36 Songs That Were Offered or Intended for Other Artists
It's not always possible to tell a hit song right away.
For one reason or another, artists turn down tracks all the time. Maybe it doesn't match the sound they currently want to pursue, or maybe they think it better suits a different singer. And sometimes, those songs end up a hit for someone else.
We're taking a look at 36 Songs That Were Offered or Intended for Other Artists. Hindsight is always 20/20.
1. "Happy Together," The Turtles
Offered To/Intended For: Various
At this point it's somewhat difficult to imagine anyone other than the Turtles doing their signature "Happy Together," but the song was reportedly offered to several acts before they recorded it – including the Vogues and Gary Lewis. Singer Howard Kaylan later said this may have had something to do with the poor audio quality of the song's demo tape. But it clearly worked out in the Turtles' favor: They landed a No. 1 hit with it on their own.
2. "For Your Love," The Yardbirds
Offered To/Intended For: The Mockingbirds
Graham Gouldman, best known for his role in 10cc, was just 18 years old when he penned "For Your Love." Like many others at the time, he was influenced by the Beatles to write his own songs instead of waiting for a publishing company to hand one over. "I had dabbled a bit," he said a later interview, "but they were really my inspiration and gave me, and I think a lot of other people, the courage to actually do it." Gouldman was a member of the Mockingbirds at the time, and intended for his own band to record "For Your Love." Their record company turned it down, however, and the song eventually found its way into the hands of the Yardbirds.
Written by Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff, "Don't You (Forget About Me)" was first offered to Roxy Music, but Bryan Ferry passed because he was too busy with his solo work. "It was just bad timing," he told The Guardian. "We were finishing off Boys and Girls, which was way behind schedule, and we didn't want the distraction." Others who were reportedly in the running were Billy Idol, Corey Hart, and Cy Curnin of the Fixx. Ultimately, Chrissie Hynde convinced her then-husband Jim Kerr to record "Don't You (Forget About Me)" with Simple Minds. "I like the song," she told him at the time. "What's the problem?"
"Call Me" was an enormous hit for Blondie in 1980, but it was nearly a hit for someone else: Stevie Nicks. The song was written by Italian disco producer Giorgio Moroder, who intended it to be the theme song for the 1980 film American Gigolo. Moroder's first choice for the song was Nicks but she declined because she was under contract with Modern Records, a label Nicks had recently co-founded. Debbie Harry penned the lyrics and Blondie turned it into their own No. 1 hit.
"Danger Zone" is another Giorgio Moroder tune, with the lyrics written by Tom Whitlock. Of course, "Danger Zone" is best known as the iconic theme to 1986's Top Gun, but things almost went in a different direction before Kenny Loggins made it his own. Toto was the intended artist, but legal issues precluded their involvement. According to Loggins, Jefferson Starship was also considered, but they pulled out, as did Corey Hart. Moroder then offered it to Loggins, who said yes without even hearing the tape first. The rest became soundtrack history.
Among those who nearly recorded "It's Raining Men" were Cher, Donna Summer, Barbra Streisand and Diana Ross, each of them a powerhouse in her own right. But they all declined. (Summer, for example, purportedly said that she had become a born-again Christian and wanted to stick closer to music that aligned with her faith.) So it came down to the Weather Girls, but they weren't sure about the song's promise. Paul Jabara, the song's co-writer, managed to convince them. "He kept pleading with us," singer Martha Wash told the Huffington Post. "He kept saying it was going to be a hit – and he was right."
7. "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," Aerosmith
Offered To/Intended For: Celine Dion
Diane Warren wasn't sure who would end up singing "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," but it almost certainly would be a woman. At first, she had envisioned Celine Dion "or somebody like that," she recalled in 2016. Then the song wound up being interpreted by a very different kind of vocalist: Aerosmith's Steven Tyler. That made this song even more intriguing to Warren: "This gruff, macho rock star, this amazing tough guy — for him to say that lyric, it just brought a whole other dimension to it."
8. "These Dreams," Heart
Offered To/Intended For: Stevie Nicks
Stevie Nicks passed on this song, perhaps because she'd already found plenty of success with the similarly titled "Dreams." Written by Bernie Taupin and Martin Page, "These Dreams" turned out to be an excellent twist of fate for Heart, who had recently signed with Capitol Records. Released as the third single from 1985's self-titled album, this became their first chart-topping song. (It was also Heart's first single with Nancy Wilson on lead vocals instead of her sister Ann.)
