Nearly sixty years ago, fifteen-year-old singer Peggy March hit the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 with her second single, “I Will Follow Him.” It stayed in the top spot for three weeks. This song reached No. 1 in the US and Australia, Scandinavia, New Zealand, and Japan.
To this day, March still holds the record for being the youngest female singer to have a No. 1 hit all over the world.
Peggy March’s One-Hit Wonder
Peggy March’s “I Will Follow Him” was produced by Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore, aka Hugo & Luigi, a famous songwriting-producing duo who worked out of New York City’s famed Brill Building. Aside from this tune, they produced the hits “Twistin’ The Night Away,” and “Shout.” They also co-wrote Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love.” Imagine how thrilled Peggy March was to be teamed up with the duo, who were getting a lot of attention from the press at the time.
In a 2010 interview, March recalled her meeting with the producers: “I vividly remember walking into Hugo & Luigi’s office and seeing ‘I Will Follow Him’ on their desk. It was really as simple as, ‘This is your next recording,'” she said.
They went in and recorded it right away, and the song was out a month later. “There was a huge orchestra, at a studio on 23rd Street in New York, with timpani and strings,” March recalled. “Everyone at that time recorded together; we didn’t do separate tracks – except the male and female voices came in the next day. But everything else, including me in an isolation booth in the middle of the orchestra, recorded at the same time.”
Originally, the song we would come to know as “I Will Follow Him” was first recorded by Franck Pourcel as instrumental. Then English singer Petula Clark recorded a set of French lyrics, written by Jacques Plante, titled “Chariot.” It reached No. 1 in France in 1962.
The completely new English lyrics were written by Norman Gimbel, an American lyricist for many international hits, including “The Girl from Ipanema” and “I Will Wait for You,” among others.
“I will follow him, follow him wherever he may go. There isn’t an ocean too deep, a mountain so high it can keep, keep me away, away from my love,” the song goes.
Decades Later, People Are Still Singing “I Will Follow Him”
In 2016, Peggy March enjoyed a revival of “I Will Follow Him,” thanks to a commercial for the Apple iPhone 7 that featured Nigerian-born singer Toulouse, who re-recorded the song as “I Will Follow You,” a slowed-down, melancholy ballad.
March received a phone call from her daughter-in-law, asking, “Do you know they’re using your song?”
“She sent me a link to the commercial,” March told Billboard. “It’s so well done, and Toulouse did a great job. It’s very modern and very pretty. He didn’t bastardize it in any way, and why not have a different rendition?” The Toulouse single debuted at No. 2 on Billboard and Clio’s monthly Top TV Commercials chart and on two other Billboard charts.
But perhaps the most notable use of the song was in the 1992 comedy film Sister Act where “I Will Follow Him” was performed by Whoopi Goldberg and a group of nuns. March was busy touring at the time and didn’t know about the movie until a friend clued her in. “He told me I had to go see the film, Sister Act. I asked him why, and he said, ‘Just go!’ I loved what they did with the song. Any time there is a resurgence, it’s a good thing,” March said.
You can watch Peggy March’s performance of “I Will Follow Him” in the video below.