Copyright ©2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

My guest, Jackie DeShannon, will be inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame on Thursday. She was among the first women to write pop/rock songs that became hit records. Most of her hits were in the '60s.

She's American but was sometimes associated with the British Invasion because she performed as part of The Beatles' first national tour in America and she wrote "When You Walk In the Room," which was a hit for the British group The Searchers. Her song "The Great Imposter" was recorded by The Fleetwoods. She had a big hit with the song she co-wrote "Put A Little Love In Your Heart," and she had a huge hit singing a song she did not write, "What The World Needs Now Is Love," by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

She landed another song on the charts in the '80s when Kim Carnes recorded "Bette David Eyes," which DeShannon co-wrote. Her writing partners have included Randy Newman, Jimmy Page and Jack Nitzsche. Let's start with Jackie DeShannon's 1963 recording of her song "When You Walk In the Room," followed by the famous 1964 cover version by The Searchers.

(Soundbite of song, "When You Walk In the Room")

Ms. JACKIE DeSHANNON (Musician): (Singing) I can see a new expression on my face. I can feel a strange sensation taking place. I can hear the guitars playing lovely tunes every time that you walk in the room.

THE SEARCHERS (Music Group): (Singing) I close my eyes for a second and pretend it's me you want. Meanwhile I try to act so nonchalant. I see a summer night with a magic moon every time that you walk in the room.

GROSS: That's The Searchers singing "When You Walk in the Room," which was written by my guest, Jackie DeShannon, and we heard her version first. Jackie DeShannon, what a pleasure to have you on FRESH AIR, and congratulations on your upcoming induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Now, the opening guitar line on both your version and The Searchers' version reminds me a lot of the opening guitar line on The Beatles "Ticket to Ride." Your song comes first, doesn't it?

Ms. DeSHANNON: It does. Thank you for saying that. It does come first. I usually during those days, I was very into musical hooks, and I tried to write songs that may catch your ear musically before, you know, you would get to the lyrics. But I do recall when I opened for The Beatles, I first encountered Paul McCartney at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, and I said, I'm so thrilled to meet you and so honored. I'm Jackie DeShannon, I think I said. And he said, I know who you are. We used to listen to all your records and all your demos. So I think that was pretty cool.

GROSS: So did you write that opening guitar line yourself?

Ms. DeSHANNON: Yes, yes. That's what I started with first.

GROSS: Congratulations.

Ms. DeSHANNON: It's a little riff that you hear. In fact, George Harrison, when we were touring, sat down one day on the plane and said, you know what, show me that "When You Walk In the Room" riff. And I was so nervous, I could hardly play it really.

GROSS: As you mentioned, you toured with The Beatles in 1964, which was after you wrote and recorded "Every Time You Walk In the Room." And that was their first American tour, right?

Ms. DeSHANNON: It was. They did two appearances before that, I believe, in Washington and I think in New York. But then they came back and did the full tour, their first American tour. And I was a very lucky girl to be on that tour.

GROSS: How did you get to be on the tour?

Ms. DeSHANNON: I've heard tell, and I'm not 100 percent sure, but I heard that they had requested that I you know, they were going over different acts to be on the tour, and I was one that they selected.

Brian Epstein, their manager at the time, was I think, you know, very familiar with the Liberty acts on the label.

GROSS: You were on Liberty Records.

Ms. DeSHANNON: Correct. And my demos used to be, at that time, published in England by Dick James Music, and The Beatles had several of their songs at that time published by Dick James Music. So they, indeed, were familiar with me. And, I don't know, just luck of the draw, I guess.

GROSS: Were you the only woman on the tour performing?

Ms. DeSHANNON: Yes. Other acts, The Righteous Brothers, they changed many times before and at that time, some people left because they, you know, people were screaming, we want The Beatles, we want The Beatles. And I said, so do I. Good. Let's all scream together. This will be great.

