Hit Songs Intended for Someone Else!

Call it the luck of the draw.  Call it a twist of fate.  Sometimes circumstances arise, record company shenanigans or a difference in taste, which allow a song rejected by one artist to be picked up by another who achieves success with it!  One is left wondering if the original artist is banging their heads against a wall as a result.  You be the judge.  Here are some hit songs, sometimes-entire albums, intended for one artist and recorded by someone else!

Britney Spears/Lady Gaga ft. Beyonce “Telephone”

Probably the most famous one in recent history, Lady Gaga’s smash hit “Telephone” was originally conceived and written for Britney Spears.  When you hear Spears’ leaked demo version, you can see why she passed on it.  It’s a complete autotune nightmare, stretching far beyond her half-octave vocal range.  Even her most forgiving fans would never overlook such an aural atrocity.  Britney went on to record the Lady Gaga penned “Quicksand” as a bonus track on her Circus album. Gaga meanwhile recorded “Telephone” with an added guest vocal by Beyonce resulting in one of her biggest hits and most iconic videos.


Linda Perry/Pink/Christina Aguilera “Beautiful”

Former 4-Non Blondes member Linda Perry had faded into 90′s one-hit wonder obscurity until she was contacted by Pink to produced her second album Missundazstood. Perry had intended “Beautiful” to be the song to launch her own solo career, but offered the song to Pink instead.  Meanwhile, Christina Aguilera also contacted Perry to produce her album Stripped.  Perry played “Beautiful” on the piano to start the sessions, and Aguilera recorded the song in one take.  As a result Pink broke off professional and personal relations with Perry. All three have gone on to have very successful careers in the pop music realm and ought to bury the hatchet if they haven’t already.


Stevie Nicks/Blondie “Call Me”

Legendary producer Giorgio Moroder originally offered a track called “Man Machine” to Stevie Nicks to be the theme to the Richard Gere film American Gigolo. It should be interesting to note, Gere’s career-making role in the film was originally offered to John Travolta who declined it and stayed in professional limbo for most of the 80s.  Nicks rejected the song due to it’s overwhelmingly sexual content and it was offered to Blondie.  Deborah Harry agreed to sing the song provided that she could change some/most of the lyrics, hence “Call Me” was born.  Released in 1980, it was Billboard’s #1 song of the year and paved the way for the band’s Auto American album to achieve two further #1 singles, “The Tide is High” and “Rapture.”  Stevie Nicks was just fine too; she released her solo debut Bella Donna the following year, which sold 5 million copies.

Michael Jackson/Rufus & Chaka Khan “Ain’t Nobody”

By the 1980’s, Rufus & Chaka Khan had virtually broken up.  Khan already had a string of solo hits outside of the band and even when she worked with Rufus, she recorded most of her parts without the band present (she was contractually obligated to do so).  Sensing that their time in the spotlight was over after a string of flop albums without Chaka Khan, the band decided to release a farewell live album with some new tracks, which Khan agreed to participate in.  One of these new tracks was “Ain’t Nobody” penned by keyboardist David Wolinski.  Producer Quincy Jones wanted the song for Michael Jackson on what eventually would become the Thriller album, but Wolinski refused and the song has since become one of Chaka Khan’s signature tunes.

The Fixx/Bryan Ferry/Billy Idol/Simple Minds “Don’t You Forget About Me”

Songwriters Keith Forsey (Donna Summer/Billy Idol drummer and producer) & Nina Hagan guitarist Steve Schiff offered “Don’t You Forget About Me” to The Fixx, Bryan Ferry and Billy Idol before it ended up in the hands of Simple Minds, who recorded quite reluctantly due to pressure from their label.  The song, thanks to the film The Breakfast Club, became a smash hit and one of Simple Minds most enduring hits, much to their dismay as it was not written by the group.  So much so, that the band purposely left the song off their first Greatest Hits collection, though it was included on later compilations.  Billy Idol finally recorded the song in 2001 for his Greatest Hits album.

