I always found it a curious thing to do when artists would release new singles that have the identical title as a completely different well-known song by another artist.
Case in point: “Missing You” was the title of a minor hit (peaking at #23) for Dan Fogelberg in 1982, and then John Waite soared to #1 with his own song called “Missing You” in 1984. Later that same year, Diana Ross reached #10 with Lionel Richie’s “Missing You,” a tribute to Marvin Gaye.
You’d think this might be confusing to the listening public, but apparently not, because it’s pretty remarkable how often this kind of thing has happened in rock music history, especially in the ’50s, ’60s, 70s and ’80s, and still occurs now and then in the more recent decades.
Here’s another: “Best of My Love,” written by Don Henley, Glenn Frey and J.D. Souther, was The Eagles’ first #1 hit in the summer of 1974. A completely different “Best of My Love,” composed by Maurice White and Al McKay, was also a #1 hit for the female disco group The Emotions in 1977.
Perhaps the duplication of a song title isn’t all that important if they’re in different genres (country rock versus disco, or hard rock versus MOR ballad). In those cases, it’s possible, maybe likely, that the songwriter wasn’t even familiar with the other tune because it’s not in a genre he/she listens to much.
“Feel Like Makin’ Love,” an R&B tune by Eugene McDaniels, was a big #1 hit for Roberta Flack in 1974, and then Paul Rodgers and Mick Ralphs of Bad Company wrote a harder rocking, different “Feel Like Makin’ Love” that went to #10 in 1975.
Sometimes so many years have passed since the title’s first appearance that the songwriter, artist or record company feel confident there will be no confusion if a new song comes out with the same title as an earlier hit. The great Roy Orbison reached #2 with his classic ballad “Only the Lonely” way back in 1959, so when Martha Davis, singer of New Wave group The Motels, came up with an unrelated song called “Only the Lonely” in 1982, nobody saw any reason it couldn’t also do well, and it reached #9 that year.
Of course, none of this touches on the fact that there often might be dozens of little-known songs (or classic rock tracks that never charted as singles) that share a title with better known hits. “Heartbreaker” is an explosive album track by Led Zeppelin on their 1969 second LP, but you won’t find it on the Top 40 charts. Instead you’ll find three different songs called “Heartbreaker” over the years: a 1973 Jagger-Richards song, technically called “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker),” that reached #15; Pat Benatar’s first hit in 1979 by two obscure British songwriters; and a Dionne Warwick number in 1983 written by the Gibb Brothers that made it to #10.
I found nearly 100 great examples of notable song titles that were used in multiple hit songs, and I’ve whittled that list down to 15 that I found really interesting. Most of the rest I’ll merely list as a way of showing how prevalent the practice has-been in pop music. No doubt readers will think of many I’ve neglected to mention.
How about the simple title “Fire,” which has at least three hit songs bearing that title. The Crazy World of Arthur Brown went first with their 1968 song, peaking at #2; then the Ohio Players with their dance track in 1975, a #1 hit; and then Bruce Springsteen’s smoldering tune (he wrote it for Elvis, who never got the chance to record it) was made into a #2 hit by the Pointer Sisters in 1979. Actually, the first rock recording called “Fire” was a Jimi Hendrix tune from the “Are You Experienced?” debut LP in 1967.
“Cherish” was an enormous #1 hit for The Association in 1966, followed nearly two decades later by Kool & The Gang’s own “Cherish” (#2), and then a third “Cherish” (#2) by Madonna in 1989.
Check out the different styles that use the title “Take Me Home,” first in a #8 hit by Cher in 1979, and then in a #7 pop smash by Phil Collins in 1986.
“My Love,” as written by Tony Hatch (who also wrote “Downtown”), was a #1 for Petula Clark in 1966. That didn’t stop Paul McCartney from writing his own tune called “My Love,” which topped the charts in 1973.
Three very different songs all shared the title “Call Me“: First came the night-clubby ballad by Chris Montez in 1966, then the R&B #13 hit by Aretha Franklin in 1970, and finally the #1 New Wave sensation in 1980 by Blondie.
Most everyone knows Steely Dan’s #6 hit “Do It Again,” a Fagen-Becker original from 1972, but before that came a different “Do It Again,” a Brian Wilson-Mike Love ditty that was a #20 charter for The Beach Boys in 1968.
The song title “Magic” showed up in three configurations: Mid-’70s pop by Pilot (#5 in 1975); a chart-topper by Olivia Newton-John from the “Xanadu” soundtrack in 1980, and a #12 hit by Ric Ocasek for The Cars in 1984.
“Photograph” was a #12 slab of heavy metal by Def Leppard in 1983, but first it was a George Harrison-penned tune that gave Ringo Starr a #1 hit in 1973.