But I think some people were a little bit put off by that. But I just did fast songs fast, and I don't know, I really loved it. I knew everyone was there obviously to see The Beatles, but I thought it was a great opportunity to get up and perform in front of that many people.

GROSS: So we opened with "Every Time You Walk in the Room," which you wrote. And I want to play a song that was also recorded by The Searchers after you recorded it, but this is not one that you wrote. This song is "Needles and Pins," and it was written by Sonny Bono, who became famous for Sonny and Cher and then became a congressman, and Jack Nitzsche, who at the time was I think producing with Phil Specter.

Ms. DeSHANNON: He was not producing with Phil. Jack did the arrangements.

GROSS: I mean arranging. I meant to say arranging, yes.

Ms. DeSHANNON: Right.

GROSS: Specter was doing the producing.

Ms. DeSHANNON: Well, actually, Jack was doing some of it, too, but probably didn't get credit.

GROSS: So did they write this for you? How did you get this song?

Ms. DeSHANNON: They did write it for me. I was going into the studio to do four sides, which is what we called back in the day a single session, and I wasn't that thrilled with the material that they had selected for me because A&R at that time did play a major part in what you recorded and what didn't get on the session.

And we had Jack and I had started working on a riff, you know, kind of throwing ideas back and forth. And Sonny was there that day and it just kind of all came together with a verse and the little piano lick. And I had some I did contribute to that song, but I did not get writing credit at the time, and I didn't pursue it.

GROSS: What was your contribution?

Ms. DeSHANNON: Well, I think when you have three people in doing things, the ideas just kind of go back and forth and I think probably a little bit of the bridge and, you know, some lyrics and, you know, you just you don't really know what makes one song one person's unless they just sit down and write, you know, three-fourths of it. But we were all kind of working on it at the same time.

GROSS: Okay, so let's hear Jackie DeShannon's 1963 recording of "Needles and Pins," which was later covered by the British band The Searchers.

(Soundbite of song, "Needles and Pins")

Ms. DeSHANNON: (Singing) I saw him today, I saw his face. It was the face I loved, and I knew I had to run away and get down on my knees and pray that they'd go away. But still they begin, needles and pins because of all my pride, the tears I gotta hide.

Hey, I thought I was smart. I want his heart. I didn't think I'd do, but now I see. She's worse to him than me. Let him go ahead, take her love instead, and one day she will see just how to say please and get down on his knees. Hey, that's how it begins, still feel those needles and pins, hurting him, hurting him.

GROSS: That's Jackie DeShannon. Although she didnt write that song, she wrote many others and she's about to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

When you recorded this, you did that famous needles and pins-uh, as opposed to just saying needles and pins, and when The Searchers covered it, they did the same thing. What made you pronounce it that way?

Ms. DeSHANNON: Well, again, that's just the way I heard the song, and I think probably some of the overdubs that we did, maybe that word, you know, landed together and maybe made it a little more pronounced.

But basically, as I say, you ask what a person contributes to a song. There's many different ways, you know, besides just doing either the words or the lyrics. It's interpretation. It's changing something. It's changing words. So, I think that my stamp was pretty much on that song.

And they did. They did a very, very, very good record of "Needles and Pins." I love it.

GROSS: My guest is Jackie DeShannon. She'll be inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame on Thursday. We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Jackie DeShannon, and she's about to be inducted June 17th into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Now, you were one of the first women songwriters in rock to have big hits. Did you intend to be a songwriter when you started off in the music business?

Ms. DeSHANNON: I started off when I was around 12, 13, writing songs because it was very difficult to get a recording contract when I was so young, and there were only, you know, just a few labels.

GROSS: Wait a minute, you tried to get a recording contract when you were 12?

Ms. DeSHANNON: Twelve and 13, and of course, I didn't get one. And when I would send my songs and send different material in some were mine, some were not people would tell me, you know, the only way you're ever going to get a good song, you have to write it because no one's going to give you A material, which is what we're interested in.

