Can You Guess Who Wrote These 23 Famous Songs?

If you’re a music lover like I am, then you probably know that many artists don’t always write their own songs. In fact, sometimes, the real writers of many famous songs remain unknown. However, you’d be surprised to know that many of the songs that we always sing out loud in the shower have been written by other very famous artists. For instance, did you know that famous singer Shel Silverstein wrote a song for Johnny Cash? There are hundreds of cases like this one, so here’s a list of 23 popular songs that were secretly written by huge stars. Please, keep on reading, since #11, #8, and #5 will leave you astonished!

#23. Islands In The Stream

The famous song Islands in the Stream was recorded by country stars Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. It was a major hit, and it received an American Music Award for the best single of the genre. Besides, both artists were nominated as Best Duet of the Year by the Academy of Country Music. Years later, this same composition served rapper Pras Michel, from Fugees, to create the song Ghetto Superstar (That’s What You Are), which was included in the soundtrack of the movie Bullworth.

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However, this wonderful song was composed by none other than the Bee Gees, inspired by a novel by Ernest Hemingway of the same name. Members of the band Robin and Barry Gibbs once told BBC Radio 2 that their first intention was for Marvin Gaye to play the song, but in 1983, they decided to go for Kenny Rogers. After that, Rogers himself asked if Parton could accompany him. This melody gave both Rogers and Parton their second NO.1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

#22. Diamonds

“Shine bright like a diamond, shine bright like a diamond”. Do these words ring a bell? I bet that the first time you heard this song on the radio, you couldn’t get the melody out of your heads for days! This song was brilliantly interpreted by Rihanna, which leads everyone to believe that she’s also the songwriter. Therefore, it’ll probably surprise you to know that the true writer of the song is none other than pop legend Sia! In fact, she’s been churning out hits for her fellow artists like BeyoncéBritney Spears, and Kylie Minogue for years!

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Sia co-wrote Diamonds in 2012. The song went on to top the Billboard Hot 100 in a matter of weeks. It was NO.1 in twenty-four countries and is one of the best-selling singles in history, with a total of 7.5 million copies. When interviewed by The New York Times, Sia revealed that she wrote it in just 14 minutes! Furthermore, producer Benny Blanco said that Rihanna recorded the song exactly as Sia’s demo.

#21. Nothing Compares 2U

You’ve all heard the song Nothing Compares 2U, right? And let me guess, you probably thought that Sinéad O’Connor was also the one who wrote it, didn’t you? Well, to your surprise, Prince wrote and recorded this song with his former band, The Family, in 1984. The ballad was eventually handed over to the Irish up-and-comer Sinéad O’Connor in 1990, according to The Guardian.

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You’d be also interested to know that Prince’s original recording of the song was discovered just recently, two years after his death. It was April 2018, and Prince’s vault archivist, Michael Howe, was going over some of his old cassettes. And it happens to be that he stumbled upon a small cassette which contained the original recording of Nothing Compares 2U.

#20. Fame

Fame is one of David Bowie‘s most popular hits. But did you know that he’s not the one who wrote it? Well, at least he’s not the only one who wrote it. It appears to be that this song was co-written by the Beatle legend John Lennon, the guitarist Carlos Alomar, and Bowie himself.

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These guys were introduced by actress Elizabeth Taylor during a party in 1974, and ever since then, they recorded several songs together. Over the years, Bowie regretted not composing more material with Lennon:

“I really wish, obviously, in retrospect that we worked more together. It was a joy to be in the studio with him. But we laughed too much. Most of the time we spent together was stupid. There wasn’t much work, as you can imagine,”, Bowie told Rocky Mountain News in 2004

#19. Love Yourself

There is no doubt Ed Sheeran is one of the best composers of our times. Not only does he thrill us with his voice, but he is also one hell of a composer! He has composed songs belonging to different styles, though mainly pop, folk, and even hip hop! But did any of you know that he’s the author of Justin Bieber’s hit song Love Yourself? He wrote it in 2015, and this catchy tune landed on singles charts in 15 countries.

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However, two years after the song was released, Sheeran told Carson Daly that originally, the song wasn’t intended for Bieber. Can you guess who?

