Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)

This article is about the song. For the Italian song from 1971, see Che sarà. For other uses, see Que sera.
"Que Sera, Sera"
Song by Doris Day
English title Whatever Will Be, Will Be
Published 1956
Genre Popular music, schlager
Composer(s) Jay Livingston
Lyricist(s) Ray Evans
Language English

"Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)",[1] first published in 1956, is a popular song written by the Jay Livingston and Ray Evans songwriting team.[2] The song was introduced in the Alfred Hitchcock film The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956),[3] starring Doris Day and James Stewart in the lead roles.[2]

Day's recording of the song for Columbia Records (catalog number 40704) made it to number two on the Billboard Hot 100[4] and number one in the UK Singles Chart.[2] From 1968 to 1973, it was the theme song for the situation comedy The Doris Day Show, becoming her signature song. The three verses of the song progress through the life of the narrator—from childhood, through young adulthood and falling in love, to parenthood—and each asks "What will I be?" or "What lies ahead?" The chorus repeats the answer: "What will be, will be." It reached the Billboard magazine charts in July 1956. The song received the 1956 Academy Award for Best Original Song with the alternative title "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)".[3] It was the third Oscar in this category for Livingston and Evans, who previously won in 1948 and 1950.[2] In 2004 it finished at #48 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.

The title sequence of the Hitchcock film gives the song title as "Whatever Will Be". It was a #1 hit in Australia for pop singer Normie Rowe in September 1965.

Language in title and lyrics

The popularity of the song has led to curiosity about the origins of the saying and the identity of its language. Both the Spanish-like spelling used by Livingston and Evans and an Italian-like form ("che sarà sarà") are first documented in the 16th century as an English heraldic motto.[5] The "Spanish" form appears on a brass plaque in the Church of St. Nicholas, Thames Ditton, Surrey, dated 1559.[6] The "Italian" form was first adopted as a family motto by either John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford, or his son, Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford. It is said by some sources to have been adopted by the elder Russell after his experience at the Battle of Pavia (1525), and to be engraved on his tomb (1555 N.S.).[7][8] The 2nd Earl's adoption of the motto is commemorated in a manuscript dated 1582.[9] Their successors—Earls and, later, Dukes of Bedford ("Sixth Creation"), as well as other aristocratic families—continued to use the motto. Soon after its adoption as a heraldic motto, it appeared in Christopher Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus (written ca. 1590; published 1604), whose text[10] (Act 1, Scene 1) contains a line with the archaic Italian spelling "Che sera, sera / What will be, shall be".[11] Early in the 17th century the saying begins to appear in the speech and thoughts of fictional characters as a spontaneous expression of a fatalistic attitude, always in an English-speaking context.

The saying has no history in Spain, Italy, or France, and in fact is ungrammatical in all three of these Romance languages.[12] It is composed of Spanish or Italian words superimposed on English syntax. It was evidently formed by a word-for-word mistranslation of English "What will be will be", merging the free relative pronoun what (= "that which") with the interrogative what?[13]

Livingston and Evans had some knowledge of Spanish, and early in their career they worked together as musicians on cruise ships to the Caribbean and South America. Composer Jay Livingston had seen the 1954 Hollywood film The Barefoot Contessa, in which a fictional Italian family has the motto "Che sarà sarà" carved in stone at their ancestral mansion. He immediately wrote it down as a possible song title, and he and lyricist Ray Evans later gave it a Spanish spelling "because there are so many Spanish-speaking people in the world".[14][15][16]

In modern times, thanks to the popularity of the song and its many translations, the phrase has been adopted in countries around the world to name a variety of entities, including books, movies, restaurants, vacation rentals, airplanes, and race horses.[17]

Other uses of the song and phrase

The song is regularly sung at English football matches when a team is progressing to the next round of a competition that will ultimately lead them to Wembley Stadium.[18] The chorus's second line is changed to ‘Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be, we're going to Wembley, Que Sera, Sera’. For many years now, it has been very common for the fans to intentionally mispronouce the words as "Que seras seras" so that they sound like "kiss 'er arse", i.e. "kiss her arse" with a dropped "h". This is done for humoristic effect.

In 1956 "Que Sera, Sera" was the name given to a US Navy C-47 Skytrain[19] which, on October 31, 1956, was the first aircraft to land on the South Pole (Operation Deep Freeze II), commanded by Rear Admiral George Dufek.[20]

In 1994, the song was used in the Simpsons episode "Bart's Comet". It is sung by several characters as they wait for a comet to destroy Springfield, only to have it burn up and be no bigger than a Chihuahua's head.

