Battle of the Bands – To Sir, With Love


It’s time for another Battle of the Bands and today I’m featuring a well-loved classic from the 60s.

“To Sir With Love” is the theme from James Clavell’s 1967 film To Sir, with Love. The film, one of my favorites, is a 1967 Technicolor British drama film that deals with social and racial issues in an inner-city school. It stars Sidney Poitier and features Christian Roberts, Judy Geeson, Suzy Kendall and singer Lulu making her film debut. James Clavell directed from his own screenplay, which was based on E. R. Braithwaite’s semi-autobiographical 1959 novel To Sir, With Love.


The song, performed by Lulu (Lulu Kennedy-Cairns, best known by her stage name Lulu, a Scottish singer, actress, and television personality who has been successful in the entertainment business since the 1960s and renowned for her powerful singing voice), was written by Don Black and Mark London (husband of Lulu’s longtime manager Marion Massey).

“To Sir With Love” was initially recorded by Lulu (with The Mindbenders, who also acted in the film). It was released as a single in the United States in 1967 and in October reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it remained for five weeks. The single ranked No. 1 in Billboard’s year-end chart. Canada’s RPM Magazine put the song at No. 2 for the year 1967. “To Sir with Love” has the distinction of being the only record by a British artist to reach No. 1 on the US charts while not charting in the UK, where it appeared only as a B-side to “Let’s Pretend.”

Here is Lulu’s version but it’s not a contender in this battle. It is presented here for your enjoyment only.


Now for today’s battle, here are the two contenders. Give a listen to each and vote on which one you like better. Let me know why you voted the way you did and I’ll post the results in 6 days!


CONTENDER #1:  10,000 Maniacs (Natalie Merchant) featuring Michael Stipe (R.E.M.)

This version is the performance at the MTV inaugural ball for Bill Clinton in 1993:


If that video isn’t available in your country, please check this one out:


CONTENDER #2:  Tina Arena

Australian singer Tina Arena released her version of the song as the first single from her 2007 album Songs of Love & Loss.


If that video isn’t available in your country, please check out this one:


Thanks Debbie for the alternative videos! Much appreciated.


TIME TO VOTE! Which version do you like better and why? And when you’re done voting, please visit these other BOTB participants and check out their cool battles:


33 thoughts on “Battle of the Bands – To Sir, With Love

  1. Hi, Michele! “To Sir with Love” is a favourite movie and so is the song. ♥ Unfortunately, neither video you selected for the battle is available in Canada. 😦 I did find alternates, so please tell me whether or not they are acceptable:

    Based on the alternate videos, my vote goes to Natalie and the Maniacs. Much better vocals, IMO.
    Thanks and have a good week!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, Michele!

    The movie To Sir With Love made a big impression on me in the 60s and remains one of my favorites. The theme song recorded by Lulu was such a hit and played so frequently on top 40 radio that I eventually got tired of hearing it. It was refreshing to listen to the two versions presented in your battle this morning. As a former producer I am a sucker for the studio and almost always prefer studio recorded sound to live performances. That is also the case here. While I enjoyed the blending of Natalie and Michael’s vocals there at the end, it seemed odd for “To Sir With Love” to be performed as a male-female duet. My ears definitely got behind the studio sound of Aussie Tina Arena’s version. She has a sweet, clear voice similar to Lulu’s and I appreciated the imaginative arrangement laced with echo and synth. Tina’s version of “TSWL” might not top Lulu’s original but it is a classic in its own right and one that I wouldn’t mind adding to my personal collection. I vote for Tina in this one, and thank you for introducing it.

    I hope you mom is doing AOK. Have a wonderful week ahead, dear friend Michele!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Shady. Thanks for your vote for Tina! I’m glad that you like the song and the movie. Such classics!
      Thanks for asking about my Mom. She’s doing good! Thank God. Really appreciate your continued thoughts for her.
      Have an awesome Sunday!


  3. How do you thank someone that has taken you from crayons to perfume? These lyrics have befuddled me ever since I heard this song as a young girl. What is the meaning behind the lyrics? Is it an innocent schoolgirl crush that she has on her instructor, or was there something more sordid taking place?

    My vote goes to Tina. I found her easier to listen to, and her solo work was reminiscent of Lulu’s.

    Great battle, Michele!

    Jingle Jangle Jungle

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Mary. Thanks for your vote for Tina.
      Interesting how people can have such different interpretations of lyrics. I’ve always thought the line about going from crayons to perfume was just a nod to her instructor for helping her to grow up, to go from being a kid to being more mature. That’s always been my take on it anyway…
      Thanks for the other interpretation: food for thought!

      Have a great Sunday!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is one of those songs that oddly pops into my head now and then. Maybe it’s because I was in high school at the time it came out and it used to get a lot of airplay back when I was listening to top forty radio.

    Both versions you’ve presented are outstanding–better than the original in my opinion.

    I like the Tina Arena arrangement a lot–such a cool driving beat to it. I’m a big Natalie Merchant fan so that version is a good one for me, though maybe I could have done without the contribution of Michael Stipe. The saxophone interlude is very neat.

