The title of this list pretty much explains everything. You know, rock stars becoming friends, deciding to collaborate, etc. Some of these cases of famous artists singing backup are well known. Others, not so much.
- MICK JAGGER, "You're So Vain". Although the honoree of Carly Simon's '70s classic remains a secret - James Taylor? Warren Beatty? - it's not such a secret that Jagger sang backup during the chorus.
- MICHAEL JACKSON, "Somebody's Watching Me". In the mid-'80s, a talent-free performer named Rockwell released this jokey song, which became an unlikely hit, thanks in part to Jackson - who was at the peak of his career - singing the chorus. And maybe he a little help from ol' Pops: Though Rockwell - born Kennedy WIlliam Gordy - insists that he invented his stage name in order to record without the knowledge of his father, Motown founder and CEO Berry Gordy, and avoid claims of nepotism, that line's a bit hard to swallow.
- JOHN LENNON, "Fame". David Bowie's '70s hit was actually cowritten by Lennon, who played on the song and also sang backup.
- MADONNA, "Sidewalk Talk". Madonna sang backup on former boyfriend Jellybean Benitez's 1985 dance hit, and even wrote it for him.
- TOM WAITS, "Harlem Shuffle". This is a weird one: for the later hit by the Rolling Stones (made famous by its animated music video featuring cats), Waits popped up to sing chorus.
- CHER, "Be My Baby". The Ronettes classic, a staple of any oldies radio station, featured then-unknown Cher singing backup. Her story is not uncommon: Luther Vandross also provided backup on a number of hits before he became a star (including "Part Time Lover" and "We Are Family"), and Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas sang chorus on Martika's late '80s hit "Toy Soldiers" when she was just a teen.
- CHRISSIE HYNDE, "Pride (in the Name of Love)". While researching this list, I was quite surprised to find this little trivia nugget. I'd never heard about this before. But Pretenders frontwoman Hynde did in fact provide backing vocals for U2's overplayed rock anthem.
- KATE BUSH, "Games Without Frontiers". This is common knowledge amongst most fans of Peter Gabriel and/or Kate Bush, but those who have only heard Gabriel's 1980 single on the radio may be unaware that it's Bush who sings "jeux sans frontieres" throughout the song. (In fact, many are unaware that she's even singing "jeux sans frontieres", one of the more commonly misheard lyrics in rock history.) Another trivia note: Jeux Sans Frontieres was the European version of the popular British game show It's a Knockout - another lyric repeated throughout Gabriel's song.
- DONOVAN, "Yellow Submarine". Though '60s psychedelic folkie Donovan was never credited with singing on this Beatles classic, it's commonly accepted that he did - and that he even contributed lyrics. (Heaven help him if he hasn't seen any royalties from that.)