“That was a song I had written for Divide. It just wouldn’t have made it. And then Justin took it and did his thing on it, and released it as a single and made it what it is”, Sheeran told Daly.

#18. Irreplaceable

There is no doubt that Irreplaceable is one of Beyonce‘s greatest hits ever. I’m pretty sure that many scorned women have felt identified with its lyrics, as it is much related to female empowerment. However, did you know that a man wrote the lyrics? Believe it or not, the author is pop and singer Ne-Yo.

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Ne-Yo later admitted that he regretted handing over such a powerful and personal song to someone else, rather than keeping it for himself. As he said in an interview to Choice FM:

I honestly wrote that song for myself. But that song actually taught me a very interesting lesson – men and women don’t actually think that much differently on the grand scheme of things.”

#17. A Boy Named Sue

Johnny Cash is one of the greatest rock legends of all time. Many of his classics have been played on the radio for decades, including the catchy song A Boy Named Sue. However, did you know that Cash is not the author of this song? The poet and author Shel Silverstein, best known for the literary work of his children, was the man who wrote one of Cash’s most iconic recordings.

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The story says that in February 1969, Johnny Cash had a party at his house in Hendersonville, Tennessee. As the evening went on, the party turned into a guitar pull, with some of Johnny’s friends trying out their latest songs. Silverstein happened to be there, and he sang A Boy Named Sue. Cash loved Silverstein’s tune and asked him to write down the words for him. Eventually, he asked Silverstein if he could sing it. Crazy!

#16. Party in the U.S.A.

Miley Cyrus started as an actress in TV shows on Disney Channel, but eventually, she went on to become a successful pop artist. And one of the songs that helped catapult her to fame was Party in the U.S.A. But it may as a surprise that Cyrus’ NO.1 hit was written by someone else. Can you guess who?

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This song was written by Jessie J. In fact, Jessie wrote songs for many famous stars such as Chris Brown and American Idol winner Lisa Lowes. As she once told Glamour UK, “You’ve got to write songs, that’s where the money is, being an artist. ‘Party in the U.S.A’ paid my rent for, like, three years”.

#15. Miss Independent

MissIndependent is one of Kelly Clarkson’s greatest hits, but when she published the song, she didn’t know that Christina Aguilera had helped to write its lyrics. I know what you’re thinking! This doesn’t make sense! How did it happen? As Clarkson explained on an episode of Watch What Happens – Live!, Aguilera started writing the song with a group of producers, and it was intended to appear on her fourth studio album, Stripped. However, Aguilera wasn’t convinced with the first draft of the song and dropped it. But what happened next?

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Well, eventually, Clarkson picked up the tune and finished it, and it became her first post-American Idol single. But when she picked up the song, she didn’t know that the lyrics had first been written by Aguilera.

“My label at the time didn’t tell me but I guess the producers and writers started it with her but then it wasn’t finished so I ended up writing the rest and finishing it without even knowing she was on it or ever a part of it,” Clarkson said.

#14. Beautiful

The story behind Christina Aguilera‘s hit, Beautiful, is truly fascinating. The author of the song is not Aguilera herself, but Linda Perry.  She originally meant to include this song on her first solo album after the separation of her former band, 4 Non-Blondes. But one day, Aguilera contacted Perry and asked if she could help her on the composition of her second album, Stripped. Both met at Perry’s house, where each played a couple of songs to break the ice. Perry performed Beautiful on the piano, and as soon as she finished, Aguilera told her that she really wanted that song on her album.

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At first, Perry wasn’t convinced at the idea. As she once confessed in an interview: “I had a long conversation with my manager about it. We both decided to hear Christina sing it. … I was like, ‘Wow.’ That rough vocal is what is out there on the radio.” Since its release in 2002, this song has won numerous awards, and it is acknowledged for its message of self-empowerment. It is also considered a classic of the LGBTQIA community.

#13. Forget You

Bruno Mars’ talent as a singer is indisputable, and his successful records prove it. But little do people know that one of his most famous songs, Forget You, was written by someone else. Like many songwriters, before fame knocked on his door, he knocked on the door of others, who were wise to let him in.

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Forget You was originally written and performed by Cee Lo Green in 2010. During an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Green admitted that he wanted to record the song as soon as Mars played it for him in the studio.

