Folk group the Hillside Singers is no doubt unique in the annals of popular music -- their very existence depended on the success of a television commercial. The roots of the idea lie in the offices of advertising agency McCann Erickson, who wished to hire extant folk combo the New Seekers to perform "I'd Like to Give the World a Coke," a jingle the company had written for Coca-Cola. Scheduling problems forced the New Seekers to decline the offer, however, so McCann Erickson contacted producer Al Ham, who agreed to assemble a group of session vocalists; Ham ended up hiring his wife Mary Mayo (best known for the space age pop cult classic Moon Gas) as well as their daughter Lorri and singers Rick and Ron Shaw, siblings who previously teamed in the Brandywine Singers. Upon its television debut in late 1971, the commercial proved a cultural phenomenon, and Ham quickly rewrote and expanded the song's lyrics to create a new, product-free version, I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony). Credited to the Hillside Singers, the record was a significant pop hit, reaching as high as number 13 on the Billboard charts and spawning an album of the same name. (The New Seekers also recorded a version of I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing, which hit number seven.) After the Hillside Singers ran their course, Ham created the popular syndicated easy listening radio format The Music of Your Life. He died in 2001. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi

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