Jim Adams picked a versatile topic for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday. School/Books/Learning presents so many possible songs! I’m going with one that left me as awash in emotion today as it did over fifty years ago: “To Sir With Love.” The 1967 movie, based on the autobiographical novel by E. R. Braithwaite, tells the story of the impact a British Guiana immigrant has as a teacher in a tough London neighborhood school wrestling with social and racial issues. The film starred Sidney Poitier and introduced teenage Scottish singer Lulu, who sang the title song, making her an international star.
Lyricist Don Black, in response to the movie producer’s unusual request, wrote the lyrics before a composer was chosen. Coincidentally, Lulu’s manager was dating composer Mark London, who wrote the music within 30 minutes of receiving the lyrics. The title song was released as a single in 1967 and shot to the top of the charts.
To my knowledge, the three-verse song has never been recorded in its entirety. The first two verses were overdubbed on the movie’s opening credits and on the museum field trip scene. The third verse, sung by Lulu’s character, featured in the movie’s climactic school dance scene in which the students thanked Poitier’s character. The popular single was released with only the first and third verses. The sheet music is available with lyrics to all verses, but presented in the “logical” order of verse 1, 3, 2. Luckily, YouTube has one video with the three verses presented in the order they appeared in the movie. Here it is:
Those schoolgirl days
Of telling tales, and biting nails, are gone
But in my mind,
I know they will still live on and on
But how do you thank someone
Who has taken you from crayons to perfume?
It isn’t easy, but I’ll try
If you wanted the sky,
I would write across the sky in letters,
That would soar a thousand feet high:
“To Sir, With Love”
Those awkward years
Have hurried by. Why did they fly away?
Why is it, Sir,
Children grow up to be people one day?
What takes the place of climbing trees,
And dirty knees in the world outside?
What is there for you I can buy?
If you wanted the world,
I’d surround it with walls. I’d scrawl
In letters ten feet tall:
“To Sir, With Love”
The time has come
For closing books; and long last looks must end
And as I leave,
I know that I am leaving my best friend
A friend who taught me right from wrong,
And weak from strong — that’s a lot to learn
What — what can I give you in return?
If you wanted the moon,
I would try to make a start… But I
Would rather you let me give my heart
To Sir, With Love