Listening Room columnist
What the World Needs Now is Love ( Tom Clay 1971 Version)
It has been 45 years (1965) since the world heard this popular song with lyrics by Hal David and music composed by Burt Bacharach.
The song was first recorded and made popular by Jackie Deshannon. It reached number 7 on the US Billboard charts in 1965. The song was originally offered to Dionne Warwick, who turned it down, however she did record it at a later date.
The song has been recorded or performed live by over a hundred artists, including Judy Garland, The Supremes, The Chamber Brothers, Barry Manilow, and Aimee Man.
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When I was 10 years old in the summer of 1971, I remember hearing a very unusual version of the song on WABC Music radio 77. ( Those were the good days with AM Transistors Radios!).
This was a version by Tom Clay, who was a popular Los Angeles radio personality in the 1960;s. Clay wasn’t a singer or entertainer. He put together a medley of “What the World Needs Now is Love’/Abraham, Martin and John”; the narrative included sound bites from speeches of John and Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. and made social & political comments.He played it on KGBS, where he hosted a radio show in Detroit.
He had no thought of releasing it until an old friend, Berry Gordy, caught wind of the recording and released it on a Motown subsidy label Mowest. The record took off reaching to number eight in August 1971. An LP was also released which peaked at number 92 on the Billboard charts. Yes, a one hit wonder but a great one.( I was lucky enough to find the LP on Vinyl a few years ago; It has not been released officially on CD but the single has appeared on several CD Compilations).
There was no other recording ever made by Tom Clay. In the 80;s and 90’s, he found work doing voice overs in the Los Angeles area until his passing at age 66 in November 1995 from Lung Cancer.
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