So time went on, and I just kept writing and writing, and I finally got a song called "I Want to Go Home," which was a breakout hit in Chicago area and was moving across the country. And, you know, I got recognition from various record labels out on the West Coast, and that was kind of my big break thanks to Eddie Cochran, who I was working with doing dances and promoting that record.

And he came into Chicago area to promote his single record at the time, and he said wow, you look like a California girl. You have to move. You have to get to California to make it all happen. So I said to myself, well, if Eddie Cochran says so, I must move to California.

GROSS: So you did. So, Eddie Cochran, for our listeners who don't remember him, was a rockabilly singer whose biggest hits were "Summertime Blues" and "C'Mon Everybody," and...

Ms. DeSHANNON: And he was very big in England and was, you know, really had he lived, I think been a monster here.

GROSS: Now you ended up actually collaborating with his then-girlfriend, Sharon Sheeley(ph).

Ms. DeSHANNON: I did. We wrote "Dum Dum" together, my first hit song, and it was recorded by the brilliant Brenda Lee.

GROSS: And let me play something else that you wrote together, and this is "The Great Imposter," which The Fleetwoods recorded in 1961, and it was in the top 40. And their big hits were "Come Softly to Me" and Mr. Blue. Do you want to say anything about writing "The Great Imposter" before we hear it?

Ms. DeSHANNON: We had actually been to the movie to we went to see that film, and we really liked it. And we came back and we were just, you know, fooling around, writing songs, as we did every week. And we said, wow, this would just be a great title for a song because, you know, there are so many guys around that are great imposters. So let's write one about that.

GROSS: Okay, so this is "The Fleetwoods," recorded in 1961, doing "The Great Imposter," which was written by my guest Jackie DeShannon and the late Sharon Sheeley.

(Soundbite of song, "The Great Imposter")

THE FLEETWOODS (Music Group): (Singing) Well I went and lost her to the great imposter. I stood and watched her fall, couldn't help her at all. Poetry so sweet has her at his feet. She thinks she's the one, but he has just begun. All her friends, they just watch her, for they know the great imposter.

Don't she know he's on a stage? It's not real, it's just a play, and he's playing the part that is soon to break her heart. Oh, can't she see tomorrow's misery? Soon she'll learn her fate, but itll be too late. All her friends, they just watch her, for they know the great imposter.

GROSS: That's The Fleetwoods, recorded in 1961, doing a song co-written by my guest, Jackie DeShannon, who is about to get inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

When you started songwriting, was your idea to record the songs yourself or to get them to other people?

Ms. DeSHANNON: My idea was to record them myself and develop myself as a singer-songwriter so that I would always have material and I wouldn't have to, you know, be beholden to anyone for good material.

GROSS: So how did you end up with other people recording your songs?

Ms. DeSHANNON: When I signed with Liberty Records, I...

GROSS: Was that on the West Coast or the East Coast?

Ms. DeSHANNON: West Coast. And when I signed with them, they were building their publishing company. At that time, it was known as Metric Music. And so I signed with them as a songwriter, as well.

And as these songs started you know, as I kept on writing for myself to go in and record, Al Bennett(ph), who was president at the time, would say, boy, this is a great song. This, maybe we should try to get this song to X, Y or Z and because they have a big hit record now and they're looking for material and, you know, you'll benefit as a songwriter. So basically, that's really how it happened.

GROSS: Now, the famous female songwriters of the era when you were getting started in the early '60s, outside of you, it was Ellie Greenwich, Carole King and Cynthia Weil. And they all had male songwriting partners.

Ms. DeSHANNON: They did. Actually, I was the only one on the West Coast doing this, as far as going in, making my own demos. I wrote songs all week long, and then on Fridays, I would go in and actually lay down the track, the instruments and voices or whatever, the arrangement. I would do the arrangement and see, you know, exactly how it would work. And that's what we would do.

