Writer" and "Mr. Tambourine Man".

In 2013 Australia's Got Talent R&B soul singer Leon Lee performed his rendition of the song which received a lot of praises from all judges on the show.

On July 7th 2014, SiriusXM's Ron and Fez show opened with the cast singing the song in a sarcastic manner to support recently fired co-worker, Anthony Cumia who was terminated on allegations of racism. [10]

The cast of Glee covered the song in the sixth episode of their sixth season, "What The World Needs Now". They serenaded characters Santana and Brittany in an attempt to support their upcoming wedding.

Pop Idol Winner Will Young covered the song in late 2015 as part of a World Wildlife Foundation Awareness campaign.

On July 27, 2016, an all-star ensemble of Broadway vocalists performed the song at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, as a protest against gun violence.


The song contains the memorable lines:

"What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of..".

The song builds upon the theme of "Stowaway in the Sky", composed in 1960 by Jean Prodromidès for the film of the same title.[11]


  1. Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits: Eighth Edition. Record Research. p. 174.
  2. Burt Bacharach interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969)
  3. Are You Ready For This reissue liner notes
  4. "Broadway For Orlando — Broadway Records". Broadwayrecords.com. 2016-07-25. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  5. Andrew Hamilton. "Tom Clay | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  6. "Answers.com – Tom Clay". Answers.com. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
  7. Whitburn, Joel, "Top Pop Singles: 1955-2006", 2007.
  8. "I JOMFRUENS TEGN : Review". Uncut.dk. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
  9. "Ron & Fez: Ron Briefly Discusses Anthony's Firing (07/07/14)". YouTube. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  10. ""Stowaway in the Sky", by Jean Prodromidès, arranged by Nelson Riddle". YouTube. Retrieved 21 September 2015.


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