“They were still a bit indecisive on whether or not it could work at all. I was like, ‘I like it. Let’s record it.’”, Green said in an interview.

#12. Red Red Wine

In 1983, the British reggae band UB40 released an album of reggae covers named Labour of Love, which became a major success. One of the album’s songs was Red Red Wine, and it became so famous that many people came to believe that it was an original song of the band. Unfortunately, UB40’s knowledge of musical history let them down, because they had always assumed that the song had been penned by an unknown Jamaican singer. However, the song was actually written by a very famous singer.

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Neil Diamond recorded Red Red Wine in 1967 for Just For You, his second album. Astro, a longtime member of UB40, told Billboard he didn’t even connect the dots when he noticed that the song credit was marked as “N. Diamond.” Incredible! Why didn’t anyone tell him?

#11. Hot In Herre

He’s responsible for composing great hits that other soloists have popularized. He’s also responsible for making us dance our shoes off with every single one of his songs. And last but not least, he’s the author of several of Disney’s latest hits. You know who we’re talking about, right? Yeah, Pharrell Williams! Everything he touches becomes art… and he has even written songs for famous artists such as Gwen Stefani and Britney Spears. He is also the author of one of Nelly‘s greatest hits, Hot In Herre. After its release, the song reigned on the Billboard Hot 100 for seven consecutive weeks.

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As far as Nelly’s famous track goes, the rapper told The Fader that this song almost didn’t make it to his album, Nellyville. It appears to be that right before releasing the album, Nelly felt that it was still missing a great hit. Therefore, he contacted Williams and asked him for some help.

“We missing something. We don’t have the fuse to the bomb. We called up Pharrell. Pharrell was a good friend of ours, and then he came with the Chuck Brown [beat]. Pharrell said something about, ‘You gotta have the girls add some ‘Getting so hot.’”, Nelly confessed to The Fader.

#10. Britney Spears’s “Till The World Ends”

Kesha is a talented singer whose fame consolidated over the years. Without a doubt, songwriting is in Kesha’s blood, as her mother, Pebe Sebert, has co-written many of her biggest hits, such as Your Love Is My Drug. She also co-wrote several songs with other artists, such as Old Flames (Can not Hold A Candle To You) with country singer Dolly Parton.

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But little do people know that she’s the author of one of Britney Spears‘s greatest hits ever, Till the World Ends. This song played a key role in re-establishing Spears as pop’s princess. In an interview with MTV, Kesha confessed that she wrote this song with the specific intention of helping Spears find her footing in the music industry once again.

“That song is me imagining her and any female musician touring the world. You know, when you go out, and you’re having an amazing, magical night and you don’t want to go to sleep and you want it to last until the world ends”, Kesha told MTV.

#9. Exhale (Shoop Shoop)

Exhale (Shoop, Shoop) is one of those tracks you find yourself mindlessly singing along all day after hearing it just once. This song is part of the soundtrack of the film Waiting to Exhale, starred by Whitney Houston. Allegedly, she wasn’t interested in singing the soundtrack, because she wanted to focus more on her performance.

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However, Babyface persuaded her to change her mind. He wrote this single for Houston, and she loved the song so much that she changed her mind. She ended up voicing the movie’s soundtrack, and this song reached NO.1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Hip Hop charts.

#8. Little Things

We’re back with one of my favorite artists! And this is one of my favorite songs too. It happens to be that many of the songs included in One Direction’s second album were written by other artists, including the sweet ballad Little Things. Can you guess who’s the author of the song?

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The author of this hit is none less than Ed Sheeran. Sheeran confessed that he wrote this song with a girl called Fiona Bevan when he was 17 years old, but they lost the recording of the song. Several years later, Bevan found the recording and sent it to Sheeran. He showed it to the One Direction boys, and they loved it. Sheeran has helped One Direction with a few other heartfelt ballads… let’s hope they keep working together!

#7. Halo

Beyoncé has proven time and again that she knows how to assemble the perfect team to achieve infinite success. One of her wisest professional decisions was to work with Ryan Tedder. He’s the lead singer of One Republic but what you might not know is that he also writes great hits for other artists, including Beyoncé herself! Three-time Grammy Award winner, he’s the man behind the pen for several Top 10 Billboard singles. Did you know that he also wrote one of Beyonce’s greatest hits, Halo?

