Have you ever heard a song on the radio that you were sure was by a particular performer - only to find out, often years later, that you were wrong? Of course you have. And so have I. Here are nine examples of well-known hits that sure sound as though different, usually more famous artists recorded them. Call it the "right song, wrong band" theory.
- "RESCUE ME". Real artist: Fontella Bass. Mistaken for: Aretha Franklin. Poor Fontella Bass. Her 1965 chart-topper has been widely assumed by those not in the know as an Aretha Franklin hit, even though the song predates Franklin's own breakthrough single by two years. As for Bass? She soured on American life and relocated to France in 1969, dropping off the pop cultural map. Her own legal battles over "Rescue Me" (which she cowrote but failed to receive sufficient royalties for) dragged on for decades.
- "THE GREAT COMMANDMENT". Real artist: Camouflage. Mistaken for: Depeche Mode. This German trio's alt-rock hit was released in the U.S. in 1988, though it was originally recorded in 1985. By '88, Depeche Mode had enjoyed so much crossover success that they were essentially mainstream, so this, uh, "homage" was easy money for Camouflage. While we're on the subject, I should mention the American band B-Movie, whose 1982 alt-rock staple "Nowhere Girl" also sounds quite a bit like DM.
- "LONG COOL WOMAN IN A BLACK DRESS". Real artist: The Hollies. Mistaken for: Creedence Clearwater Revival. The Hollies are probably best known as the British Invasion band that introduced Graham Nash (of Crosby, Stills and Nash). After mid-'60s success with songs like "Bus Stop" and "Carrie Anne", by 1972 the now Nashless band was desperate for a hit. So they aped the sound of the then-superpopular CCR with "Long Cool Woman". The ripoff worked, and the single went platinum.
- "THE AIR THAT I BREATHE". Real artist: The Hollies. Mistaken for: Air Supply. The Hollies again, only the shoe is on the other foot this time. Their 1974 smash hit was the last major success for the band. It was cowritten and originally performed by Albert "It Never Rains in California" Hammond, but sounds so much like the later soft rock stylings of early '80s hitmakers Air Supply that many think the saccharine Aussie duo wrote or at least covered it. (Must have been something in the "Air".) They didn't - but Simply Red did.
- "OH SHEILA". Real artist: Ready for the World. Mistaken for: Prince. This 1985 one hit wonder was often believed to be performed - or at least written - by the Purple One, as the name in the title seemed to be a reference to Prince protegee Sheila E. You can't really blame people for making this mistake, as Prince was all over the place at the time. But he had nothing to do with this Flint, Michigan sextet. And neither did Sheila E.
- "DEBRA". Real artist: Beck. Mistaken for: Prince. Prince again! Jokey '90s alt-rocker Beck intentionally imitated the falsetto singing style of His Royal Badness while warbling decidedly un-Prince-like lyrics such as "Step inside my Hyundai/I'm gonna take you up to Glendale" in this tongue-in-cheek 1999 recording that became an unexpected hit.
- "LAUGH, LAUGH". Real artist: The Beau Brummels. Mistaken for: The Beatles. All right, not many people would mistake this for a Beatles tune today, but that's only because the Fab Four's oeuvre has become so familiar. But in 1964, when this San Francisco band released their catchy hit with the eerie harmonica, if they didn't pass for Beatles they were at least on the bandwagon.
- "A HORSE WITH NO NAME". Real artist: America. Mistaken for: Neil Young. I only know this as an America original because I had seen the K-Tel commercial for the Best of America album/cassette/8-track about a million times on TV as a kid. But those who didn't typically assume that it was Young who performed the song. It did come out in 1972, the same year as Young's landmark album Heart of Gold. And it's true, other America songs don't sound quite as nasally as this one. (It's also been noted that the band's late hit, 1982's "You Can Do Magic", is sometimes mistaken for the Alan Parsons Project.)
- "ONE BAD APPLE". Real artist: The Osmonds. Mistaken for: The Jackson 5. Now this is 100% pure ripoff: After the success of those cute black kids from Gary, Indiana, these squeaky clean white Mormons of Ogden, Utah felt they too should get in on the act. In fact, "One Bad Apple" was written for the Jacksons, who were going to record it but took on "ABC" instead. As performed by the Osmonds (with little Jimmy aping little Michael's "Owww!"s), this 1971 single was a #1 smash for five whole weeks.