Hasn’t that title been done before?

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.

R-2618914-1334682748.jpegCase 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,” 220px-Missing_You_-_Diana_Rossa 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.

220px-The-eagles-best-of-my-love-1974-smallHere’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,” 220px-Best_of_My_Love_-_The_Emotionscomposed 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.

220px-Feel_Like_Makin'_Love_-_Roberta_FlackFeel 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 220px-BC_-_Makin_Love_singleCompany 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 600x600bf-41969 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.


R-6183414-1413134514-8042.jpegHow 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.

the-association-cherish-1966-6Cherish” 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 R-214319-1256309347.jpeg“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.

220px-Cover_for_Magic_by_The_CarsThe 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.

220px-Venus_single_avalonHow 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 220px-Van_Halen_-_Jumpknown 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.

61xzloHm7CL._SY355_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.

220px-Lady_(Kenny_Rogers_song)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.”

220px-AerosmithAngelThe 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

R-2804599-1319574005.jpegGood 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

220px-Money_1973One” — 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

81qwjrsosgL._SX355_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

615hwueWjNL._SS500On 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.”



Wrote a song for everyone, wrote a song for truth

“I would write five songs to get one song.  I’d have a big junkyard of stuff written as the year went by.  If something wasn’t complete, I just pulled out the parts I liked, like taking bruce-springsteen-october-2016-ss01the parts you need from several cars, and you put them in the other car so that car runs.” — Bruce Springsteen, on the songwriting process

To the layman, the art of writing a song seems magical, almost otherworldly.

Many people find it hard enough just to write a coherent sentence or a paragraph, let alone an essay, a speech or, God forbid, a book.  The idea of conjuring up song lyrics and then putting them to music is… well, a Herculean task, and pretty much impossible.

So how do the songwriters do it?  How do they do it even once, never mind dozens of times?  How do icons like Bob Dylan or Paul McCartney write memorable song after memorable song every year from their teens until well into their 70s?

images-25Clearly, it’s a very rare, God-given talent.  And it is mysterious.  Even the songwriters themselves are hard-pressed to explain exactly how it works or where the songs come from.

“Songwriting is a very mysterious process.  It feels like creating something from nothing. It’s something I don’t feel like I really 2e0a4cf67d454c9de58e985e44e318d3688beff0control.”  — Tracy Chapman

“If I knew where the good songs came from, I’d go there more often.  It’s a mysterious condition.”  — Leonard Cohen

Those fortunate few who have the ability to craft a song concede that they often struggle to produce something they’re satisfied with.  The late Leon Russell, an exceptional pianist, arranger and recording artist, admitted that songwriting never came naturally to 0798c90a-49f7-42a3-aa91-de253523e4e8-large16x9_1280x720_60719P00WWVGPhim.  “Songwriting was very tough for me.  I would go in and sit, and hope for inspiration to come, but it was rarely forthcoming.”

Most classical music composers studied the intricacies of music for many years before attempting to write an aria, sonata or symphony.  By contrast, many pop songwriters confess that they had little or no musical education.  McCartney, the most PaulMcCartney_wide-f63b946213ed3b3b0fd9ed854a92e1be36a852a2-s800-c85successful songwriter of the past half-century, says he can’t read nor notate music.  It just comes to him by playing around with notes and chords as he plays guitar or piano.

“If I was to sit down right now and write a song,” McCartney said, “I’d use my usual method:  I’d either sit down with a guitar or at the piano and just look for melodies, chord shapes, musical phrases, some words, a thought just to get started with. And then I’d just sit with it to work it out, like I’m writing an essay or doing a crossword puzzle. That’s the system I’ve always used.”

neil-diamondNeil Diamond may have put his finger on it when he explained what he saw as a major deficiency in his songwriting toolbox.  “I don’t deny now that it would have been nice to have had more background in music theory.  But because I never had any of that, songwriting is easily the hardest part of what I do.”

C1A2RBlB6BS._SL1000_.pngPaul Simon admits that it takes him a long time to write songs.  “For me, the music — or more accurately, the rhythm — usually comes first, and then a melody will suggest itself.  This may take weeks, even months.  Then I struggle a long time to settle on the lyric.  It’s very helpful to start with something that’s true.  If you start with something that’s false, you’re always covering your tracks.”

1208-ctm-kchdonhenley-1Some artists have had considerable success by regarding songwriting as a process.  Here’s Don Henley‘s take on it:  “My process hasn’t changed much at all.  I still use legal pads.  I do a lot of writing in my head when I’m engaged in other activities, like driving, or loading the dishwasher.  I find that when I’m doing menial tasks, my mind lets go of all the clutter, and then the creative stuff can bubble up from the subconscious.” 

The late great David Bowie, whose lengthy career underwent numerous stylistic bowie2_2446365bchanges, said he found it helpful to have rules and a structural process, but he never minded breaking those rules now and then.  “I think process is quite important. To allow the accidental to take place is often very good.  So I trick myself into things like that.  Maybe I’ll write out five or six chords, then discipline myself to write something only with those five or six chords involved.  Of course, I’ll cheat as well.  If I’ve got the basis of something really quite good coming out of those five or six chords, then I’ll allow myself to restructure it a bit, if I think, well, that could be so much better if instead it went to F-sharp, or something like that.”

Artists of all types talk about having a muse — an intangible inspiration, stimulus or creative influence.  In Greek mythology, the Muses were the nine goddesses (daughters of Zeus) who presided over the arts and sciences, and the Muses could be very unpredictable.

carlysimon-1119-1447935762Songwriters point out that their muse ebbs and flows, and can sometimes seem to disappear for long stretches (the so-called “writer’s block”).  Carly Simon offers this recollection:  “My songwriting artistry has gone through many phases, including one time where it has been very quiet and abandoned me completely for a few years.  That was really frightening.  I didn’t know if I’d ever get it back.”