Stevie Nicks/Heart “These Dreams”

“These Dreams” was co-written by longtime Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin and was intended for Stevie Nicks’ Rock a Little album, Nicks’ first album for which she sought outside songwriters for material due to her escalating drug problems (she checked into Betty Ford after the album’s tour).  She rejected the song and it was offered to Heart for their self-titled comeback album.  Unlike the majority of Heart’s material, the song is sung by Nancy Wilson and went to #1 in 1985, bring the band back from the brink of obscurity.

Vanity 6/Apollonia 6/The Bangles “Manic Monday”

Vanity 6/Apollonia 6/Shelia E. “Glamorous Life”

Prince originally wrote “Manic Monday” and “Glamorous Life” for Vanity 6, Prince protégés best known their hit “Nasty Girl.”  When lead singer Vanity broke ties with Prince and signed to Motown, she was replaced by Apollonia who went on to star alongside Prince in the blockbuster movie Purple Rain. The band was also renamed Apollonia 6.  Prince lost interest in Apollonia 6 after realizing the vocal limitation of his new lead singer. “Manic Monday” and “Glamorous Life” were offered to The Bangles and Shelia E. respectively.  Both songs were breakout hits for both acts. Apollonia 6 had a hit with the Prince-penned “Sex Shooter” instead.

Donna Summer/Cher/Barbra Streisand/The Weather Girls “It’s Raining Men”

Paul Jabara, already a hit-making songwriter (he wrote “Last Dance” for Donna Summer to name one of many), penned “It’s Raining Men” in the 70’s with David Letterman music man Paul Shaffer.  The song was rejected repeatedly, by Summer, Cher and Barbra Streisand before it was offered to the Two Tons o’ Fun AKA Izora Rhodes and Martha Wash.  Rhodes and Wash were backup singers for disco legend Sylvester.  They renamed themselves the Weather Girls for the song (which they had to do anyway since there was already another band called Two Tons o’ Fun) and “It’s Raining Men” catapulted them to the top of the charts. Jabara and Shaffer went on to write the duo’s follow-up hit “Dear Santa (Bring Me A Man This Christmas)”.  Wash went on to record vocals on hits for Black Box and C&C Music Factory.

Gwen Jonae/Sylvester – All I Need – the entire album!

Electronic music pioneer Patrick Cowley launched Megatone Records in San Francisco during the late 70s after working with disco legend Sylvester on some of his biggest hits, “Stars” and “(You Make Me Feel) Mighty Real).”  Sylvester guitarist Tip Wirrick wrote and produced the album All I Need for the label’s new signee Gwen Jonae.  However, Jonae would only sign if the label bought her a $5000 gown, which it could not afford.  The album was then offered to Sylvester, who was recently released from his contract to Fantasy Records.  The Cowley/Sylvester penned “Do Ya Wanna Funk” was added to the album and became a Top 10 hit throughout Europe in 1982.  The video for the single “Hard Up” was the first music video by an African-American artist played by MTV, *NOT* “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson as is widely believed.  Patrick Cowley died of AIDS in 1982, one of the first popular musicians to succumb to the disease.  Sylvester also died of AIDS in 1988.  A movie based on Sylvester’s life is in the works. Two further Patrick Cowley albums, Catholic and School Daze were released posthumously and his birthday is still celebrated in San Francisco.  The All I Need album was later resequenced, remastered and renamed Do Ya Wanna Funk after it’s most enduring single. Gwen Jonae later had a minor dance hit with “Red Light Lover” in 1983 and hasn’t been heard from since.

Aretha Franklin/Diana Ross – Diana – the entire album!


In the 70′s Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards of Chic had a long string of hits to their credit, including “Good Times” “Le Freak” & “We Are Family” for Sister Sledge.  Originally, the duo was set to produce Aretha Franklin’s last album for Atlantic Records, La Diva – her first foray into disco.  Franklin, however wanted more creative control than Chic was willing to give so the entire project was given to Diana Ross.  Ross was not pleased with the resulting album as it was completed at the start of the Disco backlash of the early 80′s.  The master tapes were remixed without Rodgers’ & Edwards’ permission and Ross’ vocals were rerecorded.  Despite soured professional relations among the parties involved, the Diana album became Ross’ career peak, selling 10 million copies and including the hits “I’m Coming Out” and “Upside Down.”