The 2000 Hindi film Pukar has a song, "Kay Sera Sera", based on this.

The 2009 Said the Whale song "Goodnight Moon" directly references the song's second verse, with the lyrics "Oh que sera sera/ Whatever will be will be/ The future belongs to me/ And I belong to you".

In 2015, the song was used in an anti-smoking public service announcement for the New York State Department of Health.

The 2015 Canadian musical animated short Carface is also set to the song, as performed by a 1957 Chevy Bel Air cartoon character. [21]

Appears in the 2009 indie film "Mary and Max".

Normie Rowe

"Que Sera, Sera
(Whatever Will Be, Will Be)"
Single by Normie Rowe and the Playboys
B-side "Shakin' All Over"
Released 1965 (Australia)
Format 45 rpm 7"
Recorded Sunshine Records: 1965
Genre Pop
Label Sunshine Records Sunshine QK 1103 (Australia)
Writer(s) Ray Evans and Jay Livingston
Producer(s) Pat Aulton
Normie Rowe and the Playboys singles chronology
"I Confess"/ "Everything's Alright" "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)" "Tell Him I'm Not Home" / "Call On Me"

Australian pop singer Normie Rowe's 1965 recording of "Que Sera, Sera", which was produced by Pat Aulton on the Sunshine Record label (Sunshine QK 1103), was the biggest hit of his career, "the biggest Australian rock 'n roll hit of 1965",[22] and is reputed to be the biggest-selling Australian single of the 1960s.[23] The song was "done in the style of "Louie, Louie" and the manner of "Hang On Sloopy",[22] and given a "Merseybeat" treatment (in the manner of The Beatles' "Twist & Shout"), and was backed by Rowe's band The Playboys. It was paired with a powerful version of the Johnny Kidd & The Pirates' classic "Shakin' All Over", and the single became a double-sided No. 1 hit in most capitals (#1 Sydney, #1 Melbourne, #1 Brisbane, #1 Adelaide, and Perth).[24][25] in September 1965, charting for 28 weeks and selling in unprecedented numbers, with Rock historian Ian McFarlane reporting sales of 80,000 copies,[23][26] while 1970s encyclopedist Noel McGrath claimed sales of 100,000.[27] Rowe scored another first in October 1965 when "Que Sera Sera" became his third hit single in the Melbourne Top 40 simultaneously. In 1965 Rowe received a gold record for "Que Sera, Sera" at Sydney's prestigious Chevron Hotel.[28] In December 1965 the master of Rowe's version was purchased by Jay-Gee Records for release in the USA.[29] In April 1966 Rowe received a second gold record for the sales of "Que Sera, Sera".[30] In August 1966 Rowe won Radio 5KA's annual best male vocal award for "Que Sera, Sera".[31] In 2006 Rowe released a newly recorded version, which was released by ABC via iTunes, and later adding "the whole digital mix with a radio mix and a dance mix".[32]

Other versions

Other versions of "Que Sera, Sera" include:[25]