And I would do it in, you know, one song an hour. So that's pretty fast to get everything done, teaching the musicians the songs and the singers and putting it all together and trying to make it work in a very short amount of time.

GROSS: What did your record company, Liberty Records, think of you as a woman doing the arrangements? Did they give you a hard time about that? Did they think a man should be doing it?

Ms. DeSHANNON: Not for the demos. And that was really a very tough time for me because I was so used to doing my own work, and I knew what was right for my song. But yet, when I would go into the studio to record, because you were a woman, you're not allowed to have any say so whatsoever about how it's arranged.

You can sing it to the I could sing it to the arranger, and then they would do it, but I really didn't have any leverage as far as producing or being part of the arrangement.

But many times, they would just end up copying my demos and make it into a bigger orchestration. But it was very, very hard. Of course, today, that's all built in your contracts and you can women, you know, do whatever they want. But it was very, very difficult for me, and growing up with jazz and classical music and country-blues and the different styles of music that I grew up with within my family, I just developed a style that kind of lumped it all together.

And I could sing many different styles, which is very popular today. So and so will go in and sing the standards, or they'll do, you know, something else. But at the time that I was doing it, people really didn't understand it, and only if you had one style, if you just stayed with that one thing, you might, the critics might, you know, understand it. But they certainly didn't understand me, that's for sure.

GROSS: My guest is Jackie DeShannon. She'll be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on Thursday. She'll be back in the second half of the show. Here's her 1975 recording of a song she co-wrote, "Bette Davis Eyes," which was a big hit for Kim Carnes in 1981.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of song, "Bette Davis")

Ms. DeSHANNON: (Singing) Her hair is Harlowe gold, her lips a sweet surprise. Her hands are never cold. She's got Bette Davis eyes. She'll turn her music on you, and you won't have to think twice. She's pure as New York snow. She got Bette Davis eyes.

And she'll tease you, she'll unease you, all the better just to please you. She's precocious, and she knows just what it takes to make a pro blush. She got Greta Garbo stand-off sighs. She's got Bette Davis eyes.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. Im Terry Gross back with songwriter and singer Jackie DeShannon. She'll be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on Thursday. The songs she wrote include: "When You Walk in the Room," "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" and "Bette Davis Eyes."

She was the singer on the hit recording of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song "What the World Needs Now is Love."

What I'd like to do is play your song, "Should I Cry," which you co-wrote with Jack Nitzsche, the arranger and songwriter. And we're going to play two versions of this. We're going to hear your version and then we're going to hear a version by the doo-wop group the Concords. Both of these are from 1964.

Tell us the story behind the song and then we'll hear the recordings.

Ms. DESHANNON: Well, Jack Nitzsche and I were very very close friends because he did a few demos with me, which is how I met him, and we just became very very fast and close friends because we shared so many styles of music - the love of so many different styles of music. And he was the arranger for me because I could say anything, you know, about okay, this sounds like this record and he really knew what I meant.

To him it wasnt jumping all over the place. To him, he knew that I was saying basically this is the authentic thing that we want to do in this particular place, and we would reference, you know, various people that we loved. So we started writing a few things together. Not a lot, but we did do a few songs and it was really great fun. I loved working with Jack and I really miss him because I felt that he was the one person who really understood Jackie DeShannon.

GROSS: So, since we're going to hear both versions of the song, tell us how the Concords, the doo-wop group, came to record it.

Ms. DESHANNON: I dont know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Really?

Ms. DESHANNON: I dont have that info. No. I think one thing that happens - or happens to me, maybe not everyone else, I'm not informed. I mean I'll find out about it but itll be through other artists or through, you know, folks that I have around that are close to me and in the business that say, oh, did you know the Concords recorded your song? And I go wow, that's great.

