These days, many chart songs are written by committee
meaning that they’re created by and credited to four, five or even more names
which can include not just artist and band members but also maybe somebody else!
Back in the late 50’s, 60’s & 70’s, countless hits came from musical
partnerships such as Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, John Lennon & Paul McCartney,
Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, Burt Bacharach & Hal David, Gerry Goffin & Carole King
and Jeff Barry & Ellie Greenwich, yet there were endless supplies of unforgettable songs
by solo writers among whom were Jimmy Webb, Randy Newman, Laura Nyro, Neil
Diamond, Boz Scaggs, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Neil Young and of course,
Digging even further back, two of the landmark writers of what we now
refer to as the Great American Songbook were indeed solo composers namely
Irving Berlin and Cole Porter.
The following is a random selection of vintage hit songs
single-handedly written and performed by sixteen artists.
by Gerry Rafferty
Pro: Hugh Murphy & Gerry Rafferty
(United Artists: 1978)
Along with fellow Scotsman Joe Egan, Gerry had earlier been a member of Stealers Wheel
who scored a transatlantic hit in ’73 with “Stuck In The Middle With You”. The very successful BAKER STREET came from Gerry’s first solo album “City To City” and the track’s haunting sax
was played by Raphael Ravenscroft.
JUST THE WAY YOU ARE
by Billy Joel
Pro: Phil Ramone
“Piano Man” was Billy’s very first chart record but JUST THE WAY YOU ARE
took him into Billboard’s Top Ten for the first time;
it landed there at #3 in February ’78.
by Randy Newman
Pro: Lenny Waronker & Russ Titelman
(Warner Bros: 1977)
Reaching #2 on the Hot 100 in late January ’78, Randy’s sardonic novelty song
came from his hit album “Little Criminals”.
ADDICTED TO LOVE
by Robert Palmer
Pro: Robert Palmer
Edited by Robert Palmer & Lee Hamblin from Robert’s “Riptide” album.
Yorkshire-born blue-eyed soul singer Robert Palmer had earlier been lead singer
of supergroup The Power Station.
by Aretha Franklin
Pro: Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd & Arif Mardin (Atlantic: 1971)
Many of Aretha’s best-sellers were by other writers such as “Respect” by Otis Redding,
“Chain Of Fools” by Don Covay & “Spanish Harlem” by Jerry Leiber & Phil Spector but
she also found success with songs she wrote with her husband Ted White such as “Think”
and “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone”. Her solo compositions included this
cool slab of soulful funkology which virtually demands that you get up and dance!
POLK SALAD ANNIE
(Tony Joe White)
by Tony Joe White
Pro: Billy Swan
Arr: Bergen White
Swamp rock pioneer Tony Joe gained a Top 10 place with this song
which opens with his own narrative. Tony Joe’s successes by other artists
included “Willie And Laura Mae Jones” by Dusty Springfield
and “Rainy Night In Georgia” by Brook Benton.
IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND
by Gordon Lightfoot
Pro: Lenny Waronker & Joe Wissert
Strings Arr: Mick DeCaro
This was Canadian folk singer/guitarist
Gordon Lightfoot’s breakthrough U.S. hit.
LITTLE RED CORVETTE
Pro & Arr: Prince
(Warner Bros: 1983)
Prince’s funk-filled sexually-driven auto-themed classic.
THE GLAMOROUS LIFE
by Sheila E.
Dir: Sheila E. & The Starr Company
(Warner Bros: 1984)
Following on from LITTLE RED CORVETTE, I’ve chosen this Top Ten pop success by the R&B singer and incredible versatile percussionist Sheila E. who was a close friend of Prince’s, with whom she also recorded and wrote songs.
YOU SEND ME
by Sam Cooke
Pro: Bumps Blackwell
Arr: Rene Hall
Topping the Hot 100 in late ’57, this was Sam Cooke’s first secular success following his time as a member of gospel group The Soul Stirrers. Sam wrote the blissfully serene song though it was originally credited to his brother.
by Lionel Richie
Pro: Lionel Richie & James Anthony Carmichael (Motown: 1982)
This marked Lionel’s second #1 hit following his equally successful duet with Diana Ross, “Endless Love”. He was of course no stranger to chart hits from his stint as member of The Commodores, the band remembered for such 45’s as Lionel’s ballads “Three Times A Lady” and “Still”.
JACK AND DIANE
(John Cougar Mellencamp)
by John Cougar
Pro: John Cougar Mellencamp
Supposedly this was lyrically based on Tennessee Williams’ “Sweet Bird Of Youth”.
It topped the charts here in October ’82.
KEEP SEARCHIN’ (We’ll Follow The Sun)
by Del Shannon
Pro: Harry Balk/An Embee Prod.
Del co-wrote his debut smash “Runaway” with his musitron player Max Crook
but the equally powerful Top Ten rocker KEEP SEARCHIN’ was totally his own
composition; it again featured an organ break plus Del’s trademark falsetto.
LOVING HER WAS EASIER (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)
by Kris Kristofferson
Pro: Fred Foster
Although associated with outlaw country, Kris wrote a group of unforgettable
love songs namely “Help Me Make It Through The Night” and this ballad which
he introduced on his album “The Silver Tongued Devil And I”.
He later re-recorded LOVING HER WAS EASIER as a duet
with his second wife, Rita Coolidge.
DANCING IN THE DARK
by Bruce Springsteen
DANCING IN THE DARK reached #2 on the Hot 100 in June ’84. Ironically to date,
the only Springsteen song to ever top the Billboard singles chart was Manfred Mann’s
version of his “Blinded By The Light” in ’76.
by Joni Mitchell
From her first Top Ten album in 1973 “Court And Spark”.
In his song “The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker” (from “Sign ‘O’ The Times”),
Prince’s lyric references HELP ME as follows:
“Mind if I turn on the radio? “Oh, my favorite song!" she said,
and it was Joni singing "Help me, I think I'm falling..."
As in all my postings, the recordings listed and referenced above
are in no way intended as definitive collections.
Please send any comments or suggestions to
© Alan Warner, 2021.
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