2013’s excellent documentary “20 Feet from Stardom” visited the stories of rock’s female backup singers, most of whom remained relatively nameless despite their outsized contributions to so many classic tunes. Here instead, let’s explore the bold-faced names of some ladies who all had prominent backup contributions, most uncredited, to a variety of well-known rock and roll hits.
And, for an SMGM first, let’s try it in quiz style!
We’ll list 10 songs and artists and then ask you to attempt matching up the notable singers whose unheralded contributions to these songs should at last be, well, heralded.
No Googling, of course – as Jerry declared regarding Seinfeld’s infamous “contest”….
Okay, here we go.
- “Shiny Happy People” by REM
- “Higher Love” by Steve Winwood
- “Let It Grow” by Eric Clapton
- “American Girls” by Counting Crows
- “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young
- “Magnet and Steel” by Walter Egan
- “The Battle of Evermore” by Led Zeppelin
- “Find Yourself” by Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
- “Tearing Us Apart” by Eric Clapton
- “Lonely Boy” by Andrew Gold
- Chaka Khan
- Linda Ronstadt
- Stevie Nicks
- Yvonne Elliman
- Sandy Denny
- Tina Turner
- Sheryl Crow
- Kate Pierson
- Linda Ronstadt
- Lady Gaga
Once you’ve completed your coupling, and before scrolling down for the answers, you can take note of SMGM’s assigned grading:
- 5 or less – In the words of twice-appearing contributor Linda Ronstadt, you’re no good.
- 6-7 – Some remedial training needed starting, perhaps, with your (Jackson 5) ‘ABC’s
- 8-9 – Per a favorite Rockpile title, you ain’t nothin’ but fine.
- 10 – Good Golly, Miss Molly, you’re a muso!
1-H, 2-A, 3-D, 4-G, 5-B/I, 6-C, 7-E*, 8-J, 9-F, 10-I/B
*this is also the only Zeppelin song ever recorded with a guest vocalist
If you nailed all 10…congratulations! A grand achievement, which comes with this additional prize: you’ve qualified to write an SMGM guest post. Any band, song, or music-related topic you’d like (as long as it’s not, say, Metallica or Dave Matthews – we do have to maintain some standards).
Email your submission to email@example.com.
And now enjoy one of our list’s best – with a charming video that strangely features not one but two backup singers, neither of whom is the actual one in the song!
Rob MacMahonJanuary 6, 2022 4:46 pm
BG: I am loathe to admit I didn’t know 8 and 9 until the process of elimination enabled me to figure those out. So I did get ’em but not on the honest muso’s tip. Nice trickery with using LR twice.
I’ll give you a few stand-outs in my mind:
Kate Bush on Peter’s Games without Frontiers
Patti on REM’s E-Bow the Letter
Stipe on Kristin Hersh’s Your Ghost
Emmylou on Ryan’s Oh My Sweet Carolina
Just a few off the top of my head. Keep up the good work. Music is Life! RMac