Nile Rodgers went on to become one of the most successful pop music producers of all-time, produced classic albums by David Bowie, Madonna, Duran Duran, B-52′s, Grace Jones and most recently, “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk. Aretha Franklin had her own career comeback later on in the 80′s with “Freeway of Love.”


Tina Turner/Marianne Faithfull “Why’d Ya Do It”

Poet Heathcote Williams originally wrote the lyrics for “Why’d Ya Do It” as a potential song for Tina Turner.  Marianne Faithfull, who had faded into obscurity during the 70’s read the piece and insisted that she sing the song for herself.  Faithfull took the lyrics to her band who put it to music.  “Why’d Ya Do It” ended up as the closing track to Faithfull’s comeback album Broken English. A live favorite, the song’s critical acclaim was instrumental in successfully relaunching her solo career.

Natalie Imbruglia/Robbie Williams “Sexed Up”

“Sexed Up” was originally written for singer Natalie Imbruglia who turned it down. The original demo was released in 1998 as the B-Side to Williams’ single “No Regrets.”  Needing material for his 5th studio album Escapology, “Sexed Up” was re-recorded and released as the album’s 4th and final single.  The song made the Top 10 in the UK and throughout Europe, and topped the charts in Brazil for three weeks.  Guess you shouldn’t have turned it down, eh Natalie?


Paula Abdul/Kylie Minogue “Spinning Around”

Paula Abdul originally co-wrote “Spinning Around” for her own comeback album in the late 90s that never materialized.  After a few career missteps of her own, Kylie Minogue recorded the song as the lead single to her own comeback album of-sorts Light Years.  Regarded as one of Minogue’s most iconic singles, “Spinning Around” paved the way for Minogue’s internationally successful single “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” Paula Abdul and fellow songwriter Lara DioGuardi went on to become judges on American Idol.

The Motels/Berlin “Take My Breath Away”

Producer/Songwriter Giorgio Moroder originally recorded a demo of “Take My Breath Away” with Martha Davis of The Motels. The song was offered to Berlin’s lead singer Terri Nunn, as Moroder had produced their hit single “No More Words.”  Even though “Take My Breath Away” is credited to Berlin, none of the band members other than Nunn appeared on the track.  This was a point of contention for the band’s resident songwriter John Crawford. Nunn viewed it as a fresh new song that allowed the band to perform globally, while others disliked it as not having been written or composed by any of them. As a result, the song was the band’s final hit and they broke up two years later.  Martha Davis’ version of the song appears on The Motels’ Anthologyland compilation.

Phyllis Hyman/Mary Wilson/Madonna “Holiday”

Displeased with the initial production on her debut album, Madonna enlisted the help of Jellybean Benitez to remix tracks she had worked on with producer Reggie Lucas, who had abandoned the sessions.  Benitez brought along with him “Holiday” penned by the disco group Pure Energy.  The song had previously been offered to Phyllis Hyman and Mary Wilson (of The Supremes) both of whom turned it down.  Released as Madonna’s third single in 1983, it became her first Billboard Top 100 hit peaking at #16.  Performed in all but one of her concert tours (The Confessions Tour) Madonna has said that it is her favorite song from her own catalog.  Pure Energy went on to write Madonna’s 1987 single “Spotlight.”  Mary Wilson, although active in the entertainment industry since the break-up of The Supremes, failed to establish any sort of consistent solo recording output. Phyllis Hyman committed suicide in 1995 just hours before a performance at the Apollo Theater.

Can you guys think of anymore?  Let us know in the comments!

About nakedhighway

Naked Highway is a multimedia electro-glam outfit from NYC, and most definitely the club-kid of the #plusheartstar family! Skating a thin line between clubby beats & new wave sensibilities, Naked Highway’s recent string of DJ-friendly singles & viral music videos provide a blueprint for group’s impending world domination.