"Let's Live for Today" is a song written by David Shapiro, Ivan Mogul, and Michael Julien, and initially recorded by the English band The Rokes in 1966. The song was later popularized by the American rock band The Grass Roots, who released it as a single on May 13, 1967. The Grass Roots' version climbed to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, eventually selling over two million copies and being awarded a gold disc. The song was also included, as the title track, on The Grass Roots' second album, Let's Live for Today. Since its initial release, The Grass Roots' rendition of the song has become a staple of Oldies radio programming in America and is today widely regarded as a 1960s classic.
The song that would become "Let's Live for Today" was originally written by David Shapiro and Ivan Mogul in 1966, with Italian lyrics and the Italian title of "Piangi Con Me" (translated as "Cry with Me"). At the time, Shapiro was a member of the Rokes, an English beat group who had relocated to Italy in 1963 and had signed a recording contract with RCA Italiana the following year. During the mid-1960s, the Rokes became a popular band on the Italian charts, achieving a number of Top 20 hits with Italian-language covers of popular British and American songs. By 1966, however, the band had begun to write their own material, including "Piangi Con Me", which quickly became their biggest hit to date in Italy.
Following its success on the Italian charts, plans were made to release "Piangi Con Me" in the United Kingdom and as a result, the song was translated into English and given the new title of "Passing Thru Grey". However, the song's publisher in Britain, Dick James Music, was unhappy with the lyrics of "Passing Thru Grey" and decided that they should be changed. Michael Julien, a member of the publisher's writing staff, was assigned the task of composing new words for the song and it was his input that transformed it into "Let's Live for Today". Before the Rokes could release the song in the UK, however, another British group named The Living Daylights released a version of it. Ultimately, neither The Living Daylights nor the Rokes would reach the charts with their recording of the song.
In the United States, the Rokes version of "Let's Live for Today" found its way to the head of Dunhill Records, who felt that the song would make a suitable single release for The Grass Roots. The composer/producer team of P. F. Sloan and Steve Barri, who managed The Grass Roots' recordings, were also enthusiastic about the song, with Sloan being particularly enamored with the similarities that the song's chorus had to The Drifters' "I Count the Tears". "Let's Live for Today" was recorded by The Grass Roots, with the help of a number of studio musicians, including Sloan on lead guitar, and was released as a single in May 1967. The lead vocal on The Grass Roots' recording was sung by the band'sbassist Rob Grill and the distinctive "1-2-3-4" count-in before the chorus was sung by guitarist Warren Entner. The single version shortened the repeat of the final chorus, while the album version of the song extended the repeated ending of 12 seconds before the final fade.
The song quickly became popular with the record buying public, selling over two million copies in the U.S. and finally peaking at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 during June 1967. As well as being popular with domestic American audiences, "Let's Live for Today" also found favor with young American men serving overseas in the Vietnam War, as Bruce Eder of the Allmusic website has noted: "Where the single really struck a resonant chord was among men serving in Vietnam; the song's serious emotional content seemed to overlay perfectly with the sense of uncertainty afflicting most of those in combat; parts of the lyric could have echoed sentiments in any number of letters home, words said on last dates, and thoughts directed to deeply missed wives and girlfriends." Eder also described "Let's Live for Today" by The Grass Roots as "one of the most powerful songs and records to come out of the 1960s."
In addition to its appearance on The Grass Roots' Let's Live for Today album, the song also appears on several of the band's compilations, including Golden Grass, Their 16 Greatest Hits, Anthology: 1965–1975, and All Time Greatest Hits.
Along with the Rokes, The Living Daylights, and The Grass Roots, the song has also been recorded by a number of other bands, including Tempest, The Lords of the New Church, The Slickee Boys, The dB's, and Dreamhouse. The Grass Roots' recording of the song appears in the 1997 film Wild America and on the accompanying soundtrack album.