Jackie DeShannon is best remembered for her 1965 smash hit, "What the World Needs Now is Love." Among those in the music industry she is admired as a gifted songwriter and performer.
Jackie DeShannon composed hits for several recording artists, including "Betty Davis Eyes" for Kim Carnes. In 1981, "Betty Davis Eyes" spent nine consecutive weeks at the top of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. That same year it won Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Record of the Year. She wrote "Dum Dum" for Brenda Lee. In 1961 "Dum Dum" reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100. She wrote hits for a number of rock groups, including "When You Walk in the Door" for the Searchers. She also wrote "Don't Doubt Yourself Babe" for the Byrds. In 1965, she wrote "Come and Stay With Me" for English singer Marianne Faithful, which became her biggest UK hit ever, and a Top Ten hit in the U.S.
Ms DeShannon was born in Hazel, Kentucky. Her mother was a singer, who recognized her daughter's singing talent early on, and at age 3, had her performing in public. By age six, Ms DeShannon was singing country songs on a local radio show. By age 11, she was hosting her own radio program. By the time she became a teenager, she was living in Batavia, Illinois, where she attended high school. All the while she continued to perform in public. Through continuous touring, she built a strong reputation in the midwest and south, as a country singer of considerable talent and charm. Her growing reputation followed her to Los Angeles where, in 1960, she signed with Liberty Records. She began composing and recording songs, but failed to land a hit on Top 40 Radio. At this point, Liberty Records management decided not to release her latest singles for public consumption, but rather release them as demos, for other recording artists to consider. This led to Brenda Lee recording "Dum Dum", and Marianne Faithful recording "Come and Stay With Me".
In 1964, DeShannon got her first big professional break, when she opened for the Beatles during their first U.S. tour. In early 1965, the song-writing team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, offered her "What the World Needs Now is Love", a song that had been rejected by their regular singer, Dionne Warwick (she said the song was "too country" for her tastes and "too preachy"). DeShannon loved the song immediately, and was only too happy to record it. The song would peak at number seven on the U.S. Hot 100 in July of that year. In Canada, the song reached number one.
Despite the radio and television exposure the song gave her, DeShannon continued to struggle selling records. This would change in 1969, when Liberty Records released her latest song,"Put a Little Love in Your Heart". In the U.S., it was DeShannon's highest-charting hit ever, reaching number four on the Hot 100, and number two on the Adult Contemporary chart.
Switching to Atlantic Records in 1970, Ms DeShannon recorded the critically acclaimed "Jackie" (1972) and "Your Baby is a Lady' (1974), but the albums failed to catch fire with the buying public. In 1973, she was invited by Van Morrison to sing harmony on two songs for his album "Hard Nose the Highway". In 1974, she released "New Arrangement" for Columbia Records, in which she premiered "Betty Davis Eyes" and "Queen of the Rodeo". In 1977, she released "You're the Only Dancer", and a single from that album, "Don't Let the Flame Burn Out", which was minor hit.
In 1980, she was reunited with Burt Bacharach, and recorded two songs for his "Together?" movie soundtrack album.
A prodigious songwriter, DeShannon co-wrote with Randy Newman, creating such songs as "She Don't Understand Him Like I Do" and "Did He Call Today Mama?" as well as composing "You Have No Choice" for blues/rock singer Delaney Bramlett. In 2010, DeShannon was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
In 2012, DeShannon wrote and recorded "For Africa, In Africa", a song inspired by the urgent need for clean water on the African Content. Thanks to her friendship with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, DeShannon began hosting a national radio show about the Beatles, entitled, "Breakfast with the Beatles" beginning in October 2009. Her show can be heard weekends on Sirius XM Satellite Radio.