Chart Beat

These 18 Songwriters Have Written More No. 1 Hits by Themselves Than Any Other Songwriters in Hot 100 History

Lionel Richie, Diane Warren
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SAG-AFTRA Foundation

Honoree Lionel Richie and Diane Warren attend the SAG-AFTRA Foundation Patron of the Artists Awards 2017 at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on November 9, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California.

Diane Warren is the only female songwriter who has written three or more No. 1 hits all by herself.

The majority of hit songs in recent years have been written by committee. But prior to 2000, many songs were the work of just one songwriter -- a talented scribe who, all by him or herself, came up with both music and lyrics (imagine that!).

Not to take anything away from the songwriting-by-committee approach -- hey, whatever works -- but these solitary songwriters, capable of writing both music and lyrics, and doing it at a high level of success repeatedly, deserve special consideration.

With a committee approach, it’s impossible to know who contributed what: who wrote the lion’s share of the song and who made just a modest contribution. But with songs written by just one person, there’s no question. Take that songwriter out of the equation, and there’s no song.

Here’s a complete list of the 18 songwriters who are the sole writers of three or more No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. This dates from the launch of the Hot 100 in August 1958 to this week’s Hot 100, dated Oct. 31, 2020. (Actually, we could have closed it out in December 2017, when Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” hit No. 1; that’s the most recent song written by just one songwriter to reach the summit.)

Diane Warren and Lionel Richie are tied for the lead, with eight No. 1 hits written all by themselves. Warren is the only female songwriter who has written three or more No. 1 hits all by herself. Three female songwriters -- Dolly Parton, Gloria Estefan and Debbie Gibson -- have each written two.

In addition, Warren is the only person who is best-known for behind-the-scenes work who has written more than three No. 1 hits all by herself. John Farrar and Maurice Starr are runners-up in this category. They each wrote three No. 1 hits all by themselves for Olivia Newton-John and New Kids on the Block, respectively.

Of course, even songwriters who are generally “solo practitioners” can team up on occasion. Richie and Michael Jackson (who wrote seven No. 1 hits all by himself) came together to write “We Are the World,” the iconic 1985 single that is one of the best-selling songs in history.

Without further ado, here’s Billboard’s exclusive list of the 18 songwriters who have had the most No. 1 songs on the Hot 100 that they wrote all themselves. Ties are listed in alphabetical order. We show the titles of each of the No. 1 songs on which they were the sole writer and the years in which each song ascended to the top spot. We also show what year the songwriter was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, if he or she has been so honored. Ten of these 18 songwriters have been inducted. Eight, including such giants as Prince, George Michael and Sly Stone, have not yet been inducted.

Lionel Richie, 8: Commodores’ “Three Times a Lady” (1978) and “Still” (1979); Kenny Rogers’ “Lady” (1980); Diana Ross & Richie’s “Endless Love” (1981); Richie’s “Truly” (1982), “All Night Long (All Night)” (1983), “Hello” (1984) and “Say You, Say Me” (1985). SHOF: 1994

Diane Warren, 8: Chicago’s “Look Away” (1988); Bad English’s “When I See You Smile” (1989); Milli Vanilli’s “Blame It On the Rain” (1989); Taylor Dayne’s “Love Will Lead You Back” (1990); Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” (1996); Toni Braxton’s “Un-Break My Heart” (1996); Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” (1998); Brandy’s “Have You Ever?” (1999). SHOF: 2001

Michael Jackson 7: Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” (1979), “Billie Jean” (1983), “Beat It” (1983), “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” (1987), “Bad” (1987), “The Way You Make Me Feel” (1988) and “Dirty Diana” (1988). SHOF: 2002.  Died in 2009.

George Michael, 7: Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” (1984) and “Everything She Wants” (1985); Michael’s “Faith” (1987), “Father Figure” (1988), “One More Try” (1988), “Monkey” (1988) and “Praying for Time” (1990). SHOF: not yet inducted. Died in 2016.

