Revisiting those iconic images of the world’s peoples joined together on a hillside singing as one – while sipping a Coke – brought to mind The Hillside Singers, whose non-denominational plea for unity, “We’re Together,” I had always assumed was the inspirational basis for what would later get turned into the all-pervasive McDonald’s theme of the 1970s, “You Deserve a Break Today.” The name of the group, The Hillside Singers – it only now occurred to me – was a shameless attempt to cash in on Coke’s hugely successful “I’d Like to Teach the World” singalong ad.
Several years ago I had picked up The Hillside Singers’ one and only album at a local thrift shop, and all this time I’d assumed that “We’re Together” was an early 70s God Pop-style track that got plucked out of relative obscurity for a massive McDonald’s national ad campaign. How mistaken I was in my assumption.
Contrary to popular notion, Barry Manilow did not write “You Deserve a Break Today” (although he did sing on the “pop” recording). Chris Radcliffe – son of singer, Jimmy – sets the record straight:
“The Hillside Singers were an American folk group. The ensemble was assembled by advertising agency McCann Erickson for the purposes of singing in a television commercial. McCann Erickson had written the jingle ‘I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke’ for Coca-Cola, and had sought to have The New Seekers sing it, but The New Seekers could not fit the project into their schedule and turned it down.
McCann Erickson then got in touch with producer Al Ham, who then put together a group of singers for the project (including his wife, Mary Mayo, and their daughter Lori). The commercial began airing late in 1971 and was extremely popular, convincing Ham to rewrite the song as “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” and to record a full album and a Christmas record; the single hit #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #5 on the Adult Contemporary chart, which convinced The New Seekers to issue it as a single as well.
Hoping to create an equally successful campaign, after the initial push with the Hillside Singers, Gavin & Woloshin set about the task of producing alternate Pop and R&B, as the term “Soul” was now passe, versions.”
Here, then, is Jimmy Radcliffe’s “R&B” version that was produced March 31, 1971:
Songwriter, vocalist, musican, jinglesmith, producer, arranger & furniture/clothing designer, Jimmy Radcliffe – it bears pointing out – has a long, and wide-ranging CV whose commercial work includes songwriting for TV’s “Banana Splits,” as well as writing, vocal and production work for the Harlem Globetrotters animated television series. Click here to learn more about Jimmy Radcliffe’s musical legacy.
“If you get the chance, get a copy of Steve Karmen’s book, Who Killed The Jingle? – How a Unique American Art Form Disappeared, for an amazingly, funny and interesting look inside the advert music world by the undisputed ‘King Of The Jingle.'”