Wives and Lovers

Words by Hal David; music by Burt Bacharach, 1963

What were the expected roles in this family? What are the husband and wife each responsible for?

What advice is the songwriter offering in the second verse? What problem(s) do you think the song was meant to solve or prevent? How good is this advice?

Would you guess that the songwriters are male or female? Why? What would you ask them if you could?

What would happen if the wife decided to get a job? What might make her take that step? How would her husband respond? What adjustments might they have to make?

How accurately did this song describe families in the early 1960s? What kind of house or neighborhood do you think the wife and husband in the song would live in? Where? What old TV shows does this song remind you of? What were some of the first TV shows with women working outside the home?

What stories have you heard from your family about women working outside the home?

"Wives and Lovers" performed by Jack Jones on Jack Jones: Greatest Hit. UMG Recordings, © 1995. Available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.


Jack Jones received a Grammy award for this recording of "Wives and Lovers." One of the dominant male pop singers of the 1950s and 1960s (along with Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Mel Torme), Jack Jones continues to entertain in concert performances, recordings, and Broadway musicals.

For more information on Jack Jones, visit his official website.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. For the lyrics please consult this online source:


Burt Bacharach was born in 1928 in Kansas City. He studied music and, after serving in the Army, toured as a concert pianist and accompanied several popular entertainers. He began writing arrangements and composing songs in the mid-1950s. Hal David was born in 1921 in Brooklyn, New York, where he studied journalism. Bacharach and David began collaborating in the late 1950s. They produced several film scores, a Broadway musical, and numerous popular songs, many of which were sung by Dionne Warwick. Bacharach admits he "never was a social writer, like Dylan. We were writing story songs about the 'heart of the nation.' In a sense we were reflecting the times."

Wives and lovers movie poster
Poster for the film Wives and Lovers.

The song "Wives and Lovers" was a “promotional” song for the movie by the same name (Paramount, 1963). Such songs were written to popularize movie titles, much like a commercial, to entice people to see the movie. Characterizing it as a “song for hire,” Bacharach was disappointed it wasn’t used in the film, making it ineligible for an Academy Award. Bacharach describes the song as a "perfect illustration of social life in the '60s, at least an aspect of it." "Wives and Lovers" won a Grammy when it was released in 1963.

Explore back issues of home magazines from the early 1960s to find out whether this song's message was typical advice for wives during this time period.

Compose a response to the song as if written by a woman just learning about the "Women's Liberation" movement of the late 1960s.

Improvise a scene of the husband coming home and instead of "running to his arms," his wife greets him with news that she got a job.

Compare this song to:

"Little Boxes"


"I Am Woman"



Creative Commons License
Voices Across Time is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at voices.pitt.edu/Permissions.html.