overqualified backing vocalists

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Inspired by a recent tangent in the "things you were embarrassingly old when you learned them" thread, what are some example of lead singers putting their egos aside and singing in the background for another artist? There's gotta be a thread for this already, but if not, yay!

Here are a few examples:
Iggy Pop - "The Passenger" - David Bowie
TV On The Radio - "Province" - David Bowie
Peter Gabriel - "Games Without Frontiers" - Kate Bush
Carly Simon - "You're So Vain" - Mick Jagger
Superchunk - "Erasure" - Stephin Merritt & Katie Crutchfield

galaxy brian (voodoo chili), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:00 (seven months ago) link

haven't decided if pre-fame examples like Luther Vandross singing on Young Americans count for this thread, but ymmv

galaxy brian (voodoo chili), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:01 (seven months ago) link

Iggy Pop - "The Passenger" - David Bowie

uh Bowie is all over both of those Iggy records?

Οὖτις, Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:03 (seven months ago) link

and all over Reed's "Transformer", obviously

Οὖτις, Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:03 (seven months ago) link

Frank Ocean - "Pink and White" - Beyoncé

an incoherent crustacean (MatthewK), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:03 (seven months ago) link

Far from overqualified but celeb backing vox by Bob Dylan & Alan Ginsburg on Leonard Cohen’s “don’t go home with your hardon”

Pierrot with a thousand farces (wins), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:04 (seven months ago) link

Allen

Pierrot with a thousand farces (wins), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:04 (seven months ago) link

Does this count as "background" singing?:

Rockwell - "Somebody's Watching Me" - Michael Jackson

plant a twee or die (morrisp), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:05 (seven months ago) link

Beatles and Stones both sang back-up on each other's various sing-along sorta tracks

Οὖτις, Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:06 (seven months ago) link

Far from overqualified but celeb backing vox by Bob Dylan & Alan Ginsburg on Leonard Cohen’s “don’t go home with your hardon”

Leonard always used very sweet and angelic backing vocals to counterbalance his own.

Monica Kindle (Tom D.), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:09 (seven months ago) link

Dire Straits "Money for Nothing" is Sting

5th Ward Weeaboo (Whiney G. Weingarten), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:10 (seven months ago) link

Does this count as "background" singing?:

Rockwell - "Somebody's Watching Me" - Michael Jackson

― plant a twee or die (morrisp), Thursday, November 29, 2018 6:05 PM (three minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

that's him solo singing the chorus right?

galaxy brian (voodoo chili), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:10 (seven months ago) link

Wikipedia describes it as, "the song featured backing vocals by Michael and Jermaine Jackson"

plant a twee or die (morrisp), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:14 (seven months ago) link

It's hard to think of examples of true "backing" vocals, as opposed to "featured" vocals (like even Sting on that Dire Straits song feels more like a feature to me, even though it wasn't titled "Money for Nothing (feat. Sting)").

plant a twee or die (morrisp), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:16 (seven months ago) link

(Or I guess just "guest vocals"... like Michael Stipe on "Kid Fears" or "A Campfire Song.")

plant a twee or die (morrisp), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:27 (seven months ago) link

Liza Minnelli on Alice Cooper's "Teenage Lament '74" (or was it "Man With the Golden Gun"?)

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/bc/75/43/bc754325c9d466d218ba8d1ff8e11ff4.jpg

Monica Kindle (Tom D.), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:30 (seven months ago) link

Also Donovan's on "Billion Dollar Babies", but that's more a co-vocal.

Monica Kindle (Tom D.), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:31 (seven months ago) link

eddie vedder on cat power's "evolution"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdgkYFEQTjE

21st savagery fox (m bison), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:31 (seven months ago) link

How about all these folks who didn't get a solo turn on "We Are the World":

Chorus (alphabetically)
• Dan Aykroyd
• Harry Belafonte
• Lindsey Buckingham
• Mario Cipollina
• Johnny Colla
• Sheila E.
• Bob Geldof
• Bill Gibson
• Chris Hayes
• Sean Hopper
• Jackie Jackson
• La Toya Jackson
• Marlon Jackson
• Randy Jackson
• Tito Jackson
• Waylon Jennings
• Bette Midler
• John Oates
• Jeffrey Osborne
• The Pointer Sisters
• Smokey Robinson

plant a twee or die (morrisp), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:32 (seven months ago) link

(Obv. not all of them would qualify as "lead singers" in other contexts)

plant a twee or die (morrisp), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:33 (seven months ago) link

Fucking hell, the Coop looks a bit beered-up in that pic. Better than crack cocaine Coop circa '81, mind.