But the publishing company never told me anything. So when I find out, I'm elated. But I dont, you know, get a thing that says well, you'll be happy to know that the Concords have just recorded your - I was so uninformed. But I'm thrilled.

GROSS: Well, so let's hear it. This is Jackie DeShannon singing should "Should I Cry," which she co-wrote and then the Concords doo-wop version, which is really great.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: It's just like, wow.

Ms. DESHANNON: It is. It is just awesome.

GROSS: Yeah. So here they are.

(Soundbite of song, "Should I Cry")

Ms. DESHANNON: (Singing) You used to hold my hand and we'd go to a show. People know I was your girl everywhere we go. Tonight at the party I saw how you looked at Sue. You danced with me while romance as youre dancing and I wonder should I cry? I wonder, should I should I cry? Maybe it's all in my mind. Things are going to work out fine. I wonder, wonder, wonder should I cry?

(Soundbite of song, "Should I Cry")

The CONCORDS (Doo-wop group): (Singing) Nah, nah-nah, nah-nah, nah, nah-nah-nah-nah. I wonder, wonder, wonder should I cry? You used to hold my hand and we'd go to a show. People know I was your guy everywhere we go. Tonight at the party I saw how you looked at Sue. You danced with me while romance as youre dancing and I wonder should I cry? Wonder, wonder, should I should I cry? Maybe it's all in my mind. Things are going to work out fine. I wonder, wonder, wonder should I cry? Hey, hey.

Could it be that you were mine?

GROSS: The Concords doing "Should I Cry" which was written by my guest Jackie DeShannon, along with Jack Nitzsche. And first we heard her version of the song.

Your name - your professional name is Jackie DeShannon but your birth name is Sharon Lee Myers.

Ms. DESHANNON: Correct.

GROSS: So how did you transition from Sharon Lee Myers to Jackie DeShannon?

Ms. DESHANNON: I dont think you have enough time.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DESHANNON: Well, just try to make it as short as I can. As I was looking for a record deal and trying to come up with songs etcetera, my voice is low and sometimes if I, you know, would do a certain song a certain way I sound more like a boy than like a sort of a love ballad obvious Doris Day. And the record company said well, why dont we - this is early on like a local label or something would say why dont we change your name that could be either a boy or a girl? So I said Jackie. And so we had to have another name to go with Jackie so it was Jackie De.

Then there was Sandra Dee and Brenda Lee and so I figured uh-oh, I need to put something else there. So actually, it was Jackie DeShannon and little d-e, space, capital S-h-a-n-n-o-n. But people couldnt - they didnt know how to put that together and it would get mixed up even on the record labels. So I just decided to put the two together and make it big D little e-S-h-a-n-n-o-n.

But really because they played more boys' songs on the radio than girls', that's the record companys philosophy. And so that's basically how that got started, thinking that I might get some of that play because they didnt know, you know, at the beginning. Because since only girls bought records, that was the philosophy.

GROSS: And they wanted to daydream about boys, so what use would they have for you?

Ms. DESHANNON: Exactly. What use would they have for me? So, you know, it's the early record business, so you can't...

GROSS: So this is before all the girl groups, I guess.

Ms. DESHANNON: Well, this is, yeah. Well, no, no, no. There were plenty of girls' groups but they were more....

GROSS: So what were they thinking?

Ms. DESHANNON: They were - I dont know because I wasnt a sister and I wasnt, you know, the McGuire Sisters kind of thing or something. I dont know, people had very strange ideas.

GROSS: My guest is Jackie DeShannon. She'll be inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame on Thursday. We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Jackie DeShannon and she's about to be inducted, June 17th, into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.

So let's hear another song and this one - this really should've been a hit. This is called "Splendor In The Grass." You recorded it in 1966. The Byrds are accompanying you on this. It's a terrific song. So first tell us the story behind the song.

