Who Wrote the 1967 Lulu Classic “To Sir, With Love?”

When director James Clavell saw Scottish singer Lulu open up a show for The Beach Boys, he was so impressed by her performance that he expanded her small role in his upcoming film, To Sir, with Love, and asked her to sing the theme song.

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In the film, Sidney Poitier (1922-2022) stars as Mr. Mark Thackeray, a high school teacher who ends up impacting the lives of a disorderly group of students. Lulu plays one of his students, Barbara “Babs” Pegg, and sings “To Sir, with Love” to him at the end of the film to honor their teacher.

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Don Black

For the theme song, the music was arranged by Canadian composer Mark London, and British lyricist Don Black wrote the lyrics of “To Sir, with Love.”

Born Donald Blackstone in London on June 12, 1938, throughout his career Black helped pen numerous songs for film, television, and theater. Before making a living writing music, Black worked in advertising, as a journalist, and even tried out stand-up comedy.

Black got his first hit in 1964 with “Walk Away,” which he wrote for singer Matt Munro (dubbed the British Sinatra), who the writer also managed for a brief time. The song hit No. 4 on the charts and Black later won an Oscar for Best Song for the title song of 1966 film Born Free, which was performed by Monro.

Throughout his career, Black has worked with composers, including Quincy Jones, Henry Mancini, Elmer Bernstein, Marvin Hamlisch, Jule Styne, Debbie Wiseman, Maurice Jarre, A.R. Rahman, and Lalo Schifrin, along with songs for Michael Jackson (“Ben”) and Meat Loaf (“Is Nothing Sacred’).


A longtime collaborator with Andrew Lloyd Webber, Black helped pen the music to several of his musicals, including Tell Me on a Sunday and Sunset Boulevard, which earned him a Tony Award for Best Book, among a number of other credits in theater.

In 2013, Black began working with Webber again on Stephen Ward the Musical and later wrote the lyrics for Mrs. Henderson Presents in 2015.

At the age of 82, Black was also working on a musical version of The Third Man in 2020 along with reworking the show Feather Boy, which he originally wrote in 2006 for the National Theatre in London.

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The Big Screen and James Bond

Black wrote the music to three James bond films —Thunderball (1965), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), and The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)—along with longtime 007 composer John Barry (1933-2011).

“A great Bond song is a great tune, first, and a lyrical thrust, with a ‘come hither’ feeling,” said Black in 2022. “It should feel like a guilty pleasure. There is something about the Bond song which is different to any other song. It sticks with you. Whenever anyone writes about me they usually say ‘Don (Diamonds Are Forever) Black.'”

Black added that one of his favorite Bond songs is one he never wrote for the 1969 007 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which was performed by Louis Armstrong.

“One of my favorite songs from Bond is ‘We Have All the Time in the World,’” shared Black. “It’s so beautiful, and you wouldn’t think of that as a ‘Bond song.’ I love doing them.

Along with To Sir, With Love, Blacks’ other film score credits include: The Party (1968), The Italian Job (1969), True Grit (1969), and The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976). Black also picked up a Golden Globe award for the title song to the 1972 drama Ben, which was performed by Michael Jackson and became his first solo No. 1 hit.

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The Small Screen

In 2019, Black collaborated with composer David Arnold on the music for the television version of The Tiger Who Came to Tea, based on the 1968 children’s book written and illustrated by Judith Kerr.


From 2013 through 2020, Black also hosted a BBC radio show featuring classic songs and songwriters, while sharing stories from his years in the business.

Lulu’s No. 1

“To Sir, with Love” was a major chart hit for Lulu, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained there for five weeks and was the best-selling single of 1967.


In 2007, and 40 years after the release of “To Sir, with Love,” Black was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Black was honored again in October of 2013 with a special concert, A Life in Song—Lyrics By Don Black, at the Royal Festival Hall in London.

Now 84, Black still retains a strong songwriter’s work ethic.

“I remember when Paul McCartney was asked how he wrote ‘Yesterday’ and he said, ‘It was a good day at the office,’” said Black. “And that’s true. It is a business. You have got to produce by a deadline. You can be as brilliant as you like but if it’s not delivered, it’s not done.”

Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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