How about “Venus“? That was a song title that reached #1 three times. First, teen idol Frankie Avalon did it in 1959 with a #1 hit song written by Ed Marshall and Peter DiAngelis; but the title reappeared at #1 two more times on another song, this time written by Dutch songwriter Robbie Van Leeuwen. First the Dutch band Shocking Blue topped the charts with it in 1970, and then the British female pop band Bananarama did its cover in 1986.
Joe Walsh was both a solo artist and a member of The Eagles in 1980 when he composed “All Night Long,” a #19 hit from the “Urban Cowboy” film soundtrack. Three years later, Lionel Richie went to #1 with a different “All Night Long,” although it was technically known as “All Night Long (All Night).”
“Jump” was such a humongous #1 hit for Van Halen in 1984 that The Pointer Sisters’ record label chose to alter the title of their own “Jump” the same year to “Jump (For My Love),” which still managed to reach #3.
The Pacific Northwest pop band Paul Revere and the Raiders had a #4 charting in 1966 with “Good Thing,” a Mark Lindsay-Terry Melcher tune. More than 20 years later, Roland Gift and his Fine Young Cannibals wrote and recorded their own “Good Thing,” which topped the charts in 1989.
One of the more unusual duplications of a song title was “Shining Star,” because both compositions were bonafide R&B songs. First came the Maurice White-Philip Bailey dance classic, a #1 hit for their group Earth, Wind & Fire in 1975. Then in 1980, The Manhattans, a vocal group dating back to the early ’60s who were reborn with a new lead singer in the late ’70s, had a #5 hit with another “Shining Star,” written by Leo Graham and Paul Richmond.
We can’t forget the timeless title “Lady,” which appears on the top of the sheet music page for four different hit songs: First came power pop band Styx’s number by Dennis DeYoung (#6 in 1975); and then, in rapid succession, Little River Band’s tune (#10 in 1979), the Lionel Richie-penned #1 smash in 1980 by Kenny Rogers, and The Commodores’ hit, technically called “Lady (You Bring Me Up),” and not to be confused with their tune “Three Times a Lady.”
The example I find most interesting is “Angel.” Check this out: It’s the title of Aretha Franklin’s #20 hit in 1973, written by her sister Carolyn; it’s another hit song (#5) written by Madonna and Steve Bray for her “Like a Virgin” LP; and it’s a #3 hit song by Steven Tyler and Desmond Child for Aerosmith’s 1987 comeback. But here’s the unique thing: There are actually two Fleetwood Mac recordings of two different songs called “Angel”! The first was by Bob Welch and appeared on their “Heroes are Hard to Find” LP in 1974, and the second was by Stevie Nicks on the group’s “Tusk” LP in 1979.
Here are a few more honorable mentions to explore of “Same Title, Different Songs,” should the mood strike you:
“Shout” — The Isley Brothers, 1959; Tears for Fears, 1985
“Somebody to Love” — Jefferson Airplane, 1967; Queen, 1977
“Good Times” — Sam Cooke, 1964; Chic, 1979
“Power of Love” — Joe Simon, 1972; Huey Lewis and The News, 1985
“Gloria” — Them/Shadows of Knight, 1965/66; Laura Branigan, 1982
“Real Love” — Doobie Brothers, 1980; Jody Watley, 1989; The Beatles, 1995
“Games People Play” — Joe South, 1969; Alan Parsons Project, 1981
“One” — Three Dog Night, 1969; Metallica, 1988; The Bee Gees, 1989; U2, 1991
“It’s a Miracle” — Barry Manilow, 1975; Culture Club, 1984
“Money” — Barrett Strong, 1960; Pink Floyd, 1973
“Love Will Find a Way” — Pablo Cruise, 1978; Yes, 1987
“Baby Blue” — The Echoes, 1961; Badfinger, 1972
“America” — Simon and Garfunkel, 1968; Neil Diamond, 1980
“Runaway” — Del Shannon, 1961; Jefferson Starship, 1978
“So Far Away” — Carole King, 1971; Dire Straits, 1985
“I’m On Fire” — Dwight Twilley, 1975; Bruce Springsteen, 1984
“Hold On” — Ian Gomm, 1979; Santana, 1982
“Crazy Love” — Paul Anna, 1958; Poco, 1979
“It’s My Life” — The Animals, 1965; Talk Talk, 1984
“On the Road Again” — Canned Heat, 1968; Willie Nelson, 1980
“Nobody’s Fool” — Cinderella, 1987; Kenny Loggins, 1988
“Question” — Lloyd Price, 1960; The Moody Blues, 1970
I’ve prepared two Spotify playlists. The first one compares the songs discussed in the main body of the blog post; the second one contrasts the tunes listed in the “honorable mentions.”