Ask Billboard: 'N Sync and Gulf War Songs

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. Submit your burning music questions to Gary Trust at Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.


Hi Gary,

I enjoyed last week's Ask Billboard discussion about country songs that were hits the first time by solo artists and then as duets by those performers with partners. I would add Alabama's remake of "God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You" with original artist 'N Sync.

And how about a major pop example? In 1974, Elton John reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." 17 years later, Elton teamed for a live version of the song with fellow Brit George Michael, and the song reached No. 1.

Be well,

Dave Baskind
Saginaw, Michigan

Hi Dave,

Thanks for bringing 'N Sync into the discussion. It was only omitted from our list of country hits because of the quirky way it was billed in Billboard. The song was credited solely to Alabama for its Country chart run and as by Alabama featuring 'N Sync on the Hot 100. As Billboard Director of Charts Silvio Pietroluongo noted in his Hot 100 Singles Spotlight column in the May 29, 1999, Billboard, the retail single contained only the version featuring 'N Sync's vocals, while country radio was serviced with two versions: one with 'N Sync and one without. Because the versions were so similar, Nielsen BDS was unable to detect which version country radio was airing, and, thus unable to confirm that the 'N Sync version was receiving airplay. So, 'N Sync was never credited on Hot Country Songs. Pretty clear, right?

I did recall two other pop hits remade for country featuring the original artists:

In 1999, Jimmy Buffett sailed to No. 63 on Hot Country Songs as a guest on Alan Jackson's "Margaritaville." The original by Buffett (a former Billboard staffer in the '60s) reached No. 8 on the Hot 100, as well as No. 13 at Country, in 1977.

In February 2007, John Waite took his 1984 Hot 100 No. 1 "Missing You" to No. 34 at Country as a duet with Alison Krauss, a bit before her teaming with another male rocker - Robert Plant - would bring her Grammy glory. (See below for more on Waite.)

One more purely country title pertaining to the topic: On the Aug. 11, 2007, Country Songs tally, "Ready, Set, Don't Go" debuted in solo form from Billy Ray Cyrus. The song hovered between its No. 47 debut ranking and the chart's anchor position for 11 weeks until the Oct. 27, 2007, chart, when it suddenly jumped 48-33. The reason? Billy Ray performed the song with daughter Miley on the Oct. 9, 2007, episode of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars." The appearance prompted Walt Disney/Lyric Street to release a new studio recording of the track as a duet, and the family affair then rose to a No. 4 peak on the Feb. 9, 2008, chart.

As we specifically focused on country remakes last week, with Carrie Underwood's "I Told You So," featuring Randy Travis, becoming a top 10 hit again on Hot Country Songs after Travis reached No. 1 with the original version in 1988, I wasn’t thinking of the pop side. But the Elton John/George Michael pairing certainly fits the topic.

What, then, are some other such non-country remakes?

Interestingly, after the 1991 success of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," both John and Michael repeated the feat of sending songs back to the Hot 100 as duets.

Michael's live performance of "Somebody to Love" with Queen rose to No. 30 in 1993. Queen's original rocked to No. 13 in 1977.

John's entry in the category had actually been a duet the first time: "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" hit No. 1 in 1976 with Kiki Dee. In 1994, a new version with RuPaul peaked at No. 92.

Here are some other notable entries to consider. The following is not meant to be a complete list encompassing the Hot 100's history due to the scope of research that would be involved, so if there are other titles you can think of, please e-mail and I'll include them in next week's Ask Billboard.

Artist, Title, Original Year & Hot 100 Peak,
Artists, Title, Remake Year & Hot 100 Peak:

Chubby Checker, "The Twist," 1960, 1962, No. 1
Fat Boys (with Chubby Checker), "The Twist (Yo Twist!)," 1988, No. 16

Chicago (Peter Cetera, vocals), "Hard to Say I'm Sorry," 1982, No. 1
Az Yet featuring Peter Cetera, "Hard to Say I'm Sorry," 1997, No. 8

Chicago (Peter Cetera, vocals), "You're the Inspiration," 1984, No. 3
Peter Cetera featuring Az Yet, "You're the Inspiration," 1997, No. 77

Dobie Gray, "Drift Away," 1973, No. 5
Uncle Kracker featuring Dobie Gray, "Drift Away," 2003, No. 9

Michael Jackson, "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," 1983, No. 5
Michael Jackson with Akon, "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' 2008," 2008, No. 81

Two songs from adult formats: Howard Jones' "No One Is to Blame" was a No. 1 Adult Contemporary and No. 4 Hot 100 title in 1986. Katrina Carlson's update featuring Jones climbed to No. 20 on the former chart in 2007. At Adult Top 40, Mary J. Blige and U2 hit No. 37 in 2006 with "One." The band's original hit No. 10 on the Hot 100 in 1992.

