Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote "What the World Needs Now Is Love" in 1965. John F. Kennedy's assassination was still a fresh wound in the American psyche. The social upheavals surrounding the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam War were gaining momentum.
Pop singer Jackie DeShannon scored an immediate hit with the lush, anthemic track. Its straightforward message—"What the world needs now is love, sweet love/No not just for some, but for everyone"—struck an immediate chord with millions of listeners weary of the strife and chaos seemingly closing in on all sides.
Now, with the world bedeviled by coronavirus and racial violence, the song gets a joyous, soulful reboot from Grammy-nominated Tank and the Bangas. The band appears with family and friends in this stirring video, shot pre-Covid by creative agency Elephant as an unbranded promo for Yahoo:
Teasing an upcoming global campaign, the track lives on Tank and the Bangas' social feeds and Yahoo's various channels.
"The timing, while coincidental to what's happening now in our world, is also eerily prescient," Elephant executive creative director Pablo Marques tells Muse. "Our hope is that people watch the video and are moved to spread love and create positive change that is long overdue."
A genuine expression of love.
"We were trying to articulate the new Yahoo brand mission of being an amplifier of culture," Marques says. "During this process, we build big collages on a wall where we capture all of our embryonic ideas. Anything goes. At one point, Betsy Decker—who was CD-ing the project—put a page on that wall that had a picture of a guy with a massive head painted to look like a basketball. On top of it, they wrote the word 'Lovers.' That was an exciting moment. None of us felt like we were part of that man's world, but we felt great that he loved something. We empathized with him."
"It put us on the path to creating work that was a celebration of other people's passions," he says. "It was about celebrating other people's freedom to love what they love. We felt that it was a meaningful and important sentiment, and we wanted to put it out in the right way, so it had the proper emotional depth and didn't feel superficial."
Vintage hit, emerging artist.
"We looked at a few songs, but when we listened to the famous rendition of 'What the World Needs Now' from Jackie DeShannon, we knew that was the song we wanted to use," Marques says. "We looked at a variety of artists, but we remembered Tank and the Bangas' performance from NPR's YouTube channel. Just by talking to them, we knew they were right for it."
Recording session morphs into a party.
"Tank [aka, Tarriona Ball] has this incredible community of people around her in New Orleans," Marques says. "It's a melting pot of cultures and people from all walks of life who genuinely love each other."
In January, while recording at the Big Easy's Marigny Studios, "every 20 or 30 minutes, someone else would pop through the door," he says. "They were coming together as a community of friends because they believed in the message. They all wanted it out in the world as much as we did."
"We were living precisely the feelings we wanted to convey," Marques says. "We improvised a lot. We tried a variety of creative ideas. We had poets writing messages and texts to fit in our arrangements of the song. We tried spoken-word style. We mixed very different voices, and we added some brass on top of it.
"At a certain point on that day, we had more than enough to make the ads, but we kept going because we were no longer doing it for a brand or even for ourselves. We were doing it to make sure someone else who wasn't there that day could feel what we were feeling."
The brand steps back.
"What was important for us was to keep the artists and the music at the center of our ecosystem," Marques says. "We consciously decided that the brand had to take a step back, to let the music carry the message and its pure truth. Especially now, in the current context. It's great when you have a client that understands that releasing something beautiful into the world is, sometimes, just enough."