The Meaning Behind the 1977 Supertramp Hit “Give a Little Bit”

Forty years before the Amazon holiday commercial featuring shipping boxes singing the song, Supertramp’s “Give a Little Bit” already started on its long legacy as a song of unity through unsteady times.

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“The song is basically saying: just show you care,” said Supertramp singer and guitarist Roger Hodgson of the meaning. “Reach out and show you care.”

Meaning Behind the Song

Released on the band’s fifth album, Even in the Quietest Moments, in 1977, “Give a Little Bit” was a song about love and peace, and caring for one another.

“The song itself is such a pure, simple message that I think is really especially even more powerful today when the world has even more problems and it’s even more difficult sometimes to be compassionate and caring because we’ve got to put up all these barriers to survive,” said Hodgson in a 2012 interview. “That it’s a song that really inspires people to give a little bit, not give a lot, just give a little bit and see how it feels and show that you care, and I know for me, every time I play it in concert, there’s something about that song.”

Give a little bit
Oh, give a little bit of your love to me
I’ll give a little bit
I’ll give a little bit of my love to you
There’s so much that we need to share
So send a smile and show you care

I’ll give a little bit
I’ll give a little bit of my life for you
So give a little bit
Oh, give a little bit of your time to me
See the man with the lonely eyes
Oh, take his hand, you’ll be surprised

Love Is All You Need

Originally written in 1970 by Hodgson when he was 19 or 20, it would take him six years before he presented it to the band. Keyboardist Rick Davies is also credited on the track. 

“That time, the late ’60s, early ’70s, was a very idealistic time, one of hope, a lot of peace and love and the dream of the ’60s was still very alive and maturing,” said Hodgson. “The Beatles had put out ‘All You Need Is Love’ a year prior to that. I believed in love. It was always for love and just felt that was the most important thing in life.”

Covers and Commercials

Hodgson said that the song has taken on a life of its own from its use in charitable campaigns and covered by artists like the Goo Goo Dolls and commercials, including The Gap holiday commercial 2001, featuring artists Sheryl Crow, Liz Phair, Robbie Robertson, Shaggy, Dwight Yoakam and more singing along to the song.

Peaking at No. 15 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart, “Give a Little Bit” was also a favorite song of the late Princess Diana. Hodgson performed the song in a tribute to Diana in 2007 at Wembley Stadium, and also recorded the song on his 2010 album, Classics Live.

Ringo Starr included a live version of the song, performed with Hodgson on his Ringo Starr and Friends, recorded from the 2001 tour with his All-Starr Band.

Lasting Impression

Choosing to close his sets with the song, Hodgson said he hopes “Give a Little Bit” leaves everyone in a positive state.

“I look out and people just start smiling straight away and sometimes they hug each other and they start singing with me,” shared Hodgson. “It’s a very unifying song with a beautiful, simple message that I’m very proud of and really enjoy playing today.”

Give a little bit
Oh, give a little bit of your love to me
I’ll give a little bit
I’ll give a little bit of my life for you
Now’s the time that we need to share
So find yourself, we’re on our way back home

Photo by Gems/Redferns

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