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Ask Billboard: Ed Sheeran & Other Artists Who First Led the Hot 100 as Writers

Before Sheeran ruled this week with his own "Shape of You," he co-wrote Justin Bieber's No. 1 "Love Yourself."

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Hi Gary,

With Ed Sheeran notching his first No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 as an artist, “Shape of You,” he has joined an elite group of artists who earned their first Hot 100 chart-topper as a songwriter before climbing to the top as a performer. As we know, he co-wrote Justin Bieber‘s “Love Yourself,” a two-week No. 1 last year (and 2016’s year-end No. 1).

Let’s look at other multi-talented songwriters that have crowned the Hot 100 before going on to reign as performing artists.

Carole King co-wrote four Hot 100 No. 1s in 1961-63, for The Shirelles (“Will You Love Me Tomorrow”), Bobby Vee (“Take Good Care of My Baby”), Little Eva (“The Loco-Motion”) and Steve Lawrence (“Go Away Little Girl”). She then reached the top on her own with “It’s Too Late”/”I Feel the Earth Move” in 1971. (She went right back to providing No. 1 material for another artist later in 1971: James Taylor‘s “You’ve Got a Friend.”)

After penning the Motown leaders “My Guy” for Mary Wells (1964) and “My Girl” for The Temptations (1965), Smokey Robinson topped the Hot 100 for the first time with his own voice via The Miracles’ “The Tears of a Clown” (1970, three years after the song’s initial release).

Peter, Paul & Mary finally scored a Hot 100 No. 1 in December 1969 with “Leaving on a Jet Plane” (their 19th and last Hot 100 hit), written and first recorded by John Denver. In 1974, Denver would collect his first of four leaders as an artist with “Sunshine on My Shoulders.”

Much like Denver, Andy Kim first visited the Hot 100’s No. 1 spot as a songwriter in 1969 with “Sugar, Sugar,” recorded by The Archies. He, too, would also claim a No. 1 in 1974, as the performer of “Rock Me Gently.”

Kenny Loggins co-wrote “What a Fool Believes” with Michael McDonald, resulting in a Hot 100 No. 1 for The Doobie Brothers in 1979. Loggins would wait five more years for his first trip to the top of the Hot 100 as an artist, with “Footloose” in 1984.


Also in 1979, Bob Seger‘s co-write “Heartache Tonight” (with Glenn Frey, Don Henley and J.D. Souther) became the fifth and final Hot 100 leader for the Eagles. Seger would have to wait even longer than Loggins – nearly eight years – before finally scoring his own No. 1 with “Shakedown” in 1987.

And, a special mention of Ross Bagdasarian. In 1958, he led the Hot 100 No. 1 as David Seville on The Chipmunks‘ holiday favorite “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” (billed as with Seville). He had co-written Rosemary Clooney’s “Come On-a My House,” which topped all three Billboard song charts (Best Selling Pop Singles, Most-Played in Juke Boxes and Records Most Played by Disk Jockeys) in 1951, before the debut of the Hot 100 in 1958.

Thank you,
David Brunot
Port Allegany, Pennsylvania

Hi David,

A great angle – I always love spotlighting songwriters, as they are where it all begins.

Your knowledge is incredibly impressive. I can add five more, covering more than 50 years of Hot 100 hits.

Neil Diamond first ruled the Hot 100 for seven weeks in 1966-67 as the writer of The Monkees‘  “I’m a Believer.” In 1970, he collected his first of three No. 1s as an artist with “Cracklin’ Rosie.” Meanwhile in 1988, a song he’d taken to No. 62 in 1968 hit No. 1: UB40‘s reggae version of “Red Red Wine” (which had earlier peaked at No. 34 in 1984).

If we count only his releases as a soloist, Lionel Richie landed his first of five Hot 100 No. 1s in 1981 with his Diana Ross duet “Endless Love.” Nearly a year earlier, Kenny Rogers had led with his haunting take of Richie’s “Lady.” In 1978 and 1979, however, Richie had led as a member of the Commodores with “Three Times a Lady” and “Still,” both of which he wrote.

Skipping ahead to 2009, Bruno Mars co-wrote Flo Rida‘s “Right Round,” which topped the Hot 100 for six weeks. The next year, Mars would achieve his first of six No. 1s as an artist, as featured on B.o.B’s “Nothin’ on You.” Thus, “Right Round” served as a preview of two of the 2010s’ most notable hitmakers: Mars and the song’s uncredited vocalist, Kesha (while Flo Rida has continued to since make the Hot 100 his house).

In December 2012, Rihanna reigned for three weeks with “Diamonds,” co-written by Sia. The latter subsequently wrote “Cheap Thrills” for Rihanna, who might’ve taken it to No. 1 … if she hadn’t rejected it. Sia recorded it (with featured artist Sean Paul) and her version became her first leader behind the mic (and wig) this past August.

Most recently, before Sheeran, Daft Punk reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 for the first time as a performing act when The Weeknd‘s “Starboy,” featuring the duo, crowned the Jan. 7-dated Hot 100. The pair had first topped the chart in the writing field on Kanye West‘s 2007 No. 1 “Stronger,” which reworks Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” from 2001.

Meanwhile, a little more Ed-ucation …


Hi Gary,

Ed Sheeran is now off the list of artists who’ve written a Hot 100 No. 1 (Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself”) but “only” peaked at No. 2 on their own. Before topping the Hot 100 this week with “Shape of You,” he, of course, stopped at No. 2 for eight weeks in 2015 with “Thinking Out Loud.”


That’s another honor for Sheeran, although he was in pretty good company even before “Shape,” as I can think of two icons who’ve written Hot 100 No. 1s for others but reached No. 2 career bests recording their own songs.

Bob Dylan topped the Hot 100 as the writer of The Byrds‘ first hit, “Mr. Tambourine Man,” in 1965. Later that year, he earned the first of his two highest-peaking singles as an artist, the No. 2 classic “Like a Rolling Stone.” In 1966, Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” also rose to No. 2 (while never ranking at No. 12 nor No. 35 …)

In 1977, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band bounded to No. 1 with “Blinded by the Light.” Its writer – Bruce Springsteen – would score his highest-charting Hot 100 hit as an artist with “Dancing in the Dark,” which would peak at No. 2 for four weeks in 1984 (behind Duran Duran‘s “The Reflex,” for one week, and Prince‘s “When Doves Cry,” for three).