Honorable mentions: Elton John (again) reached No. 1 in 1974 with a cover of the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds." The new version featured the guitars of Dr. Winston O'Boogie, aka John Lennon; Natalie Cole's cover of "Unforgettable" featuring vocals from her late father Nat King Cole (the original 1952 version predated the Hot 100's 1958 launch); Sting & the Police featuring Pras' "Roxanne '97 - Puff Daddy Remix," No. 59 in 1998, a reworking of "Roxanne," No. 32 for the Police in 1979; The Elvis vs. JXL remix, No. 50 in 2002, of the King's "A Little Less Conversation," originally a No. 69 hit in 1968; Eddie Money's inclusion of the Ronettes' "Be My Baby," No. 2 in 1963, in "Take Me Home Tonight," his No. 4 1986 smash; and, Frank Sinatra's two "Duets" albums in 1993 and 1994, featuring the legend's vocals paired with contemporary artists on covers of his own classics.


Dear Gary,

I've been trying to put together a playlist of music from 1990-91, specifically music related to Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, but I've been having some difficulty. I remember some songs during that time included voice-overs of news reports, or speeches by President George Bush. Do you recall any of those tracks? And, do you know how I might be able to find them?

Thank you,

Bill Smith
Kansas City, Missouri

Hi Bill,

Several of the special mixes for songs from that time were likely created by radio stations or syndication services. If you didn't record them from your radio then (in the good old days of boom boxes with built-in recordable cassette decks), they'd probably be difficult to track down. Perhaps YouTube or certain audio sites would contain some of those tracks.

I do recall that several songs, whether remixed with clips or not, received greater airplay due to their lyrics during the Gulf War. Here are five that charted on the Hot 100 and their peak positions:

Styx, "Show Me the Way," No. 3
Oleta Adams, "Get Here," No. 5
Voices That Care, "Voices That Care," No. 11 (The song featured a 1991 who's-who of celebrities, including Michael Bolton, Nelson, Wayne Gretzky, Alyssa Milano, Fred Savage and an up-and-coming singer named Celine Dion)
Whitney Houston, "The Star Spangled Banner," No. 20
The Peace Choir, "Give Peace a Chance," No. 54 (Another all-star single, featuring additional lyrics by Sean Lennon and Yoko Ono)

Billboard Senior Country Chart Manager Wade Jessen adds a few related titles that appeared on Hot Country Songs in 1990-91:

Eddie Rabbitt, "American Boy," No. 11
Hank Williams Jr., "Don't Give Us a Reason," No. 27
Johnny Cash, "Goin' by the Book," No. 69

I remember one of the most poignant musical moments related to the conflict being Sting's introduction as host of "Saturday Night Live" on Jan. 19, 1991, just two days Operation Desert Storm's air campaigns had begun. Foregoing a comedic monologue, he simply began by eloquently stating that a song might offer healing. He then launched into a live version of "All This Time," the contemplative song sounding entirely appropriate.


Hi Gary,

This week's Chart Beat column discusses No. 1 songs where a member of a group first led as a solo act, then as a group member. I believe that John Waite would qualify for this category, as well, having hit No. 1 with "Missing You" in 1984 and then with Bad English on "When I See You Smile."


Brad Gaucher
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Hi Brad,

Thanks for adding Waite to the list - but I think this one would have to include an asterisk. What separates Waite from Phil Collins and Rob Thomas is that when the latter two artists reached No. 1, they were already members of their bands, Genesis and Matchbox Twenty, respectively. Then, those groups followed them to the Hot 100 summit.

Waite had been a member of the Babys and went solo after they broke up. Bad English then formed and released its debut album in 1989, five years after "Missing You" reached No. 1 as a solo single for Waite.

We also did not include in Chart Beat one-time acts like USA for Africa, which featured several members that had hit No. 1 prior to the coronation of "We Are the World" in 1985.