Ms. DESHANNON: I was watching this movie, went to the theater to see "Splendor In The Grass" with Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood, and I just ended up sobbing at the end of the film. I loved it so much I just ran home and said I'm going to write a song, "Splendor In The Grass." And it's really dedicated to the first time. It's dedicated to that feeling of love for the first time when youre really deep into it. And I think that high school love is just something so very special and your first serious boyfriend, I just, you know, fell apart during that film and I kind of dedicated that song to those emotions.

GROSS: And this is one you wrote yourself?

Ms. DESHANNON: Mm-hmm. Yes.

GROSS: And how did The Byrds end up accompanying you on this?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DESHANNON: I hope they're not listening. Well, The Byrds had yet to really hit it at the time. And I would go to see them wherever they were, wherever they played. As many times as they played I was there, practically all the time. And I was very very supportive and tried to help them in any way that I could. And I think that when I was going in to record a demo session, I had certain songs like, "Dont Doubt Yourself, Babe," and "Splendor In The Grass."

And I said boy, this would just be so amazing if you guys, you know, had the time to come in and just, you know, play it down once or twice for me. It would be so cool. And to my surprise, they said yes. So it was -the thing I remember most, it was early in the morning. And those guys, I dont think went to bed. They just stayed up. But it's so neat to have them playing on these songs.

GROSS: So, let's hear it. This is "Splendor In The Grass," written and recorded by my guest, Jackie DeShannon. The Byrds are accompanying her and this is from 1966.

(Soundbite of song, "Splendor In The Grass")

Ms. DESHANNON AND THE BYRDS: (Singing) The first love I ever had, the first time I went mad. The first time I left home, the first time I felt alone. The first time my heart was hurt, the first thing I did wrong. If I had one wish Id ask to relieve splendor in the grass.

The first time I was ever kissed, the very first person I did miss. The first time I said goodbye, the first time I felt Id die. The first time I felt shame, the first time I was to blame. If I had one wish Id ask to relieve splendor in the grass.

GROSS: That's my guest Jackie DeShannon, singing a song that she wrote, "Splendor In The Grass," recorded in 1966 with the Byrds backing her up.

Was that Roger McGuinn singing with you?

Ms. DESHANNON: Yes. And David Crosby and all The Byrds.

GROSS: Oh, wow. Okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DESHANNON: Yeah. Just a little something.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So, when you had records to promote you were sometimes on "Shindig!" and "Hullabaloo," the music shows of the mid-'60s where people would be frugging behind you and...

Ms. DESHANNON: Yeah, right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: ...and you'd be frugging too.

Ms. DESHANNON: You bet. That was it.

GROSS: You'd have to like dance your way through the whole song as you...

Ms. DESHANNON: Through your career.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: ...as you lip-synched.

Ms. DESHANNON: Right.

GROSS: So, and...

Ms. DESHANNON: But that was very fashionable.

GROSS: What, the lip-synching thing or the frugging thing?

Ms. DESHANNON: No, no, no. No, the dancing and the - they're still doing lip-synch today.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Right.

Ms. DESHANNON: Yeah, that was sort of the thing to do in the day.

GROSS: Well, I was watching, you know, if you want a see - there's a couple of great YouTube clips if you want to see Jackie DeShannon frugging on those shows.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: But there's also a nice clip from the Whiskey A Go Go that's from just a few years ago and in that one youre playing guitar. And I was wondering like, would you have preferred back in the "Shindig!" and "Hullabaloo" era to have been playing guitar accompanying yourself rather than frugging?

Ms. DESHANNON: I'm so glad you asked that. Again, that goes back to: you have to do what I say. If you want to be on this TV show, you do it the way I want it done. I was never allowed to do that. Unheard of.

GROSS: Because youre a female?

Ms. DESHANNON: It just - they just - this is what - this is the kind of show they wanted. They wanted something that - they didnt want someone sitting there - a girl playing the guitar on the thing. This was, you know, what they wanted. Whoever produced the show, you know, this is something that they thought would be better for their program.

