Foreigner’s Mick Jones Looks Back on ‘I Want to Know What Love Is’
“I don’t know where it came from. I consider it a gift that was sent through me. I think there was something bigger than me behind it. I’d say it was probably written entirely by a higher force.”
So begins Mick Jones‘ story of how he wrote the No. 1 Foreigner smash ‘I Want to Know What Love Is,’ recently recounted for Classic Rock Magazine. But even if he doesn’t know exactly where it came from, Jones has plenty of memories about the way the song ultimately came together — including the day he shepherded 30 members of the New Jersey Mass Choir into the studio to record their backing vocals.
“We did a few takes, and it was good, but it was still a bit tentative,” recalled Jones. “So then they all got round in a circle, held hands and said The Lord’s Prayer. And it seemed to inspire them, because after that they did it in one take. I was in tears, because my mum and dad were in the studio too, and it was so emotional.” That emotion carried over to a special listening session held for Ahmet Ertegun, president of the band’s label at the time, Atlantic Records. “This is somebody who discovered Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin, so his opinion was quite important. So we sat there and listened, and after the first chorus I looked over in his direction and tears were rolling down his cheeks. I thought: ‘My God! I’ve done it!’ He was away with the music.”
Jones really had done it, at least as far as Top 40 radio programmers were concerned; released as a single from Foreigner’s ‘Agent Provocateur’ LP, it went on to become one of the band’s signature songs. “It was No.1 worldwide,” Jones said proudly. “I doubt there are many people who haven’t heard it. It was played on the radio all around the world. And I started getting letters from people who weren’t necessarily fans but had found comfort in that song at times of suffering and sadness. Everybody took their own meaning from it. And that’s all you can hope for as a writer.”