Bonnie Tyler, like many others in the industry, was greatly impressed with Jim Steinman's work with Meat Loaf. So she approached him about working together. "The record company at the time thought I was mad," she told BBC Culture. "They never in a million years thought that this would come off." Steinman agreed and offered her "Total Eclipse of the Heart," to the chagrin of his usual collaborator. "Meat Loaf was gutted, I think," Tyler told People, "because he always used to say, 'That song was meant for me!' I'd say, 'Tough! Tough! I got it! It's miiine.'"
Tom Petty had a lot of hits, so it's probably fine that he missed out on this one. Guitarist Mike Campbell wrote "Boys of Summer" during a period of experimentation with a LinnDrum machine, and Petty didn't feel it fit with the music they were working on at the time. Their producer, Jimmy Iovine, suggested Don Henley. He made some slight adjustments and released the song on 1984's Building the Perfect Beast. Petty had no hard feelings when the song became a big hit. "I was happy for him," he said in 2005's Conversations With Tom Petty. "I'm glad it worked out for him."
Imagine the Temptations singing Madonna's 1986 hit "Open Your Heart." It sounds a bit ridiculous but at one point, the Motown vocal group was under consideration. A more understandable candidate was Cyndi Lauper, but song co-writers Gardner Cole and Peter Rafelson never got the chance to play her the demo. Instead, "Open Your Heart" went to Madonna, who made some changes and took it to No. 1 on the Hot 100.
There is some confusion about whether David Bowie actually offered "Golden Years" to Elvis Presley. Still, in the mid '70s, Bowie and Presley were both working for RCA Records, so it would have been relatively easy to send over the demo tape. "There was talk between our offices that I should be introduced to Elvis and maybe start working with him in a production-writer capacity," Bowie later recalled, "but it never came to pass. I would have loved to have worked with him. God, I would have adored it."
Bruce Springsteen ran into the Ramones in Asbury Park, N.J., where frontman Joey Ramone half-seriously suggested that he write a song for them. "We were talking for a while and I was like, 'Man I've got to write the Ramones a song,'" Springsteen later told Jimmy Fallon. "So I went home and I sat at my table and I wrote it in about the time it took me to sing it." When he eventually showed "Hungry Heart" to Ramone, however, he told Springsteen to keep it instead.
Getting turned down by Prince had a huge career impact on Pharrell Williams, who originally worked only as a producer. "All of my biggest songs were songs that I did with or for other people," Williams told Clash, revealing that he'd written "Frontin'" with the intention of giving it to Prince. "Collaboration has always been part of my DNA." Evidently Prince wasn't sold on the song, however, and Williams ended up releasing "Frontin'" as his debut single in 2003.
Co-writers Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert originally planned to pitch "Take Me Home, Country Roads" to Johnny Cash, but they made the mistake of playing it for John Denver first. Denver insisted on recording the song himself, and his 1971 single became a No. 2 hit. Things would come full circle a bit later when Cash and Denver performed the song together.
Neil Young's relationship with Lynyrd Skynyrd is complicated. Young offered sharp criticism of slavery in the South in the song "Southern Man," then Skynyrd responded in "Sweet Home Alabama": "Well, I hope Neil Young will remember / A Southern man don't need him around, anyhow." Several years later, Young tried to make amends by offering two of his songs to Skynyrd, "Powderfinger" and "Sedan Delivery," but they were both declined.
"Physical" is practically synonymous with Olivia Newton-John, but the track was almost given to another bubbly blonde, Rod Stewart. "It actually wasn’t written for him," co-writer Steve Kipner told PopMatters, "but I imagined someone like Rod Stewart might record it." "Physical" was offered to Tina Turner, who turned it down. But her manager, Roger Davies, had another client who might fit the bill: Newton-John. "It was a bit raunchier than I realized," she admitted to Entertainment Weekly, but that didn't stop it from becoming a No. 1 hit.
18. "What's Love Got to Do With It," Tina Turner
Offered To/Intended For: Donna Summer, Others
"What's Love Got to Do With It" was, surprisingly, Tina Turner's only No. 1 hit on the Billboard chart, but it very nearly went to someone else. Cliff Richard, Phyllis Hyman, Donna Summer and the British group Bucks Fizz were offered the track, and all declined. Turner recorded "What's Love Got to Do With It" and released the definitive version in May 1984. (Bucks Fizz would eventually release their own version years later.)
A triple Grammy-winner and one of the biggest hits of the late '90s, Santana's "Smooth" spent a dozen weeks at the No. 1 spot. Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty penned the lyrics and changed the song's original melody, but he was not expecting to actually sing it. "My first thought was George Michael," Thomas told Billboard. "In fact, it was George I had in my head when I recorded the vocals in the first place. If you listen to the melody and the cadence, it's an attempt to emulate his style in so many ways."