GROSS: So did you have to work up your frugging skills before doing those shows?

Ms. DESHANNON: I, you know, there was always a part of me that was disappointed that that's the way it had to be. There's still a part of me today that's disappointed, because I sometimes feel that I wish the images would be different in the sense that I would like to see - I would like to see it more popular that it was take - I dont know. There's just something about the way certain women present themselves that I'm not as comfortable with.

GROSS: So youre about to get inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. But one of your most famous recordings is a song that you did not write. It was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and I'm thinking of "What The World Needs Now," which has probably been recorded all around the world. So how did you get to be the one sang the song, especially considering how associated Dionne Warwick was with Bacharach and David?

Ms. DESHANNON: Well, I was told that she turned it down and did not record it. I dont know if she made demo of it or whatever, but I was told that, you know, she didnt do a real record of it. I got it under protest from Burt. Actually, we...

GROSS: Burt was protesting you getting it, is that what youre saying?

Ms. DESHANNON: No, no, no. Burt was protesting playing the song for me. I was told that Burt Bacharach and Hal David wanted to produce a record with me and I was just over the moon and delighted and excited. So it came time to pick the material and he played a few songs and then Hal David kept saying, oh, gee, play Jackie "What The World Needs Now" and Burt was going, well, I dont know, da-da.

So this went back and forth for a while and finally he did play "What The World Needs Now Is Love" and I sang it through after I learned it and he just flipped and said, that's it, we're going to New York. This is the record.

GROSS: Did you like the song?

Ms. DESHANNON: Oh, of course. Cornfields and wheat fields, that's where I grew up. So it was - and the changes and - are very, to me, remind me so much of gospel. So between the lyrics and the music it was, I felt I was home free.

GROSS: Well, let's hear it. This is 1965 recording of my guest Jackie DeShannon singing the Bacharach and David song "What The World Needs Now."

(Soundbite of song, "What The World Needs Now")

Ms. DESHANNON: (Singing) What the world needs now is love sweet love. It's the only thing that there's just too little of. What the world needs now is love sweet love, no not just for some but for everyone.

Lord we don't need another mountain. There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb. There are oceans and rivers enough to cross. Enough to last until the end of time.

What the world needs now is love sweet love. It's the only thing that there's just too little of. What the world needs now is love sweet love, no not just for some but for everyone.

GROSS: That's Jackie DeShannon singing the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song, recorded in 1965. The arrangement on that is so good. It must've been great to sing with that kind of arrangement. But I'm wondering, was that arrangement behind you when you actually recorded your vocal track in the studio?

Ms. DESHANNON: It certainly was. I'm very proud to say there are no punch-ins. There is...

GROSS: That was all real time with the orchestra and you at the same time?

Ms. DESHANNON: Real time. And it was the second take.

GROSS: Wow.

Ms. DESHANNON: The singers, the background, everything, orchestra.

GROSS: So what impact did this song have on your career?

Ms. DESHANNON: It brought me to the forefront. It was a big record, so I think people just - and to this day love that record. In fact, its in the Narris(ph) Hall of Fame - that, my record. I'm very proud of that. People just loved it. You know, they loved the record. They loved the song, they loved the vocal, they loved the arrangement, everything.

GROSS: What kind of advice, if any, did Burt Bacharach give you on singing the song?

Ms. DESHANNON: To sing the notes. Sometimes people will take liberties with the melody and Burt was very determined to have the exact notes that he had written sung.

GROSS: Did you have any objection to that?

Ms. DESHANNON: Not at all. I learned a lot.

GROSS: Jackie DeShannon, thank you so much for talking with us. Thank you for your great music, and congratulations on being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Ms. DESHANNON: Thank you very much.

GROSS: Jackie DeShannon will be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on Thursday. You can listen to Jackie DeShannon sing "Needles and Pins" and "When You Walk In The Room" on our website, freshair.npr.org.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.