Don’t Know Much

Lou Adler was born on December 13, 1933 in Chicago, Illinois and he was raised in East Los Angeles.  While he was attending LA City College studying journalism, he teamed up to write songs with his good friend Herb Alpert, a young trumpet player who wanted to sing.  In 1957, Adler and Alpert wrote the song ‘(What a) Wonderful World’, Alpert cut a demo, and they took to Keane Records, which was Sam Cooke’s label and this song was later recorded by Sam Cooke and released on April 14, 1960.  Cooke revised the lyrics to mention the subject of education more and he is given a song writing credit for his efforts.  Barbara Campbell became the collective song writing credit for Sam Cooke, Lou Adler and Herb Alpert.  ‘Wonderful World’ was Adler’s first time producing on his own and the song reached number twelve on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and number two on the R&B chart.  Adler and Alpert were offered jobs in the company’s A&R department, working as apprentice artists and repertoire men under Robert “Bumps”  Blackwell, where they were taught how to break down lyrics and recognize quality song writing.

In 2004, the song was placed 373rd in Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  The theme of this song says that neither knowledge nor education can dictate feelings, but instead love could make the world a wonderful place to be in.  The personnel on this song consisted of Cooke, guitarist Cliff White, bassist Adolphus Alsbrook, teenage drummer Ronnie Selico and a quartet of singers that Cooke biographer Peter Guralnick believes may have been the Pilgrim Travelers which was made up of J.W. Alexander, Lou Rawls, and George McCurn who was nicknamed Oopie.  During their reign, they influenced such singers as Ray Charles, Lou Rawls and Sam Cooke.  The Pilgrim Travelers were inducted into the Gospel Hall Of Fame in 2001.

In 1971, Lou Adler won two Grammy awards, one for Record Of The Year with ‘It’s Too Late’ by Carole King and one for producing the Album Of The Year Tapestry which was also by Carole King.  In the 1970s, Adler worked with Cheech and Chong producing their albums Big Bambú (1972), Cheech & Chong’s Wedding Album (1974) and the soundtrack for the film Up in Smoke (1979).  Adler was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006.  In 2013, Lou Adler was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  In 2019, he was given the Grammy Trustees Award by The Recording Academy for making significant contributions, other than performance, to the field of recording.

As a recording artist, Alpert has had 5 albums reach number 1 on the Billboard chart, is the only artist to reach the top as both a vocalist and an instrumentalist, and has won nine Grammy Awards.  Alpert has three recordings inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame including ‘Herb Alpert Presents Sergio Mendes & Brasil ‘66’, ‘The Lonely Bull’ and ‘A Taste Of Honey’.  ‘A Taste Of Honey’ was a Top 10 hit in 1965 and it won the Grammy for Record Of The Year, Best Instrumental Arrangement and the Best Instrumental Performance, Non-Jazz.  In 1966, he won two Grammys for his song ‘What Now My Love’, those being for Best Instrumental Performance other than Jazz and Best Instrumental Arrangement.  In 1979, he won a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance with ‘Rise’.  In the early 1980s, Alpert formed the Herb Alpert Foundation with his wife, Lani Hall to provide funding for charitable organizations and institutions.  The foundation is dedicated to supporting the mechanisms and means through which young people can discover, harness and fully develop their unique creative energies and their special talents. He also won the Grammys Presidents Merit award twice.  Alpert and Jerry Moss founded A&M Records in 1962 and the duo received a Recording Academy Trustees Award in 1997.  Alpert and Moss were also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006 as non-performer lifetime achievers for their work at A&M.  In 2013 Albert won a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album with Steppin’ Out.  In 2013 Herb Alpert was awarded The National Medal of Arts Award by President Barack Obama for his musical, philanthropic and artistic contributions.

Sam Cooke wrote many of his best songs by himself, including his first hit, the ethereal ‘You Send Me’, which shot to number one on all charts in 1957 and established him as a superstar.  In 1964, he was shot to death at age 33 by a motel manager.  Cooke was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and in 1999, Sam Cooke was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award.

This song says, “Don’t know what a slide rule is for” and that is probably more true today than it was when this song was written.  Before the smartphone, the laptop and the graphing calculator, there was the slide rule, which is a mechanical device that slides in an out to show relationships between different sets of numbers.  There is a scene in the movie Apollo 13 where the crew is preparing to “slingshot” around the back of the moon, and Tom Hanks calculates the total fuel amounts in the various fuel tanks by mathematical addition using a slide rule.  Slide rules were popular in the 1950s and 1960s, before pocket calculators existed, which came around in the mid 1970s, because they were much easier to use.  The first Slide rule was built by William Oughtred, and he based it on John Napier’s discovery of logarithms.  Most people find slide rules difficult to learn and use.  I actually had one in High School, because the first microprocessor which was built by Intel and needed to make the calculator, did not come out till 1971.

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about science books
Don’t know much about the French I took

But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me too
What a wonderful world this would be

Don’t know much about geography
Don’t know much trigonometry
Don’t know much about algebra
Don’t know what a slide rule is for

But I know that one and one is two
And if this one could be with you
What a wonderful world this would be

I don’t claim to be an ‘A’ student
But I’m trying to be
Maybe by being an ‘A’ student, baby
I can win your love for me

I don’t claim to be an ‘A’ student
But I’m trying to be
Maybe by being an ‘A’ student, baby
I can win your love for me

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about science books
Don’t know much about the French I took

But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me too
What a wonderful world this would be

What a wonderful world this would be
What a wonderful world this would be
What a wonderful world this would be
What a wonderful world this would be
What a wonderful world this would be

Written for March 17, 2019 Song Lyric Sunday where the prompt is School/Books/Learning.

18 thoughts on “Don’t Know Much

  1. You know, I’d never heard this one except by Herman’s Hermits! I had no idea it was even a cover of this great song, so thanks for the information. This song sure has gotten around in the movies, too. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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