20. "The Long and Winding Road," The Beatles
Offered To/Intended For: Tom Jones
Tom Jones ran into Paul McCartney sometime in the late '60s in London, and half-jokingly asked when the Beatles star when would be writing him a song. "He said, 'Aye, I will then,'" Jones later recalled. "Then not long after he sent a song around to my house, which was 'The Long and Winding Road,' but the condition was that I could do it but it had to be my next single." Jones already had his own single lined up, "Without Love," and his record company advised him not to go forward with "The Long and Winding Road." "They said it would take a lot of time and it was impractical, so I ended up not doing it."
21. "Something to Talk About," Bonnie Raitt
Offered To/Intended For: Anne Murray
Penned by the Canadian singer-songwriter Shirley Eikhard, "Something to Talk About" almost went to another Canadian artist, singer Anne Murray. She purportedly wanted to record the song in the mid '80s but was persuaded by her producers that it wouldn't be a hit. Boy, were they wrong. Murray named her 1986 album Something to Talk About anyway, but Bonnie Raitt took the song to No. 5 in 1991.
22. "Holiday," Madonna
Offered To/Intended For: The Supremes' Mary Wilson
"Holiday" almost wasn't Madonna's first international Top 10 song. "I originally played it for Mary Wilson from the Supremes," producer John "Jellybean" Benitez told the New York Post. "She liked it, but she wasn't in love with it." Benitez also ran it by singer Phyllis Hyman, as well as disco group the Ritchie Family, but ultimately, the track went to Madonna and appeared on her 1983 self-titled debut. "We were thinking of black artists, so it kind of put a whole different spin on it," co-writer Curtis Hudson added. "But once we met Madonna, I knew she was gonna go somewhere. I just didn’t know to what level."
23. "Misery," The Beatles
Offered To/Intended For: Helen Shapiro
The Beatles gave away a number of songs in their early years. They intended for 1963's "Misery" to be sung by Helen Shapiro, one of Britain's most popular and successful female singers at the time. "We've called it 'Misery,' but it isn't as slow as it sounds," McCartney said back then. "It moves along at quite a steady pace, and we think Helen will make a pretty good job of it." Instead, the song was initially recorded by tour mate Kenny Lynch, making him the first person to cover a Lennon/McCartney composition. The Beatles then included their own version of "Misery" on Please Please Me.
One day in the late '70s, producer Jimmy Iovine called Peter Wolf of the J. Geils Band to confirm his address. Shortly after that, a package from Tom Petty arrived with a cassette recording of "Don't Do Me Like That." "And there was a note," Wolf told Rolling Stone. "'Hey, I think this would be a cool song for you. I think you and the band can really do something with it.'" Wolf loved the track but decided to put it aside, and Petty ended up recording the song for 1979's Damn the Torpedoes. Decades later, Petty told Wolf: "I gotta thank you for that. When you didn't end up doing it, everybody talked me into putting it on the record – and it became one of my big, big hits."
25. "Don't Come Around Here No More," Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Offered To/Intended For: Stevie Nicks
Petty also came close to giving "Don't Come Around Here No More" to one of his closest friends, Stevie Nicks. "This is a person that's larger than life in a hundred ways," he said in Conversations with Tom Petty. "And I loved her voice." Producer Jimmy Iovine was looking for songs for Nicks to sing, which led to Petty and Dave Stewart of Eurythmics getting together to write. The sessions yielded "Don't Come Around Here No More," but Nicks insisted he keep it after hearing Petty's vocal on the track.
26. "What the World Needs Now Is Love," Jackie DeShannon
Offered To/Intended For: Dionne Warwick
Dionne Warwick recorded countless songs penned by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, but she turned down "What the World Needs Now Is Love." "She might have thought it was too preachy and I thought Dionne was probably right," Bacharach told Goldmine. "Hal pushed me to play it for Jackie DeShannon, who we were gonna record. Otherwise, I would have let it be and it would still be in the drawer. Once I heard Jackie sing four bars of it, I thought, 'Jesus, this is great.'"
27. "Son of a Preacher Man," Dusty Springfield
Offered To/Intended For: Aretha Franklin
"Son of a Preacher Man" became Dusty Springfield's signature song, but Aretha Franklin was considered first. "We started in a writing room at three in the morning for 'Preacher' and it took about 15 minutes as I said a line and John [Hurley] said a line," co-writer Ronnie Wilkins later recalled. "Both of my grandfathers were preachers and I was sort of into mischief and partying when I was younger. When we had it totally finished at 4 or 5AM, I remember jumping up and down and hugging because it was good." Franklin ended up recording her own version in 1970, but Springfield had already made it a hit two years earlier.
