Songwriter Roger Cook - the man who taught the world to sing


The start of a brilliant song writing career

He’s one of Britain’s most prolific songwriting professionals, Roger Cook first came to prominence during the British Invasion, usually working in tandem with Roger Greenaway. The pair first hit it big with the Fortunes‘ oldies-radio staple “You’ve Got Your Troubles,” but they continued to crank out hits for years to come, also writing numerous ad jingles (one of which, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” was a massive pop hit in its own right). By the late ’70s, Cook had moved to Nashville to become a successful country-pop songwriter. His incredible story is featured this week.

Roger Cook was born in  England and first sang in church choir at age 11. He wrote his first song in 1958, and that same year recorded a few sides with a vocal group called the Sapphires. The Sapphires disbanded the following year, and Cook next sang with a group called the Londons, splitting off with bandmate Jill Stevens to form Jon & Julie in 1962. The duo recorded a bit  but broke up when Stevens became pregnant. Cook spent about a year away from music performing in theatrical productions as a mime, but returned to singing in early 1965 when Roger Greenaway invited him to join a harmony group called the Kestrels, which actively toured the British variety circuit. They also featured future studio vocalist extraordinaire Tony Burrows, who split for a solo career not long after Cook joined up. Cook and Greenaway stuck together, forming a songwriting partnership and working as session singers in the meantime.

David and Jonathan

The two caught their big break when the Fortunes recorded their composition “You’ve Got Your Troubles.” It was a Top Ten smash in both the U.S. and U.K. In its wake, Cook and Greenaway teamed up to record as the soft pop duo David & Jonathan, scoring a transatlantic hit with their cover of the Beatles‘ “Michelle” in early 1966. Meanwhile, the Fortunes released their follow-up hit, “This Golden Ring,” and Gary Lewis & the Playboys scored an American Top Ten hit with “Green Grass,” both Greenaway-Cook creations. David & Jonathan landed their biggest U.K. hit that summer with the Top Ten “Lovers of the World Unite,” and the two subsequently began writing advertising jingles, most notably for Coca-Cola. In late 1967, Gene Pitney scored a Top Five U.K. hit with “Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart.”

George Harrison apologises and Michelle is born

Cook and Greenaway decided to end their David & Jonathan partnership in 1968, but kept writing songs together, including Cilla Black‘s U.K. Top Ten “Conversations” (1969).  Roger joined the pop band Blue Mink in 1969 as a featured vocalist. Blue Mink scored a succession of U.K. hits through 1973, including “Melting Pot,” “Good Morning Freedom,” “Banner Man,” “Stay With Me,” and “Randy.” 

Roger then wrote a Top Ten U.S. and U.K. hit for White Plains in 1970 with “My Baby Loves Lovin.'” In late 1971, Cook and Greenaway‘s most popular Coke jingle was adapted into the pop song “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” and became a hit for both the Hillside Singers and the New Seekers; the latter’s version became the pair’s first U.K. chart-topper.  Demand for the pair’s ad jingles skyrocketed during the next few years.

Teaching the World to Sing

Cook and Greenaway continued to collaborate but Roger wrote “Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress),”  with Hollies lead singer Allan Clarke. That song became that group’s biggest American hit in 1972; two years later, “Doctor’s Orders” became a hit for R&B singer Carol Douglas  

By late 1975, Roger was on his own and moved to the United States.  He wound up in Nashville and scored a breakthrough with Crystal Gayle’s 1978 chart-topper “Talking in Your Sleep.”  In 1980, he wrote another number-one country hit, Don Williams’ “I Believe in You.” He then started to write with folkie John Prine – a collaboration that would last for years to come. 

For more information about Roger Cook head to his website

and if you’ve enjoyed this episode you may also like to check out interviews here with other songwriters including 10cc’s Graham Gouldman

The Rascals’ Felix Cavaliere

and Rick Wakeman

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