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Hit Songs We Had No Idea Were Written By A Different Hit-Maker

Updated September 18, 2019 5.4k votes 436 voters 21.2k views20 items

List RulesVote up the songs you're surprised to discover were written by someone else.

We all have songs we know and love by artists we revere, and many of our favorites convey the emotion of the person singing them. Or do they?

Here is a list of songs that you likely didn't know were written by someone else - but may rank among your all-time favorites. The stories behind them are fascinating. If you're wondering how Bruce Springsteen felt about Manfred Mann's cover of "Blinded by the Light," what Trent Reznor has to do with "Old Town Road," or how "Party in the U.S.A." made Jessie J rich beyond her wildest dreams, check out the list below!

  • Photo: Atlantic Records / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    In 1967, when the Queen of Soul recorded her version of "Respect," she reworked the song's proclamation of male entitlement into a powerful feminist anthem. Upon hearing her version, Redding said, "Well, I guess it’s that girl’s song now." 

    "Respect" stayed at the top of  the charts for 12 weeks and made Franklin a superstar - but she hardly made any money from it. All the royalties went to its writer, Otis Redding, whose estate still profits from the song today.

    • Artist: Aretha Franklin
    • Composer: Otis Redding
    Are you surprised?
  • Photo: RCA

    Would you be surprised to learn that this yacht rock/country classic was written by the Bee Gees? Not only that, but it was also written as an R&B tune for Marvin Gaye.

    After the demise of disco, a musical genre the Bee Gees were closely associated with, the band fell out of favor and off the charts. They turned their talents to songwriting, and wrote hits for Barbara Streisand and Dionne Warwick, among others. 

    The Bee Gees' Barry Gibb presented "Islands in the Stream" to Kenny Rogers with the idea of turning it into a country song, but Rogers admits he wasn't a fan of the tune when he first heard it. He attempted to sing it solo for a few days, but he just wasn't feeling it. He told People magazine:

    I finally said, "Barry [Gibb], I don’t even like this song anymore" and he said, "You know what we need? We need Dolly Parton." I said, "Well, go get her!" He went downstairs and she came marching into the room, and once she came in and started singing the song was never the same. It took on a personality of its own.

    • Artist: Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton
    • Composer: Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb
    Are you surprised?
  • UK pop sensation Jessie J wrote "Party In The U.S.A." with the intention of releasing it herself. However, her label thought it would be a better fit for Miley Cyrus. The track, written with Dr. Luke and Claude Kelly, proved to be a massive hit for the former Disney Channel star.

    Jessie J, who has written songs for the likes of Chris Brown, has no regrets about not recording the song herself. According to her, it was very lucrative:

    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. Actually, it was longer than that. That's where I get most of my money. I write songs. I'm a singer. I love doing endorsements and stuff, but that's all added on.

    • Artist: Miley Cyrus
    • Composer: Jessie J, Lukasz Gottwald, Claude Kelly
    Are you surprised?
  • 4

    Trent Reznor Is Partly Responsible For 'Old Town Road' By Lil Nas X 

    Photo: Columbia

    Trent Reznor is not a name you'd think to connect to 2019's biggest hit, but the industrial musician is, in fact, partly responsible. "Old Town Road," the country rap song by Lil Nas X, was created from a sample of a Nine Inch Nails song. 

    The song, "34 Ghosts IV," can be found on the 2008 album Ghosts I-IV.  The song has - indirectly - become Reznor's first No. 1, and he's even earned his first Country Music Awards nod. The artist acknowledged the song's success by posting a photo of himself and longtime collaborator Atticus Ross as Brooks & Dunn with the caption, “New world, new times...”

    • Artist: Lil Nas X
    • Composer: Montero Hill, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Kiowa Roukema
    Are you surprised?