World’s Worst Songs: Telly Savalas

Written by Music, World's Worst Songs


The best thing about writing World’s Worst Songs is when people disagree. I am under no illusions that my opinion in these matters is definitive, and I don’t mind being told when you think I’m wrong, or an ass. (I don’t even mind if you wish me injury or death, like the guy who said “go gargle razor blades, you imbecile.” which is my favorite reader comment in over nine years of writing online.)

Although I have been wrong before, I am pretty sure nobody is going to disagree with me on this one.

In 1971, the group Bread released “If,” the single loveliest thing in their catalog—the perfect meeting of singer, band, and song, it’s one of the essential hits of the 1970s. Such beauty was ripe for covering. All the crooners did it: Perry Como, Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra, Jack Jones, Tom Jones. There were jazz versions by Herbie Mann, George Shearing, and Johnny Hartman. Even the Supremes and Four Tops did it on a collaboration album.

In 1974, Telly Savalas was a major television star thanks to his role as the bald-headed detective on Kojak. History does not record precisely who first thought it would be a good idea for him to make an album, but it may have been producer Snuff Garrett, best known in the 70s for guiding Cher’s solo career. Savalas himself was perplexed, writing in the liner notes to his first album, “People know that singing is not my bag . . . . I can only make mistakes by pretending to be a great singer.”

Or by making an album in the first place.

Telly contained covers of several familiar songs, any of which might be worthy of inclusion amongst the World’s Worst Songs, such as “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and “Help Me Make it Through the Night.” And also “If,” which is indescribable.

[youtube id=”J94-_w9ARX0″ width=”600″ height=”350″]

I believe that video is the least sexy thing on the Internet right there.

Here’s the most amazing fact about the Savalas version of “If”—although it failed to chart in the United States, it was a #1 single in the UK, spending two weeks at the top in March 1975. That was enough to lead to a second album, which was not enough to lead to a third.

You’ll find them both filed next to Shatner.