ìììSongwriting is a curious art form that, like most art forms, cannot be rushed.  It is for this reason that artists and their corporate benefactors are often at odds about how much time is necessary to produce quality work.  As rocker Nick Cave puts it:  “My relationship with my muse is a delicate one at the best of times, and I feel it is my duty to protect her from influences that may offend her fragile nature.  My muse is not a horse, and I am not in a horse race.”

Springsteen, a notoriously prolific songwriter for most of his 50-year career, concedes even he has had times when he couldn’t come up with anything:  “I wish I could write every day, but I’ve sometimes gone for long periods of time without writing because I didn’t have any good ideas, or whatever is in there is just sort of gestating.  Sometimes, I’ve had to force myself to write.  I think what happens is you move in and out of different veins.  You’re mining, and you hit a vein, and then you go with that, and then it dries up.”

hqdefault-10Patience and perseverance are crucial for songwriters, they say.  Many failures come before they hit on a song they really like.  Gerry Goffin, the lyricist and ex-husband of songwriter Carole King, was part of the famous Brill Building stable of songwriting teams who reported for work each day and were expected to crank out hit songs like some sort of factory assembly line.  Goffin was pragmatic about that kind of creative environment:  “You’ve got to realize it’s a hit or miss process.  But my advice would be, Don’t be afraid to write a bad song, because the next one may be great.”

a45512834_s800b1b5My daughter Emily Hackett is a Nashville-based singer-songwriter who writes on her own or in collaboration with others.  Either way, she says, it’s a process of exploration.  “There’s a lot of discovery in songwriting.  If you’re doing it right, you’re constantly discovering new avenues.  You could take a certain road for five or ten minutes and not get anywhere, but that’s okay.  Try a different road.  Eventually you’ll land on the right path, and the song will unfold.”

TomPetty-2The late Tom Petty drew an analogy between writing a song and catching a fish:  “Songwriting is pretty lonely work.  I think a lot of people don’t have the patience for it.  You’re not necessarily going to get one every time you try.  In fact, most times you try, you’re not going to get one.  It’s like fishing.  You’re fishing, and you either caught a fish, or you didn’t.  If you did, there’s one in the boat; if you didn’t, there’s not.  But you’ve got to go back and keep your pole in the water.  That’s the only way you’re going to get a bite.”

We music lovers should be grateful that songwriters are often almost addicted to their art.  They p01br0nwenjoy writing songs, certainly, but sometimes it becomes an obsession that haunts them, and doesn’t let go until the piece is finished.  John Lennon had this to say about that:  “It’s like being possessed.  It won’t let you sleep, so you have to get up, make it into something, and then you’re allowed to sleep.  That’s always in the middle of the bloody night, when you’re half awake and your critical facilities are switched off.”

dolly-parton-yellowCountry songwriter Dolly Parton has said she looks forward to those times when she isn’t touring or leading a busy life so she has the opportunity to focus on writing new songs.  “I always long for that block of time and space when I can go on a writing binge, because I’m really addicted to songwriting.”

keith-richardsSome songwriters are amazed when they come up with a great song and wonder why no one had beaten them to the punch.  Says Keith Richards:  “With most of the songs I’ve written, I’ve felt there’s this gap waiting to be filled, and I think, man, this song should have been written hundreds of years ago.  How did nobody else pick up on that little space before?”

joni-mitchellOther tunesmiths are such perfectionists that, once they’ve recorded and released a song, they find themselves forever unhappy with the result.  Here’s Joni Mitchell talking:  “When I listen back to my early music, it’s always, ‘Why didn’t I put a guitar fill there?  Why did I sing the line like that?  And why am I whining?'”

R-6446275-1427469478-5531.jpegSome pop songwriters have found themselves facing lawsuits because their song sounds like another song that’s already been written.  In 1976, a court found George Harrison had “subconsciously plagiarized” The Chiffons’ song “He’s So Fine” when he wrote “My Sweet Lord,” and awarded millions in royalties, which later spurred Harrison to write “This Song,” with these lyrics:  “This song has nothing tricky about it, this song ain’t black or white, and as far as I know don’t infringe on anyone’s copyright, so this song we’ll let be…”

Lennon once said:  “You know, there are only so many notes.”  Springsteen maintains, “Everyone steals from everyone else.”  Folk singer Pete Seeger famously wrote, “So sing, change, add to, subtract.  But beware multiplying.  If you record and start making hundreds of copies, watch out.  Write a letter first.  Get permission.”  


As a postscript here, I wanted to mention how, since the dawn of the Internet, songwriters have watched helplessly as their intellectual property has been devalued to Songwriting-and-writers-blockthe point of absurdity.  Downloads and streaming services have given consumers easy access to so much music, but the royalties paid to the songwriters have been reduced to a mere fraction of what they used to receive.  It’s grossly unfair, and needs to be remedied.

The good news is, within the past year, the Music Modernization Act — supported by a broad cross-section of artists, producers and others throughout the music industry — has overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives and is currently pending before the Senate.  It will overhaul copyright law and result in songwriters and artists at last making their fair share of money from digital and streaming services.

The bad news is, a last-minute amendment to the legislation, proposed by The Blackstone Group (a multi-billion-dollar private equity and financial services firm that stands to gain handsomely), is threatening to kill the MMA bill dead in its tracks.  It’s a classic example of corporate greed and a blatant attempt to halt what is widely viewed as a long-overdue correction of songwriter remuneration.

I implore you, on behalf of songwriters everywhere, to contact your U.S. Senator and demand the removal of the offensive amendment and insist on passage of the MMA in its original wording.