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:34 (seven months ago) link

You know, when I opened this thread I was really not expecting the first words I saw to be 'Dan Ackroyd'

mfktz (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:36 (seven months ago) link

Fucking hell, the Coop looks a bit beered-up in that pic. Better than crack cocaine Coop circa '81, mind

He is looking rough.

Monica Kindle (Tom D.), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:36 (seven months ago) link

honestly, one of the songs I thought of was a weird example -- "Debris," by the Faces. No guest vocals, Rod and Ronnie are permanent members of the band, but Ronnie sings lead and Rod's backing vocals on the chorus are sublime.

galaxy brian (voodoo chili), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:38 (seven months ago) link

U2's "Love Rescue Me" featured a pretty well-buried Bob Dylan

omar little, Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:39 (seven months ago) link

Neil Tennant and Neil Hannon both on Robbie Williams' 'No Regrets'

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:40 (seven months ago) link

lol "the passenger" backing vox always sounded so loutish and unschooled to me, thought it was one of the band members. Same with "success".

brimstead, Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:40 (seven months ago) link

You’re so vain - Mick Jagger

29 facepalms, Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:40 (seven months ago) link

Neko Case provided background vox on Jakob Dylan's 2010 album Women + Country.

plant a twee or die (morrisp), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:41 (seven months ago) link

I feel like Case was also a background singer (with a few others) for another artist on a recent TV performance, but don't know what I'm thinking of.

plant a twee or die (morrisp), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:42 (seven months ago) link

Michael McDonald on Steely Dan's 'Peg' ...

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:46 (seven months ago) link

Here's a heavily f'd-with clip (presumably to avoid a DMCA takedown) of Sam Jayne singin' backup and shakin' maracas for Modest Mouse:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aP-W-0h4Zu4

plant a twee or die (morrisp), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:46 (seven months ago) link

Does Sting on Phil Collins' 'Long Long Way to Go' count?

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:48 (seven months ago) link

Neil Young, singing backup on the great Warren Zevon song Splendid Isolation

kornrulez6969, Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:50 (seven months ago) link

See also: overqualified rhythm guitar players. Thinking of Steve Lukather on Beat It

calstars, Thursday, 29 November 2018 23:56 (seven months ago) link

Michael McDonald on Steely Dan's 'Peg' ...

― Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Thursday, November 29, 2018 6:46 PM (thirteen minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

And on Christopher Cross' "Ride Like The Wind":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0HzWMqLeiE

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Friday, 30 November 2018 00:02 (seven months ago) link

there's no such thing as an overqualified backing singer. michael mcdonald is the perfect backup vocalist but also better than anyone he sings backup for. there is no contradiction

( ͡☉ ͜ʖ ͡☉) (jim in vancouver), Friday, 30 November 2018 00:05 (seven months ago) link

love that SCTV clip so much

Οὖτις, Friday, 30 November 2018 00:05 (seven months ago) link

Robert Plant's Now and Zen has both Kirsty Maccoll and future Curve vocalist Toni Halliday on backing vocals.

Josh in Chicago, Friday, 30 November 2018 00:06 (seven months ago) link

Luther Vandross on Richard Marx’s “Keep Coming Back”.

breastcrawl, Friday, 30 November 2018 00:23 (seven months ago) link

George Michael (and Nik Kershaw apparently) on Elton John’s “Nikita”.

breastcrawl, Friday, 30 November 2018 00:35 (seven months ago) link

David Bowie is also on Arcade Fire’s Reflektor.

Here’s a few:

https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2015/07/9-famous-backup-singers-on-classic-pop-songs.html

And this one is fairly more interesting:

https://www.officialcharts.com/chart-news/unsung-heroes-18-songs-with-secret-superstars-on-backing-vocals__17833/

Several in there that I had no idea existed like Robyn on a Britney song.

✖✖✖ (Moka), Friday, 30 November 2018 00:38 (seven months ago) link

Neil Young, on the live version of "Downtown" on Tonight's the Night (though he pretty much takes it over by the end).

Stephen Stills, moaning over the outro on Neil's "Til the Morning Comes".

