“I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” began as a one minute Coca Cola commercial in 1971. An ad executive created the campaign when, after his flight was repeatedly delayed and then pushed to the next day amid much shouting and consternation from his fellow passengers, he saw these same passengers the next morning all laughing and joking and drinking Coke.
The commercial featured a multicultural group of young people on a hillside in Italy, coming together to share their mutual love of singing and Coca Cola, two things that actually do transcend most cultural barriers. It proved so popular that radio DJs began receiving requests—for an advertising jingle, mind you—so the writers added some verses, dropped the references to Coke, and it became a massive hit for two groups at the same time, The Hillside Singers and The New Seekers.
In later years, “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing” was mocked as a sappy, hippy-dippy, lightweight song—an example of the worst of 70s pop—but at the time of its release, it provided a much-needed lightness of spirit and message of unity, particularly for the US, a country divided and confused and afraid in the wake of the MLK and RFK assassinations, the Manson murders, 7 years in Vietnam, and a widening generation gap.
To quote Jerry Maguire, “We live in a cynical world.” But it’s not the cynical things that bring people together, it’s the simple, the heartwarming, the universal things: love, a desire for peace, a smile, a song, and yes, occasionally, even something as simple as a refreshing, sugary beverage.
In order to achieve world peace—or even a little interpersonal happiness—we could certainly do much worse than to follow the advice of the Mad Men who conceived this song: form a barbershop quartet, buy someone a soda, and above all, be excellent to each other.
And here we have the original commercial:
As a sidenote, Coca-Cola donated all their proceeds from “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing”—close to $100,000—to UNICEF.