Sharon Myers adopted the name Jackie DeShannon, believed to be the name of an Irish ancestor. Executives at Liberty Records thought the name Sharon Myers would not help sell records. (She once reported that record executives added "Shannon" to "Jackie Dee," one of the names under which she recorded, to create her name.
DeShannon was born the daughter of musically inclined farming parents, Sandra Jean and James Erwin Myers, DeShannon was introduced to singing country tunes on a local radio show at the age of six. By the age of eleven, DeShannon was already hosting her own radio program. When life on the farm became too difficult, the family moved to Aurora, Illinois, her mother's home town, and her father resumed his other career as a barber. After a year, they moved up the Fox
River to Batavia, Illinois, where Sharon attended high school.
Recording under various names such as Sherry Lee, Jackie Dee, and Jackie Shannon, she had little success. However, her interpretations of country songs "Buddy" and "Trouble" gained the attention of Eddie Cochran who arranged for her to travel to California and meet singer-songwriter Sharon Sheeley, who formed a writing partnership with DeShannon in 1960. The partnership produced hits such as "Dum Dum" for Brenda Lee and "I Love Anastasia" for The Fleetwoods. The latter was named after one of her good friends in high school.
In 1960, DeShannon signed with Liberty Records. She made the WLS Chicago survey with "Lonely Girl" in late 1960. A string of mostly flop singles followed, although "The Prince" bubbled under at #108 in the United States in early 1962, and "Faded Love" became her first U.S. Billboard top 100 hit, just squeaking in at #97 in February, 1963.
She broke through a little more solidly singing "Needles and Pins" and "When You Walk in the Room" later in 1963. Both reached the lower rungs of the U.S. pop charts, but were substantial top 40 hits in Canada, where "Needles and Pins" made it all the way to #1. "Needles and Pins" and "When You Walk in the Room" later became U.S. and UK hits for The Searchers.
DeShannon recorded many other singles that encompassed teen pop, country ballads, rockabilly, gospel, and Ray Charles-style soul that didn't fare as well on the charts. During these years it was her songwriting and public profile rather than her recording career that kept her contracted to Liberty Records. DeShannon dated Elvis Presley and formed friendships with The Everly Brothers and Ricky Nelson. She also co-starred and sang with Bobby Vinton in the teen surf movie Surf Party.
DeShannon's biggest break came in February 1964, when she supported The Beatles on their first U.S. tour, and formed a touring band with guitarist Ry Cooder. DeShannon also wrote "Don't Doubt Yourself Babe" for debut album by The Byrds. Her music at this stage was heavily influenced by the American West Coast sounds and folk music. Staying briefly in England in 1965, DeShannon formed a songwriting partnership with Jimmy Page, which resulted in the hit singles "Dream Boy" and "Don't Turn Your Back On Me". Page and DeShannon also wrote material for singer Marianne Faithfull, including her Top Ten UK and U.S. hit "Come and Stay With Me". DeShannon also appeared on the television show Ready Steady Go!
Moving to New York, DeShannon co-wrote with Randy Newman, producing such songs as "She Don't Understand Him" and "Did He Call Today Mama?", as well as writing "You Have No Choice" for Delaney Bramlett. In March 1965, DeShannon recorded Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "What the World Needs Now Is Love," which provided her first Number 1 hit and regular appearances on television shows and club tours. (DeShannon's recording of the song was subsequently used in the 1969 film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.)
She appeared in the 1967 film C'mon Let's Live a Little, with Bobby Vee, as a folk singer. DeShannon continued writing and recording but it was not until 1969 that she scored her next biggest smash single and album, both entitled "Put a Little Love in Your Heart". The single "Love Will Find A Way" from the same album was also a moderate hit. Switching to Atlantic Records in 1970 and moving to Los Angeles, DeShannon recorded the critically acclaimed albums Jackie and Your Baby Is A Lady, but they failed to produce the same commercial success as previous releases. In 1973, she was invited by Van Morrison to sing on his Hard Nose the Highway album.
"Put A Little Love In Your Heart" was performed as the closing number at the Music for UNICEF Concert, broadcast worldwide from the United Nations General Assembly in 1979.