28. "Hard Luck Woman," Kiss
Offered To/Intended For: Rod Stewart
Paul Stanley wouldn't usually finish a song if he didn't think it would ultimately find a place on a Kiss album,. "But I was still fascinated with trying to figure out what made certain songs from other people tick," he wrote in 2014's Face the Music: a Life Exposed. He was thinking of Rod Stewart while trying to complete "Hard Luck Woman," and intended to offer him the song. Peter Criss, however, did not care for that idea and pleaded with Stanley to let him sing it. There was only one problem: "I'm not Rod Stewart, Paul," Criss recalled saying in 2005's Kiss: Behind the Mask. "I know you wanted him to do it, but I'm not going to mimic him."
29. "Born to Be Wild," Steppenwolf
Offered To/Intended For: The Human Expression
The Human Expression, a psychedelic rock band from Los Angeles, wasn't impressed when they first heard Canadian musician Mars Bonfire's "Born to Be Wild." They weren't alone in that. "All the publishers turned the song down," Bonfire told The Guardian. Steppenwolf recorded "Born to Be Wild" in 1968, a year after the Human Expression broke up, and turned it into a No. 2 hit. The song was also prominently featured in the 1969 film, Easy Rider.
30. "All I Want to Do Is Make Love to You," Heart
Offered To/Intended For: Don Henley
Heart was essentially pressed into recording "All I Want to Do Is Make Love to You." "Actually we had sworn off it because it kind of stood for everything we wanted to get away from," Ann Wilson wrote in the liner notes to the 1995 live album, The Road Home. "It was a song by Mutt Lange, who we liked, and it was originally written for Don Henley – but there was a lot of pressure on us to do the song at the time." The single went to No. 2.
31. "Suffragette City," David Bowie
Offered To/Intended For: Mott the Hoople
David Bowie was so convinced of Mott the Hoople's talent that he offered several songs to them, including "Suffragette City." They turned that one down, opting for "All the Young Dudes" instead. "God knows why he gave it to us," Ian Hunter told Classic Rock. "I've said that many times, but really, if I'd've had that song I wouldn't have given it to anybody." Bowie's recording of "Suffragette City" didn't chart, but it became one of his best-known tracks.
32. "You Belong to Me," Elvis Costello
Offered To/Intended For: Dr. Feelgood
It was Nick Lowe's idea to present an Elvis Costello song to Dr. Feelgood, the English pub rock band he was producing in the late '70s. They were into "You Belong to Me" at first, but then singer Lee Brilleaux had a hard time getting through the lyrics in the studio. "Let's ditch this song," he reportedly said during one take. "It's a bit War 'n' Peace, innit?" Costello ended up including the song on 1978's This Year's Model.
33. "Don't Worry Baby," The Beach Boys
Offered To/Intended For: The Ronettes
Brian Wilson has described the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" as "the greatest record ever produced. No one will ever top that one." Wilson attempted to conjure up the same magic with "Don't Worry Baby," which he admitted was inspired by the girl group's hit song. Wilson even tried offering his song to the Ronettes, but producer Phil Spector said no. He preferred to work on his own material. The Beach Boys recorded "Don't Worry Baby" themselves, turning it into a classic.
Bob Dylan's intentions for this song were belatedly revealed when a previously unreleased 1971 interview went up for auction. He claimed he'd written "Lay Lady Lady" for Barbara Steisand before it became the hit single from 1969's country-inflected Nashville Skyline. The Everly Brothers might also have been on Dylan's radar. Don Everly said Dylan played "Lay Lady Lady" for the duo after one of their concerts in New York City. "He sang parts of it, and we weren't quite sure whether he was offering it to us or not," he told Rolling Stone. "It was one of those awestruck moments."
Brian Wilson penned "Still I Dream of It" specifically for Frank Sinatra, but he tried to manage expectations. "I doubt [he'll] take it," Wilson said back then. Wilson decided to keep shopping it around, saying he "might approach Stevie Wonder and Elton John with the same song." None of them recorded the track. The Beach Boys' version remained shelved (with the rest of 1977's Adult/Child) until 1993, when "Still I Dream of It" finally appeared on Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of the Beach Boys.
36. "Love Will Find a Way," Yes
Offered To/Intended For: Stevie Nicks
A number of people have wanted their songs to be interpreted by Stevie Nicks, and Yes' Trevor Rabin was no exception. "I wrote 'Love Will Find A Way' very specifically for Stevie Nicks," he later said, "and then when the album started, Chris [Squire] heard it and played it to Trevor Horn, who said ‘This is the 'Owner of a Lonely Heart' of this record.'" Yes kept "Love Will Find a Way," and it became a Top 40 hit.
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