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In an interview by Billboard, Tedder told the audience how he came up with the song:

Evan Bogart and I were super close friends. He was having his explosion as a songwriter, and I texted him and said, ‘My wife’s gone for three hours, will you come over? Let’s write one song’…I had this idea for a patch of this weird choir of angels thing, started playing it and within three hours we had Halo”.

#6. Chain Reaction

Have any of you ever listened to Diana Ross’ hit, Chain Reaction? Well, believe it or not, this song was actually written by one of the most successful pop bands ever… one that has already been mentioned in this list! The Bee Gees have lent their creative musical powers to many different artists, and they’re the authors of Diana Ross’ hit.

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However, the trio wasn’t so sure about how successful this song would be. But to their surprise, it remained on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for weeks. As Barry Gibb said in an interview:

“Chain Reaction was never originally meant to be on the album. It was the last song we cut. We’d done the whole album and Diana said, ‘Well, we still need one more song from somewhere.’

#5. Breakaway

American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson boasts the Guinness World Record for the youngest female singer to bring out a debut album to the UK trend lists. At the age of 18 years and 106 days, on January 11, 2003, her solo album Let Go was NO.1 in the list during 18 consecutive weeks. One of the greatest songs of this album was Breakaway, but surprisingly, she didn’t write the lyrics. Can you guess who wrote them?

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The song’s author was pop-punk legend Avril Lavinge. Allegedly, Bridget Benenate also helped her with the lyrics. As Benenate said in an interview:

“Avril talked about her life and what things were important to her—she was the inspiration for the song (…) I remember staying in bed for three days, writing 25 versions of the lyric.”

#4. Disturbia

It came as a shock that Rihanna’s NO.1 hit, Diamonds, was written by SIA. But did you know that she didn’t write the lyrics for Disturbia either? Chris Brown co-wrote Rihanna’s 2008 hit with Andre Merritt, Brian Kennedy, and Rob. This dance-pop song was Rihanna’s fourth NO.1 hit on the Hot 100. It also topped the singles charts in several other countries, including Belgium, New Zealand, and Turkey.

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The track was originally going to be part of the re-release edition of Brown’s second studio album, Exclusive. However, after finishing the song he concluded that it would be better suited for a female singer and instead forwarded it to Rihanna.

#3. Manic Monday

Manic Monday is one of The Bangles‘ greatest hits ever, but did any of you know that Prince is the one who wrote it? He created the song in 1984 and recorded it as a duet for the band Apollonia 6‘s self-titled album. However, two years later, he offered the single to The Bangles under the pseudonym “Christopher”, a character he played in the 1986 film Under the Cherry Moon. It was the band’s first hit, reaching NO.2 in the U.S.

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Allegedly, Prince sent the band a tape with two original songs he wanted them to record, and one of them was Manic Monday. Rumor has it that Prince chose to give the song to Susanna Hoffs, one of the members of The Bangles, to woo her. However, Hoffs’ band partner Debbi Peterson denied that rumor.

#2. I’m A Believer

Movie buffs! Does the song  I’m A Believer ring a bell? Well, it should! This hit was interpreted by The Monkees in 1966, but it reached greater fame when Smash Mouth made a cover of the song in 2001 for the animated film, Shrek. However, neither of the two bands wrote its lyrics. Can you guess who?

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This song was actually written by Neil Diamond. The single received an advance order of 1,051,280 copies, and it was sold out within two days of its release. It remained at the NO.1 spot on the Billboard charts for an impressive seven weeks before inevitably becoming the biggest-selling record of 1967.

#1. Sledgehammer

This catchy song performed by the all-girl group Fifth Harmony was actually co-written by Meghan Trainor. Not only does she sing some of the greatest pop hits, but she also has an admirable career as a composer. In fact, she wrote her first song at the age of 11! Can you believe it?

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Meghan could be considered the honorary Sixth Harmony considering how much she helped the band because Sledgehammer isn’t the only song she wrote for them. On Fifth Harmony’s debut album Reflection, Meghan penned Suga Mama, Brave Honest Beautiful as well.
So, what’s your favorite of all the songs I’ve mentioned?

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