English-language versions

Non-English versions



  1. Front cover of Livingston & Evans sheet music.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Roberts (2006:135)
  3. 1 2 Leigh (2001)
  4. Whitburn (1987)
  5. The Italian-like and Spanish-like forms are preceded in history by a unique, French-like form, spelled "quy serra serra", which appears as a marginal gloss to—and contemporary with—a poem written shortly after the 1471 Battle of Barnet. Rare instances of the French-like spelling "qui sera sera" continue to appear up to the present (Hartman 2013: 67-68).
  6. Hartman (2013:69)
  7. Foster (1884:69)
  8. Einstein (1902:98)
  9. Hartman (2013:70–71)
  10. The tragical history of dr. Faustus, Full books.
  11. http://en.wiktionary.org/w/index.php?title=Special%3ASearch&profile=default&search=che+sar%C3%A0%2C+sar%C3%A0&fulltext=Search&searchengineselect=mediawiki
  12. Hartman (2013:51-52)
  13. Hartman (2013:56-59)
  14. "Anecdotes" (n.d.)
  15. Pomerance (2001)
  16. Pomerance says "Written one night after they saw The Barefoot Contessa, in which [the character played by] Rossano Brazzi says near the end, 'Che sera sera' [sic]. Livingston jotted down the words in the dark and they 'knocked off the song' afterwards. Two weeks later the call from Hitchcock came through. [Conversation with Livingston, September 18, 1995.]"
  17. Hartman (2013:79–80)
  18. You tube, Google.
  19. "Aviation History Facts". US Centennial of Flight..
  20. Gunston (2001:98)
  21. Amidi, Amid (13 October 2015). "'Now I Hate to Draw Cars:' An Interview with 'Carface' Director Claude Cloutier". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  22. 1 2 Eder, Bruce, Normie Rowe, VH1.
  23. 1 2 O'Donnell, Creswell & Madieson (2010:228)
  24. Feature Item, AU: Pop archives.
  25. 1 2 Normie Rowe & the playboys: Que Sera Sera, AU: Pop archives.
  26. McFarlane (1999)
  27. McGrath (1978)
  28. Griffen-Foley (2010:266)
  29. "Jay-Gee Acquires" (1965)
  30. Hilder (1966:266)
  31. "Thorpe Gets Aussie Award" (1966)
  32. Cashmere, Paul (16 November 2006), Normie Rowe Records New Don Walker Song, Undercover, retrieved 8 August 2012.
  33. Billboard, p. 38, 29 June 1963 Missing or empty |title= (help).
  34. "Hot 100", Billboard, p. 20, 14 September 1963.
  35. Billboard, p. 30, 9 May 1964 Missing or empty |title= (help).
  36. Billboard, p. 59, 15 May 1965 Missing or empty |title= (help).
  37. Billboard, p. 35, 30 January 1965 Missing or empty |title= (help).
  38. Billboard, p. 54, 2 April 1966 Missing or empty |title= (help).
  39. Billboard, p. 42, 29 October 1966 Missing or empty |title= (help).
  40. Billboard, p. 16, 11 June 1966 Missing or empty |title= (help).
  41. Billboard, pp. 62, 71, 27 June 1970 Missing or empty |title= (help).
  42. Billboard, p. 76, 23 June 1973 Missing or empty |title= (help).
  43. Billboard, p. 69, 8 July 1978 Missing or empty |title= (help).
  44. Don't Smoke in Bed.
  45. See <http://houbi.com/belpop/groepen/leemans.htm>
  46. Lumière et Vie (36–40): 136, 1958 Missing or empty |title= (help).
  47. Cash, David ‘Dave’; Boland, Didier, Que sera, sera (in Yiddish), You tube.
  48. Video on YouTube


  • "Anecdotes: Ray Evans (1915–2007)", Art Daily (online), n.d. 
  • Einstein, Lewis (1902), The Italian Renaissance in England, New York: Burt Franklin 
  • Foster, J. J. (1884), "The Founder of the Russell Family", The Antiquary, 10: 69–71 
  • Griffen-Foley, Bridget (2010), Changing Stations: The Story of Australian Commercial Radio, Sydney: UNSW Press 
  • Gunston, Bill, ed. (2001), Aviation Year by Year, London: Dorling Kindersley 
  • Hartman, Lee (2013), "Que Sera Sera: The English Roots of a Pseudo-Spanish Proverb" (PDF), Proverbium, 30: 51–104 
  • Hilder, George (9 April 1966), "Sydney", Billboard: 52 
  • "Hot 100", Billboard: 20, 14 September 1963 
  • "Jay-Gee Acquires", Billboard: 4, 11 December 1965 
  • Leigh, Spencer (19 October 2001), "Obituary: Jay Livingston", The Independent 
  • McFarlane, Ian (1999), Encyclopedia of Australian Rock & Pop, Sydney: Allen & Unwin 
  • McGrath, Noel (1978), Australian Encyclopedia of Rock, Coolah, NSW: Outback Press 
  • O'Donnell, John; Creswell, Toby; Mathieson, Craig (2010), The 100 Best Australian Albums, Richmond, Victoria (Australia): Hardie Grant 
  • Pomerance, Murray (2001), "The Future's Not Ours To See: Song, Singer, Labyrinth in Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much", in Wojcik, Pamela Robertson; Knight, Arthur, Soundtrack Available: Essays on Film and Popular Music, Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, pp. 53–73 
  • Roberts, David (2006), British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.), London: Guinness World Records, ISBN 1-904994-10-5 
  • "Thorpe Gets Aussie Award", Billboard: 66, 13 August 1966 
  • Whitburn, Joel (1987), The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits (3rd ed.), New York: Billboard Publications, ISBN 0-8230-7520-6 

External links

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