I Write the Songs Part 3


I Write the Songs (part 3)

Jerry Leiber (April 25, 1933 – August 22, 2011) and Mike Stoller (born March 13, 1933) This pair met in Los Angeles and by age 17 their songs were being recorded. With the success of “Hound Dog” by Big Mama Thornton in 1953, they, along with their mentor Lester Sill, formed Spark Records which was the first of many businesses. Though they were not initially fans of Elvis’s rendition of Hound Dog, they grew to have a great relationship with him and wrote some of his #1 hits such as Don’t” (1958) and “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) as well as several other top tens. They wrote “There Goes My Baby” and “On Broadway” for The Drifters, and “Stand By Me” and “I (Who Have Nothing)” for Ben E. King, which would go on to be a hit song for at least five other artists. Their favorite group were The Coasters who had four #1 R&B songs and a dozen other hits on Billboard’s Hot 100 and the R&B charts. They hit  #1 with “Yakety Yak” in 1958. Jerry Leiber also co-wrote two very memorable songs without Stoller: “Spanish Harlem” by Ben E. King, later a #1 R&B hit for Aretha Franklin, and “Jackson” by The Kingston Trio, later a #2 hit for June Carter and Johnny Cash. 

Ellie Greenwich (October 23, 1940 – August 26, 2009) and Jeff Barry (born Joel Adelberg; April 3, 1938). 

Ellie began her career at The Brill Building and was signed to Leiber & Stoller’s publishing company where she co-wrote several songs and became a prominent demo singer. By late 1960 she was romantically involved with Jeff Barry. After he wrote “Tell Laura I Love Her”(1960) with Ben Raleigh, he was a well established name in the business. He and Greenwich were married in 1962 and they would often co-write with *Phil Spector and produced the hits “Baby I Love You” and “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes, “Then He Kissed Me” and “Da Doo Ron Ron” by The Crystals and “Do-Wah-Diddy” by The Exciters and the number one hits “Leader of the Pack” by The Shangri-Las and “Chapel of Love” by The Dixie Cups. They also wrote “River Deep – Mountain High“, now considered an R&B classic, by Ike and Tina Turner.


Diane Warren (born September 7, 1956)

Warren’s career really took off while working at EMI Records and she was the first writer in Billboard’s Hot 100 history to chart seven songs simultaneously, all with different artists. You know her songs such as: “Because You Loved Me” by Celine Dion, “Blame It on the Rain” by the now defunct Milli Vanilli, “By the Time This Night Is Over” by Kenny G featuring Peabo Bryson and written with Michael Bolton and Andy Goldmark, and “Don’t Turn Around” first recorded by Tina Turner but popularized by Ace of Base and written with Albert Hammond. She also wrote #1 hits such as “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith, “Look Away” by Chicago and “Un-Break My Heart” by Toni Braxton. Among her several accolades she has won a Grammy, an Emmy, a Golden Globe and three consecutive Billboard Songwriter of the Year Awards. 
Kenny Gamble (born August 11, 1943) and Leon A. Huff (born April 8, 1942) 
Gamble and Huff are the creators of Philadelphia Soul, known as the “Philly Sound”. They produced many memorable hits such as “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” which was a joint release by Diana Ross & The Supremes and the Temptations in 1968. They wrote other hits such as “Love Train” and “Back Stabber” by the O’Jays, “When Will I See You Again” by The Three Degrees, “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes and “Me and Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul written with Cary Gilbert. Gamble and Huff have written and produced 175 Platinum and Gold records and were inducted into The R&R Hall of Fame in 2008. 

Bernie Taupin (born May 22, 1950) and Elton John (born Reginald Kenneth Dwight; March 25, 1947). 

While we all know Sir Elton John as one of the greatest performers in pop music history, he could not have done it all without the great lyricist Bernie Taupin. Think of any of the great songs on as many as 30 Elton John albums and it’s likely your favourites were written by Taupin. Some of the most famous include their first top ten hit “Your Song” released in October of 1970 followed by “Rocket Man”, “Levon”, “Crocodile Rock”, “Honky Cat”, “Tiny Dancer”, “Candle in the Wind”, “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”, “Bennie and the Jets”, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters“, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”, “The Bitch is Back”, “Daniel”, “I’m Still Standing”, “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues”, “Sad Songs“, and “Nikita.” Taupin and John’s collaborative magic continued through to the 1990’s with more hits like “The One”, “Simple Life”, “The Last Song“, “Club at the End of the Street” and “Believe.”

Gerry Goffin (February 11, 1939 – June 19, 2014)

I’ve blogged about Carole King and likely referenced her a couple dozen times, and of course, her name shows up with her ex, Gerry Goffin on their many hits. However, Gerry Goffin alone was surely one of the greats, as very few lyricists have had as much success, and few have written as many hits recorded by as many artists. He and Carole King wrote dozens of songs like: “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, “Take Good Care of My Baby”, “The Loco-Motion”, “Up On the Roof”, “One Fine Day”.  With Michael Masser composing he wrote the lyrics to Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)” and the silly but catchy tune “Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)” with Barry Mann and there are many more. He’s not quite a Diane Warren but he’s put hits in the hands of Country, Pop and Rock artists.

Songwriters who are also Performers

To close this series, I’ll step away from my original criteria and mention the names of songwriters that “crossed over”, if you will, to becoming performers. Some had more moderate success as singers but their songs when covered became huge hits.  Apart from the obvious being Carole King, there are others who are well known for writing successful songs for others as well as establishing their own recording careers. Some of these notable dual career artists are: Randy Newman, famous for his song “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story, who wrote “Mama Told Me Not to Come” by Three Dog Night, Neil Diamond who wrote “I’m a Believer” and “A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You” by The Monkees Carole Bayer Sager and Albert Hammond who wrote “When I Need You” by Leo Sayer. Others include  Isaac Lee Hayes Jr. and David Porter who wrote “When Something Is Wrong with My Baby” by Sam and Dave, Laura Nyro who wrote “Wedding Bell Blues” by The 5th Dimension, Willie Nelson who wrote “Crazy” by Patsy Cline, Curtis Mayfield who wrote the #1 hit Let’s Do It Again” by The Staple Singers and Willie Dixon who wrote and co-wrote over 500 songs including “Pretty Thing” by Bo Diddley. While I can’t talk about all of them there is one final songwriter/performer that may not immediately come to mind and that is Smokey Robinson, if only because there are so many memorable hits from The Miracles and his own solo work. However he has written or co-written songs for several other artists like Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Supremes, Mary Wells, The Marvelettes and The Four Tops.
*Phil Spector (born December 26, 1939) Does not get his own spot other than this…as important as he was as a songwriter and producer, I can’t justify honouring him with anything more than the unavoidable passing mention/credit. As most will know, he is currently in prison for the murder of Lana Clarkson, a fashion model and actor, who appeared in dozens of films and TV shows before her untimely death on February 3, 2003.



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Edited by Richelle Dafoe


One thought on “I Write the Songs Part 3

  1. […] As I did last fall I have added some streaming numbers to this issue and increased the most covered singles list to 20 songs. I have three categories in today’s blog: 1. The most covered songs (by title) written by a single artist, 2. The most cover versions combined and 3. The most covered Pop songs.  These numbers are for artists that write and record their own songs. For more on those known primarily as songwriters, read my series I Write the Songs. […]


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