As we continue the transition to digital media in the modern age, one thing we’ve lost is liner notes. These were usually just credits and weren’t really that important in the grand scheme of things, but sometimes they revealed some interesting facts. Specifically, they often listed who wrote certain songs, and could change your perception of a band.
Either that or they’d just shock you. Most of the time, you’d just see the guitarist’s name next to the song, but others you’d see some crazy name you’d never expect. Here are five that jumped out at me the first time I found out about them.
See also: In Appreciation of Peter Steele
The Weather Girls, “It’s Raining Men”
This iconic gay anthem has a long history and wasn’t a Weather Girls original by any means. Actually, I’m not sure the Weather Girls really ever wrote their own songs. Anyway, the mystery duo behind this one was actually Paul Jabara and… Paul Shaffer.
That’s right, David Letterman’s bandleader composed “It’s Raining Men.” The truth about Shaffer is that he’s had a long and varied career outside of Letterman’s show, writing songs for many artists and being Saturday Night Live‘s musical czar once upon a time. It’s a good bet this song made him more scratch than anything else, though.
Will Smith, “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit’ It”
It’s actually fairly well-known that the Fresh Prince’s late-’90s jam was ghostwritten by Nas, but it’s nonetheless shocking the first time you hear it. Then you have to listen back and try to catch some of Nas’ trademark flow coming out of Smith’s lips. It’s kind of crazy.
Of course, this was in Nas’s most commercial period, around the same time he was writing songs like “You Owe Me” and “Oochie Wally” because he apparently cared more at that point about money than artistic integrity. That would come back to bite him in the ass when feuding with Jay Z a few years later.
Dream Theater, “You Not Me”
Who would have ever thought the most successful progressive metal band of all time would employ songwriters? At their record label’s urging, that’s exactly what Dream Theater did for 1997’s Falling Into Infinity. They were perfectly capable songwriters on their own (no shit, they were Berklee kids), but just couldn’t churn out that massive MTV hit.
Enter Desmond Child, writer of many an Aerosmith smash. Even with his help though, “You Not Me” went nowhere on the charts and Dream Theater remained relatively obscure outside of their dedicated fanbase. They never attempted to earn a hit in that way again, and it served them much better.
Bugs Bunny, “Buggin'”
Ah, Space Jam. Everybody loved this movie as a kid, and of course, the soundtrack kicked ass too. The problem is that the Looney Tunes are fictional characters, so somebody had to be writing those songs for them. And since they had already shelled out to get Michael Jordan and Bill Murray in on this thing, Warner Bros. didn’t shy away from blowing money on the recording artists either.
For Bugs Bunny’s big spotlight song, “Buggin’,” they hired Jay Z. Now, Jigga has never been shy about his ghostwriting, and brags about it regularly. Still, somehow this one doesn’t come up too often. You can totally hear him in Bugs’ flow, though. It’s a Hov classic through and through.
The Beach Boys, “Never Learn Not to Love”
This track from 20/20, despite being credited to Dennis Wilson, had a strange, elaborate history as a song originally written by notorious serial killer Charles Manson. Manson had been friends with the Beach Boys and was an accomplished songwriter in his own right, so they jumped at the chance to record his song “Cease to Exist.”
Of course, they changed the lyrics to it some and never credited Manson on the album. This reportedly infuriated Manson, who ended his friendship with Wilson and the other Beach Boys. Despite being written by an awful person, the song is actually pretty nice.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 23, 2014