As a kid, I was only familiar with the Nazareth version of This Flight Tonight, rather than the Joni Mitchell original.
The Nazareth one was on at least one of my K-Tel compilations. My brother told me it was actually written by the “paved paradise, put up a parking lot” woman. I couldn’t imagine it. I was probably eight years old. It never crossed my mind that the song wasn’t written by a man.
There are, of course, a great many songs written or co-written by women which are more closely associated with the artist than the author.
I’ll shed some light on a few choice ones, but I’d be remiss without specifically mentioning Diane Warren, Carole King and Kathleen Brennan.
Warren has nine No. 1 songs to her credit and 32 Top 10 songs including If I Could Turn Back Time by Cher. But, for the purpose of this piece, I’m going to stick to songs by women, made famous by men. Warren also wrote I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing by Aerosmith and DeBarge’s hit Rhythm Of The Night.
Carole King has written or co-written 118 U.S. hits and 61 U.K. ones. Her career began as half the writing duo of Goffin-King — writing the music while her then-husband Gerry Goffin wrote the lyrics. Huge songs — Bobby Vee’s Take Good Care Of My Baby. Some Kind of Wonderful by The Drifters (as well as Grand Funk). Porpoise Song and Pleasant Valley Sunday by The Monkees. Grand Funk also had a hit with a King co-write: The Loco-Motion.
As for Kathleen Brennan, I include her because she co-writes with someone often considered among the greatest songwriters — her husband Tom Waits. In fact, he calls her “daring.” It looks to me like Brennan has co-written at least 65 of Waits’ songs, including the awesome Goin’ Out West.
So, here is a list of many more well-known songs — first mentioning the male artist who made it popular, and then the woman who wrote or co-wrote it.
• Ring Of Fire by Johnny Cash was co-written by June Carter Cash
• Whataya Want From Me? by Adam Lambert was written by Pink
• Tell Me A Lie by One Direction was written by Kelly Clarkson
• Baby by Justin Bieber was written by Christina Milian
• Love Song by Elton John was written by (and performed with) Lesley Duncan
• Timber by Pitbull was co-written by Priscilla Renea
• I Don’t Need No Doctor by Ray Charles, Humble Pie and John Mayer was co-written by Valerie Simpson
• Wake Up, Little Suzie by The Everley Brothers was co-written by Felice Bryant
• On The Sunny Side Of The Street by Louis Armstrong and many others, was co-written by Dorothy Fields
• When The Levee Breaks by Led Zeppelin was written by Memphis Minnie
• Dim Dim The Lights by Bill Haley & His Comets was co-written by Beverley Ross
• Supernatural Thing by Ben E King was co-written by Gwen Guthrie
• (You’re The) Devil In Disguise by Elvis Presley was co-written by Florence Kaye
• Lil’ Freak by Usher was co-written by Ester Dean
• Escape by Enrique Iglesias was co-written by Kara DioGuardi
• You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling by The Righteous Brothers was co-written by Cynthia Weil
For the record, this column — written by a man — was the idea of a woman, my partner Chelle. She also did the artwork (heychelle.com)
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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check out him out on Discogs.