Ask Billboard: Pen Pals

Q&A With Richard Marx: Bill Should've Known Better

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, as well as general music musings, to Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.


Hi Gary,

After reading the "Ask Billboard" e-mails the past three weeks about prominent acts without No. 1 hits on both the Billboard 200 and Hot 100, and reader Brad Lyman's comment that Bruce Springsteen had written the No. 1 "Blinded By the Light," performed by Manfred Mann's Earth Band, I started thinking about another "Ask Billboard" that readers might want to contribute to:

Hit songs written by superstars that were performed by other artists.

Two that quickly come to mind, other than "Light," are Sinéad O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U," written by Prince, and Paul Young's "Everytime You Go Away," written by Daryl Hall and originally performed by Hall and Oates.

I would love to know if there are many more!


Hugh Peacock
Perth, Australia

Hi Hugh,

Thank you for another incredibly intriguing topic!

The rock era, dating even to its early days, is infused with many such examples. At the height of Beatlemania, Paul McCartney and John Lennon penned the 1964 Hot 100 No. 1 "A World Without Love" for Peter and Gordon. (McCartney was dating Peter Asher's sister, Jane, at the time ...)

McCartney also wrote and produced the No. 7 "Come and Get It" for Badfinger in 1970.

During their "Saturday Night Fever"-era success, members of the Bee Gees also wrote or co-wrote three Hot 100 No. 1s for brother Andy and one for Yvonne Elliman ("If I Can't Have You"), plus the No. 3-peaking "Emotion" for Samantha Sang. In 1983, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb wrote (and Barry co-produced) the two-week Hot 100 leader "Islands in the Stream" for Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.

(And, Prince, as "Christopher," also wrote the Bangles' No. 2 1986 smash "Manic Monday").

There are numerous more recent examples, as well, including Taylor Swift having co-written "Best Days of Your Life" with her friend Kellie Pickler, who sent the cut to No. 9 on Country Songs in 2009.

Ke$ha also co-authored Britney Spears' "Till the World Ends," which reached No. 3 on the Hot 100 last month.

I'll let faithful and knowledgeable Chart Beat readers name countless other examples of hit songs written by superstars that were performed by other artists. Please feel free to e-mail and we'll pick up the discussion next Friday.

In the meantime, one more artist who's penned hits for other acts, since I saw him perform last night at WLTW (106.7 Lite FM)/New York's P.C. Richards & Sons Theater and am still on a high from the show.

In addition to scoring 17 Hot 100 hits between 1987 and 1998, including nine top 10s, three of which reached No. 1, Richard Marx has written or co-written six top 40 Hot 100 hits for other acts:

Peak Pos., Title, Performer(s)
No. 15, 1984, "What About Me," Kenny Rogers with Kim Carnes & James Ingram
No. 26, 1988, "Edge of a Broken Heart," Vixen
No. 6, 1989, "Surrender to Me," Ann Wilson & Robin Zander
No. 39, 1990, "Nothin' to Hide," Poco

No. 5, 2000, "This I Promise You," 'N Sync
No. 38, 2003, "Dance With My Father," Luther Vandross

Marx has also co-written seven top 40 entries on Country Songs, including two No. 1s with the artists that performed them: Kenny Rogers' "Crazy" (one week, 1985) and Keith Urban's "Better Life" (six weeks, 2005).

The pair also wrote Urban's new single, "Long Hot Summer," which could bow on Country Songs next week.

As always, Marx mixed in his trademark self-deprecating humor at last night's performance, hosted by syndicated love songs radio personality Delilah.

Three amusing highlights:

- Recalling hearing his new single "When You Loved Me" (up 21-19 on Adult Contemporary this week) on an AC station recently, Marx heard the DJ promote that Nickelback's "Photograph" was ahead. "Usually it's, 'That was Richard Marx. Coming up next, Bette Midler's 'Wind Beneath My Wings.' Still cool! ... but 'Nickelback' was cooler ..."

- At a recent concert, a fan requested that Marx sing "Summer of '69," confusing him with fellow '80s hitmaker Bryan Adams. (Marx said he sang it for him anyway, as he likes the song). When Marx then saw Adams at one of the latter artist's concerts, he told him the story, adding "So, do fans ever request any of my songs at your shows?" Adams stared at Marx before responding with a quizzical ... "No ..."

- Marx preceded his performance of "Hazard" by discussing the song's origin: that he thought it was the dumbest lyrical plot he'd ever imagined (that he was a fictional possible murder suspect). Still, he said, it sounded different from many of his other songs so he wanted to at least record a rough take of it on cassette in his home studio.

As he was singing it, his wife, actress ("Dirty Dancing")/singer (Animotion) Cynthia Rhodes came in and listened. When he had finished, she said, "That's a hit." Marx strongly disagreed and wound up including it on his 1991 album "Rush Street" "just to prove to her that she was wrong. Isn't that all guys want, just be right once in awhile?," Marx joked to the audience.

"Four months later," he said, "'Hazard' was No. 1 in 13 countries.