    In the end I’m going to pick Natalie Merchant for overall effect.

    Nice battle.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Lee. Glad you like my battle. To Sir With Love has always been a favorite of mine, both song and film, and it was fun to present these cover versions.
      I’ve got you down for Natalie Merchant on this one. Thanks for your vote.
      Have an awesome Sunday!


  5. I remember the song and the movie too. At first I didn’t think I was going to like Natalie Merchant’s version, and I agree with Thomas about it being a bit strange to have a male singing the song, however, the added sax got me. I was listening for Lulu in Tina’s version and didn’t find her. I vote for Natalie. Great battle!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Janet. Glad that Natalie surprised you. The sax always gets me too…in any song! 🙂

      Thanks for your vote! Hope you’re having a great week…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. HiHelloHowdy, MICHELE ~
    I hope all is going well with you!

    I have seen this movie, and ‘To Sir, With Love’ is a song I have always liked. Good battle!

    This is the first time I’ve ever heard (or even heard OF) Tina, and it seems like she has a pretty good voice. I think if she had approached this song in a softer way — more like the original ballad without some of those slightly harder, edgier “Rock” elements — I would have voted for her.

    But as it is, I’m gonna vote for 10,000 MANIACS as it seemed warmer, more introspective with that little tinge of melancholia.

    Question: Are 10,000 Maniacs anything like 40,000 Headmen?,000_Headmen

    Have a nice week, Michele!

    ~ D-FensDogG
    Check out my new blog @
    (Link:] Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hmm, never heard of 40,000 Headmen. Just checked out the Traffic version and I really like it. I like almost anything by Traffic though…

      Thanks for your vote for 10,000 Maniacs. I always liked the name of that band!

      Have a great week Stephen!


  7. Both versions are excellent, but nowhere near as good as Lulu’s. I’ll just say that upfront.

    Now…both Natalie Merchant and Tina Arena did a wonderful job with the song. I would have preferred to hear Natalie sing the song without Michael Stipe, and I didn’t like Tina’s instrumental backing. I’m going with Natalie and 10000 Maniacs. They got the song righter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “righter”?? Love that! Yeah, I’m definitely going to be adding that word to my vocabulary. It works!

      Thanks for stopping by and voting. I’ve got you down for Natalie and 10,000 Maniacs. Have a great week John…


    • Yes Jemima, I love Lulu’s version. Hard to beat. Too bad she’s not in the running or I’m sure she’d win this battle hands down. Thanks for coming by…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Michele, Good battle. Natalie reminds me a bit of Lulu style and soft voice, but her vocals aren’t quite as smooth as hers. Tina, on-the-other-hand had stronger vocals and her style was a bit different making her cover more interesting. Her voice wasn’t quite as soft as Natalie or Lulu, I liked her better earning my vote. So, give another one to Tina Arena!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I didn’t care for 10,000 Maniacs and the voice was not as strong as I like it to be for this song. Tina’s styling and strength of voice appealed to me more so she gets my vote. I love the movie but Sydney Poitier should never dance again:) Oh, the second versions of both songs worked for me not the first ones.

    Liked by 1 person

    • re: Sydney Poitier never dancing again: LOL!

      Thanks for your vote. I’ll put you down for Tina Arena…
      Have a good week!


  10. One of my favorite memories from the 60’s….To Sir With Love. The song! Although I prefer LULU over the others I am going to vote for Natalie as she did it much better in my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Paula,
      Thanks for coming by to vote. Another one for Natalie Merchant. She’s faring well in this battle so far…

      Hope you’re having a good week!


  11. Hi Angel,
    Do I remember this movie? Yes! Did I love it? Yes! And I loved Lulu’s voice. So now to the versions you offered. I looked at the alternative versions because the original ones you posted were not available to me. I like the version from 10000 Maniacs with Natalie Merchant but it is missing the pffff. I found it boring. The version from Tina Arena is fantastic. I like the small bit of country twinge she adds to the song and of course her strong voice. My vote goes to Tina Arena.
    Shalom aleichem,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Pat! I too so love that movie. I need to try to Netflix it. I haven’t seen it in AGES! It’s such a classic.
      Thanks so much for your vote for Tina. Glad you like her!

      Happy Wednesday! Hope it’s going great for you…


  12. Hi Michele – I love this movie and remeber watching it for school. Love this song and my vote has to go to my fellow Aussie Tina as I’m a big fan anyway. I think she nails the style and her voice is perfect for this song with it’s unrequited love.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your vote Pamela. I’ll have to check out more of Tina Arena’s works. This is the first I’ve heard of her. I do love her voice…


  13. Natalie Merchant has been one of my favorite singers for a long time. I saw her in concert over a decade ago (time flies!). I was impressed with the huge voice that emerged from a tiny person. I think she could’ve done this one better without Michael (who I also really like). Can you tell she gets my vote here?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Robin. Thanks for your vote for Natalie. And now on to tally…
      This is a close race. Results to come shortly…
      Enjoy your Sunday!


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