The Stories Behind 7 Famous Songs about Smiling

Povareshka, iStock
Povareshka, iStock

World Smile Day (celebrated on the first Friday in October) was founded to honor Harvey Ball, the commercial artist who created the iconic yellow smiley face image in the 1960s. It's no wonder that the happy image took off—humans have evolved to be attracted to smiles. So it's also no wonder that we sing about their charms as well. Here are the stories behind seven smiley songs, from upbeat crooners to cheesy power ballads.


In 1975, "Sara Smile" was Hall & Oates's breakthrough single—their first to hit the Top 10—and its namesake influenced countless other songs by the duo. Daryl Hall's longtime girlfriend, Sara Allen (they were together for 30-some years), would later help pen many of their hits, like "You Make My Dreams," "Private Eyes," and "Maneater." But for this sweet ballad, Hall later said that it was a sincere appreciation about "the essence of a relationship … It's a heartfelt story. It's the real thing."


The easy swing of "A Wink and a Smile" may sound like an old jazz classic, but it was written specifically for the Sleepless in Seattle (1993) soundtrack by composer Marc Shaiman and lyricist Ramsey McLean. Shaiman and director Rob Reiner were big fans of Harry Connick, Jr.—he'd been scouted to do the entire soundtrack for When Harry Met Sally… four years prior; that album was hugely successful and won Connick his first Grammy—so when they needed a jazz pianist for a key song for Sleepless, they knew where to turn. "Wink" was nominated for Best Original Song at that year's Oscars but lost to Bruce Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia."


It's been speculated that this sunny song was written about his then-wife Carly Simon, but according to a 2009 biography on Taylor, the song was about their young daughter, Sally. Imagining the "pretty little pout" of a toddler turning a proud dad "inside out" might just push this saccharine song into unbearable cuteness territory.


Written by Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin for the 1977 Broadway musical Annie, "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile" opened the second act with an upbeat Depression-era radio song meant to cheer the downtrodden public. For the 2014 remake of the movie starring Quvenzhané Wallis, Sia released a cover for the soundtrack that upgraded some of the more dated fashion references (like replacing "Chanel, Gucci" for "Beau Brummell-y") and made it an empowerment anthem as opposed to a 1930s radio jingle.


"Here, Mick Jagger significantly tones down his approach to women," the tome The Rolling Stones: All the Songs declares. "There is no misogynistic double meaning." However, misogyny (or lack thereof) aside, it's still unclear who—if anyone—this ballad was about. In 1968, the year after "She Smiled Sweetly" was released, Jagger told Rolling Stone that their numerous songs centered on women were about "Different girls. They are all very unthoughtout songs." And though many, including music biographer Stephen Davis, pointed to Jagger's late-'60s relationship with singer Marianne Faithfull as being the muse for "the first real love lyric Mick wrote," Jagger later told NME that the song was meant to have religious connotations. "It was he smiled sweetly, but someone changed it," he said.


This American standard was written in 1928 by the trio of Shay, Fisher, and Goodwin and released that year by Seger Ellis, a jazz musician from Texas. Ellis's early recording included an intro verse ("I saw a blind man/he was a kind man/helping a fellow along // One could not see/one could not walk/but both were humming this song") that was cut from the popular subsequent versions by people like Dean Martin, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Frank Sinatra.


In the late '80s, a supergroup of Babys and Journey musicians teamed up behind lead singer John Waite to form Bad English, a band SPIN once called "music for the masses who like their rock 'n' roll lite." Waite and company (including longtime Journey guitarist Neal Schon) started putting together their eponymous first album, and according to Waite, the band was opposed to doing any outside songs. Their label had sent them a Diane Warren power ballad though, and Waite insisted on using it; "When I See You Smile" is one of only two songs on the album that Waite doesn't have a writing credit on. He recorded the vocals in two takes, and the song hit No. 1 for two weeks in November 1989.

Spotify Is Giving Premium Customers Free Hulu

It's hard to keep track of all the streaming services available today, but paying for two of them just got a lot easier. As The Verge reports, a free Hulu plan now comes with a Spotify Premium subscription.

Spotify Premium costs $10 a month, and it includes unlimited ad-free access to the 35 million-plus songs in the service's library, as well as the ability to save music and play it offline. Beginning today, March 12, you can bundle Spotify Premium with Hulu's basic ad-supported plan for $10 a month, which means if you were already paying for Spotify, you're basically getting Hulu for free. Without the deal, Hulu's cheapest plan normally costs $6 a month to stream unlimited shows and movies with ad breaks.

If you're already subscribed to Spotify Premium, you can add Hulu to the same bill from the Your Services page on Spotify. New members can sign up for both plans at once by visiting and entering their payment information. The promotion is not open to users on a Spotify Premium family account.

The special offer is only available until June 10, 2019, or "while supplies last," according to Spotify. After signing up, you can take your shiny new subscription for a spin with a binge-watching session. Here are some of the best shows and movies to stream.

[h/t The Verge]

This Colorful Art Poster Chronicles the History of the Beatles


As far as music history—or history in general—is concerned, The Beatles are one of the most influential musical groups ever assembled. The venerable English rock band may have had its heyday in the 1960s, but the impact John, Paul, George, and Ringo have had on generations of fans and musicians can't possibly be overstated. As music journalist Chuck Klosterman once wrote about the accuracy of rating bands, "The Beatles are generally seen as the single most important rock band of all time, because they wrote all the best songs. Since both of these facts are true, the Beatles are rated properly."

But simply appreciating the Fab Four's archive aurally doesn't do the band enough justice. Thankfully this poster from UK-based design shop Dorothy Studios has the visuals covered. With an appropriately diverse color palette, "The Colour of The Beatles—Special Edition" features 66 color-inspired references to many of the songs in the legendary group's discography, including "Here Comes the Sun" and "Blackbird."


However, the poster doesn't focus exclusively on The Beatles's songs; it also includes their albums (like The White Album), their favorite hangouts (like The Cavern Club and The Casbah Coffee Club), and even their Apple record label. And, of course, kaleidoscopic songs like "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Back in the U.S.S.R.," and "Norwegian Wood" are covered.

Phil Skegg, a designer at Dorothy, says the genesis of the poster came a few years ago when the team was looking at standard paint swatch colors, like Canary Yellow. "We thought it'd be great if they had a range named after songs like 'Yellow Submarine' or 'Sun King'," Skegg tells Mental Floss. "It then just developed from there, taking in songs, albums lyrics, and any other sources we could find."


The poster, which sells for about $38, is also just one of several Beatles-inspired posters from Dorothy; they also offer zoo-themed character portraits and this pair of "Liverpool Legends" road sign prints. And they say you can't buy me love.