"And I was pi**ed."
Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, as well as general music musings, to Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.


Hi Gary,

Regarding acts that have never hit No. 1 on both the Billboard 200 and Hot 100, how about one of my favorite British bands, the Hollies?

During their long career dating back almost 50 years, they have had two No. 1 songs and two No. 1 albums in their native England, but here in the United States, they have never had a No. 1 song.

Their biggest U.S. hit was the No. 2-peaking classic "Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress)" in 1972 and their highest-charting album here was their No. 11 "Greatest Hits" in 1967, while "Distant Light" was their top-performing studio set (No. 21, 1972).

At least they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.

Jim Perota
Chattanooga, Tennessee

Hi Gary,

I might add Sting to the list of those who have never hit No. 1 on both the Billboard 200 and Hot 100, but with an asterisk.

While with the Police, he scored a No. 1 album, "Synchronicity," and a No. 1 song, "Every Breath You Take."

As a solo act, he returned to the top of the Hot 100, although with the assistance of Bryan Adams and Rod Stewart on "All for Love" (1994).

If that brings a bit of an asterisk, this cements it: as a soloist, Sting has seen three of his solo albums peak as high as No. 2: "The Dream of the Blue Turtles" (1985), "The Soul Cages" (1991) and "Ten Summoner's Tales" (1993). (He's also notched seven other top 10 sets).

At least he has occupied the top spot of both charts in his famed group.

Be well,

Dave Baskind
Saginaw, Michigan

Dear Gary,

Regarding the discussion of star artists that haven't topped the Billboard 200 and Hot 100, last week I shared a list of such acts but who were nonetheless inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame, music's highest honor ... and there's more.

First, the legendary group from Jacksonville, Fla., Lynyrd Skynyrd. So far, on the Hot 100, this band's biggest hit is the No.8 "Sweet Home Alabama" in 1974. On the Billboard 200, its highest charting-album was the last one with members Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines, who, along with Gaines' sister Cassie, were killed in a plane crash on Oct. 20, 1977, three days after the release of "Street Survivors," which peaked at No. 5.

How about ZZ Top? On the Hot 100, this trio's top chart singles went to number 8: "Legs" in 1984 and "Sleeping Bag" in 1985. 1985's "Afterburner" rose to No. 4 on the Billboard 200 in 1985. ZZ Top is still touring after 42 years together.

Ah, New York City's Talking Heads. Their only top 10 on the Hot 100 was the No. 9 "Burning Down the House," from the band's best-charted album, "Speaking in Tongues." It landed at No. 15 in 1983.

As a solo act since 1967, former Them singer Van Morrison's greatest Hot 100 hit is "Domino" (No, 9) in 1970. On the Billboard 200, the Belfast, Northern Ireland, native's best showing is his only top 10 album yet, "Keep It Simple" (No. 10, 2008).

And last, but not least, "The King of the Blues" ... "The Ambassador of the Blues" ... "Blues Boy" ... B.B. King. The legendary guitarist and songwriter's highest-charting Hot 100 hit is "The Thrill Is Gone" (No. 15, 1970). On the Billboard 200, King's highest rank is his only top 10: "Riding With the King," with Eric Clapton (No. 3, 2000). King is celebrating his 62-year career on tour. What a thrill!

And, what a thrill it is discussing this wonderful topic with you and your readers.

Thanks for this great opportunity,

Mackenzie (Mac) Scott,
Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, as well as general music musings, to Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.


Hi Gary,

I love your column and read it faithfully. I have a question about Adele's "Rolling in the Deep."

The song appears on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart (79-66 this week) and reached No. 15 on the Rock Songs chart. How many songs have been so popular that they hit both of these charts? Granted, Rock Songs premiered fairly recently.

It has to be an accomplishment, though, that doesn't happen often.


Paul Hollins
Chicago, Illinois

Hi Paul,

Thank you for the kind words.

And, you're right - it's quite an achievement that speaks to the song's mass appeal.

Since Billboard launched Rock Songs, which encompasses airplay on approximately 170 alternative, mainstream rock and triple A radio stations, two years ago this month, just one other song has graced both that chart and R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.

Cee Lo Green's "Forget You (F**k You)" reached No. 40 on Rock Songs in October 2010 and No. 57 on R&B/Hip-Hop Songs in April.

How did both "Forget" and "Deep" forge such multi-format success?

Each song mixes so many styles - pop, rock, soul - while not leaning so heavily in one direction as to greatly alienate other formats.

It's not surprising that both songs already rank among the most downloaded songs of the digital era. "Forget" has sold 4.8 million downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and "Deep," 3.9 million.

And, of course, few mixed R&B and rock like Michael Jackson, whose "Beat It," with the aid of Eddie Van Halen's guitar mastery, reached No. 14 on Mainstream Rock (and No. 1 on R&B/Hip-Hop Songs) in 1983. Click here for's special chart tribute to the late King of Pop, as tomorrow (June 25) marks the two-year anniversary of his passing.