Paul McCartney, 7: Paul McCartney & Wings’ “My Love” (1973) and “Band on the Run” (1974); Wings’ “Listen to What the Man Said” (1975), “Silly Love Songs” (1976) and “With a Little Luck” (1978); Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Coming Up (Live at Glasgow)” (1980); McCartney & Stevie Wonder’s ‘Ebony and Ivory” (1982). SHOF: 1987.

Stevie Wonder, 7: “Superstition” (1973), “You Are the Sunshine Of My Life” (1973), “You Haven’t Done Nothin’” (1974), “I Wish” (1977), “Sir Duke” (1977), “I Just Called to Say I Love You” (1984) and “Part-Time Lover” (1985). SHOF: 1983.

Prince, 6: Prince’s “When Doves Cry” (1984); Prince and the Revolution’s “Let’s Go Crazy” (1984) and “Kiss” (1986); Prince’s “Batdance” (1989); Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” (1990); Prince and the New Power Generation’s “Cream” (1991). SHOF: not yet inducted. Died in 2016.

Phil Collins, 4: Collins’ “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” (1984), “One More Night” (1985), “Sussudio” (1985) and “Another Day in Paradise” (1989). SHOF: 2003.

Neil Diamond, 4: The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer” (1966); Diamond’s “Cracklin’ Rosie” (1970) and “Song Sung Blue” (1972); UB40’s “Red Red Wine” (1988). SHOF: 1984.

Paul Simon, 4: Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sounds of Silence” (1966), “Mrs. Robinson” (1968) and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (1970); Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” (1976). SHOF: 1982.

John Denver, 3: Peter, Paul & Mary’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” (1969); Denver’s “Annie’s Song” (1974) and “I’m Sorry” (1975). SHOF: 1996 (the year before Denver died in a private plane crash).

John Farrar, 3: Olivia Newton-John’s “Have You Never Been Mellow” (1975); Newton-John & John Travolta’s “You’re the One That I Want” (1978); Newton-John’s “Magic” (1980). SHOF: not yet inducted.

Per Gessle (of Roxette), 3: Roxette’s “The Look” (1989), “It Must Have Been Love” (1990) and “Joyride” (1991). SHOF: not yet inducted.

Billy Joel, 3: Joel’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” (1980), “Tell Her About It” (1983) and “We Didn’t Start the Fire” (1989). SHOF: 1992.

R. Kelly, 3: R. Kelly’s “Bump N’ Grind” (1994); Michael Jackson’s “You Are Not Alone” (1995): R. Kelly & Celine Dion’s “I’m Your Angel” (1998). SHOF: not yet inducted.

Richard Marx, 3: Marx’s “Hold On to the Nights” (1988), “Satisfied” (1989) and “Right Here Waiting” (1989). SHOF: not yet inducted.

Maurice Starr, 3: New Kids on the Block’s “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever),” (1989), “Hangin’ Tough” (1989) and “Step By Step” (1990). SHOF: not yet inducted.

Sly Stone, 3: Sly & the Family Stone’s “Everyday People” (1969), “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)” (1970) and “Family Affair” (1971). SHOF: not yet inducted.

As a bonus, here are the names of the 29 songwriters who wrote two No. 1 hits on the Hot 100 all by themselves: Paul Anka, Jerry Fuller, Allen Toussaint, Brian Wilson, Tony Hatch, Clint Ballard, Bobby Russell, Mark James, George Harrison, Robbie Van Leeuwen, Randy Bachman, Ray Stevens, Bill Withers, Jim Croce, Barry White, Alan O’Day, John Lennon, Steve Miller, Barry Gibb, Daryl Hall, Rod Temperton, Dolly Parton, Kevin Cronin, Jim Steinman, Gloria Estefan, Debbie Gibson, Elliot Wolff, Oliver Leiber and Babyface.

If you want to check their SHOF status, it’s right here.

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