August 21, 1944 – Jackie DeShannon:
“Put a little love in your heart, and the world will be a better place.“
“Put A Little Love In Your Heart…” is a perfect sentiment for these demented and demanding times. As World of Wonder‘s resident geezer, I am here to tell you that we sure loved the LOVE in the 1960s.
The extremely talented, prolific and versatile Jackie DeShannon was one of the first successful female singer-songwriters on the music scene back in the 1960s. DeShannon has done music in such diverse genres as: Folk, Orchestral Pop, Gospel, Country and Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Born Sharon Lee Myers to Kentucky showbiz parents, by 6 years old, little DeShannon was singing country music on the radio and at 11, she was hosting her own radio show.
Her versions of classic country songs brought her to the attention of Rock ‘n’ Roll star Eddie Cochran, who introduced her to his girlfriend, singer-songwriter Sharon Sheeley. Sheeley and DeShannon formed a writing partnership in 1960, giving Brenda Lee hits with Dum Dum (1961) and Heart In Hand (1962).
DeShannon signed with Liberty Records, taking the name Jackie DeShannon, the name of an Irish ancestor, after executives at Liberty thought the name Sharon Myers would not sell records. DeShannon says that she chose “Jackie” as a cross-gender name. Since she had a low singing voice, she could be heard as either male or female on the radio. She found that “Jackie Dee” was too similar to Brenda Lee, Sandra Dee, and Kiki Dee, so she changed it to Jackie Dee Shannon, which people heard as DeShannon. The name stuck.
It was her songwriting rather than her recording career that kept her contracted to Liberty.
She opened for The Beatles during their 1964 North American tour. DeShannon:
“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.’ And I said, ‘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.
I went out the wrong door once, to try to get on the bus to get back to the airplane. And people were pulling my hair, pulling my clothes. It was really scary. I thought this was going to be it. But they were so crazy, they wanted anyone who had been near The Beatles. Anyone that they thought had been close to them — it was pretty frightening.”
After the tour, she moved to New York City, where she co-wrote songs with Randy Newman, composing tunes such as She Don’t Understand Him Like I Do and Did He Call Today Mama?, as well as writing You Have No Choice for Delaney Bramlett.
Oddly, the album Breakin’ It Up On The Beatles Tour (1964), contrary to what the title says, was not recorded during The Beatles tour.
In the fall of 1964, DeShannon went to London and recorded songs with Jimmy Page including the rousing Don’t Turn Your Back On Me. They had a hot romance and Page wrote the song Tangerine (which appears on the third Led Zeppelin album) after their breakup in early 1965. DeShannon wrote the hit song Come And Stay With Me for Marianne Faithfull while living in London.
In March 1965, DeShannon recorded Burt Bacharach and Hal David‘s What the World Needs Now Is Love, a Top Ten hit. This led to club tours and regular appearances on television. DeShannon’s recording I used to great effect in the film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969).
DeShannon continued plugging along, writing songs for other artists and recording, but in 1969 she finally scored a smash single that she wrote, and an album, Put A Little Love In Your Heart. The album and the single sold over one million copies. It was DeShannon’s highest-charting hit, going to Number Four on the Hot 100 and Number Two on the Adult Contemporary chart in August 1969. The song is used in Gus Van Sant Drugstore Cowboy (1989), a film that I appear in, but unfortunately the song is not used to underscore my scenes.
It has been covered as a duet by Annie Lennox and Al Green in 1998, reaching Number Nine in the Billboard Hot 10. Check out Dolly Parton‘s Gospel version from Slow Dancing With The Moon (1993).
Kim Carnes scored a massive Number One hit with Bette Davis Eyes, written by DeShannon. After the song became a hit, Bette Davis wrote letters to singer Carnes, co-writer Donna Weiss and DeShannon and asked how did they knew so much about her. One of the reasons Davis loved the Grammy-winning song was that her granddaughter had heard it on the radio and thought her grandmother was “cool” for having a hit song written about her.
DeShannon was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010.
DeShannon has continued to record into the 21st century. For the past decade, using her friendship with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, she is a broadcast correspondent reporting anecdotes and news about The Beatles on the Sirius XM Satellite Radio show Breakfast With The Beatles.
DeShannon had affairs with Elvis Presley, Phil Everly of The Everly Brothers and Rick Nelson. She costarred and sang with Bobby Vinton in the teen surf movie Surf Party (1964). She was a busy girl.
I have a little Love In My Heart for her!