Song Story: Que Sera, Sera

This hit Doris Day song is a mystery in it’s origin.   At least to some point.

Doris DayDoris Day was scheduled for the Alfred Hitchcock film, The Man Who Knew Too Much in 1956.  Hitchcock wasn’t happy that Day was going to be in the picture.  He called songwriters, Ray Evans and Jay Livingston and asked them to write a song for Day, since she was a singer.  This was for a scene where she tucked her son into bed.  The songwriters recall Hitchcock said, “It should be a foreign title because Jimmy Stewart {who played Day’s husband} is a roving ambassador and he goes all over the world.”

Two years earlier, Jay Livingston had seen The Barefoot Contessa and remembered their fictional family motto “Che Sera Sera”.  He’d written it down for a song title and remembered this when working on the songs.  The men changed the song to a Spanish spelling, because more people spoke Spanish in the U.S.   The men used their limited knowledge of the Spanish language.  There is no history of this phrase in the Spanish, Italian or French languages.

Upon hearing the song, Doris Day did not want to record it.  She thought it sounded like a children’s song, but the studio pressured her to record it.  She recorded the song in one take and then announced, “That’s the last you’re going to hear of this song.”

Each verse of the song progresses in the life of a woman from childhood to young adulthood to parenthood.  She ask the question “What will be?” or “What lies ahead?” and repeats “what will be, will be” with each verse.        que sera sera

The song reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the UK Singles Chart.

The song was later used in the Day movies Please Don’t Eat the Daisies and The Glass Bottom Boat.  Day also used this as her theme song on her TV show, The Doris Day Show.

Livingston and Evans won an Oscar for the song in 1956.  You may remember some of their other works, the theme song to Mr. Ed and the Christmas classic, Silver Bells.

The song made #48 on the AFI’s 100 years…100 songs in 2004.

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