Barry Gibb (or is it all the Bee Gees?) backing Dionne Warwick on "Heartbreaker". Not sure if "Emotion" counts given how he dominates the chorus.

gjoon1, Friday, 30 November 2018 00:44 (seven months ago) link

Don't know about overqualified but I want to include the Jesus & Mary Chain shouting "guilty" on Drama! by Erasure

PaulTMA, Friday, 30 November 2018 00:50 (seven months ago) link

Debbie Harry guesting as D.H. Lawrence jr on several tracks on the Gun Club's Miami. It was produced by Chris Stein and Jeffrey lee Pierce had been Blondie's fan club head.

Stevolende, Friday, 30 November 2018 01:02 (seven months ago) link

Chrissie Hynde (billed as “Mrs. Christine Kerr") on U2's "Pride (In The Name Of Love)"

Elvis Telecom, Friday, 30 November 2018 01:17 (seven months ago) link

Of all people, Joe Satriani is credited with backing vocals - vocals - on the first Crowded House record.

Josh in Chicago, Friday, 30 November 2018 01:43 (seven months ago) link

My Ital Rival (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 30 November 2018 11:00 (seven months ago) link

Pete Townshend sings backup (but doesn't play guitar, for some reason) on the Ramones' cover of "Substitute."

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Friday, 30 November 2018 15:56 (seven months ago) link

Squeeze's Black Coffee In Bed has both Elvis Costello and Paul Young (No Parlez, not Sad Cafe guy)

PaulTMA, Friday, 30 November 2018 17:22 (seven months ago) link

Twilley & Seymour were (arguably) more famous than Petty when they recorded with him in '76-77.

The Greta Van Gerwig (C. Grisso/McCain), Friday, 30 November 2018 19:03 (seven months ago) link

Kind of a shoe on the other foot thing.

The Greta Van Gerwig (C. Grisso/McCain), Friday, 30 November 2018 19:03 (seven months ago) link

Twilley don’t mind singin background vox

calstars, Friday, 30 November 2018 19:49 (seven months ago) link

Alison Moyet did backing vocals on Fad Gadget's Under the Flag. It was recorded just before Upstairs at Eric's but released a few weeks later. She's part of a chorus of backing vocalists and doesn't really stand out. Waste of Alison Moyet basically.

Not vocals, but Simple Minds are credited with handclaps(!) on Gary Numan's "The Aircrash Bureau", an album track from Telekon. Apparently they were the opening act for his tour and happened to be in the studio that day.

Ashley Pomeroy, Friday, 30 November 2018 20:17 (seven months ago) link

how have the Turtles not been mentioned yet

Οὖτις, Friday, 30 November 2018 20:22 (seven months ago) link

(well, Flo & Eddie specifically)

Οὖτις, Friday, 30 November 2018 20:22 (seven months ago) link

I thought about mentioning them but were they really “overqualified”? Thought guesting as backing vocalists was just one of their things.

My Ital Rival (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 30 November 2018 20:42 (seven months ago) link

Kind of a waste of Howard Kaylan, who is a fantastic singer, whereas Mark Volman was a backing vocalist in the Turtles.

Monica Kindle (Tom D.), Friday, 30 November 2018 20:50 (seven months ago) link

Fair enough

My Ital Rival (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 30 November 2018 21:09 (seven months ago) link

Ellie Greenwich on Blondie's "Dreaming" and "Atomic"

Lorna Luft on Blondie's "Accidents Never Happen" and "Slow Motion"

Josefa, Friday, 30 November 2018 21:19 (seven months ago) link

Mary Hansen tbh. she had impeccable pitch live

flappy bird, Friday, 30 November 2018 21:29 (seven months ago) link

Toni 'Captain and' Tennille along with Carl and Bruce from The Beach Boys on Elton John's 'Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me'.

Chequers Plays Pop (snoball), Friday, 30 November 2018 21:48 (seven months ago) link

Alison Goldfrapp on 'FYUZ', 'Oh Yeah Oh No', 'Revenge of The Black Regent' and 'Total All Out Water' by Add N to X.

Chequers Plays Pop (snoball), Friday, 30 November 2018 21:50 (seven months ago) link

More than 'backing vocals' but I was a big fan of the Knife and also liked First Floor Power yet it took me ridiculously long to work out that Jenny Wilson sings a fair bit of You Take My Breath Away. DESPITE THEM LITERALLY POINTING IT OUT IN THE LYRICS gah

kinder, Friday, 30 November 2018 22:08 (seven months ago) link

Joseph Arthur - Mercedes. Features Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno doing some harmonics in the background. You won't even notice it's them.

But it's awesome!

I got to know Joe's music because of this song, which was miscredited when I once found a supposed collection of Peter Gabriel rarities on-line. It said that it was by Peter, with Joseph Arthur and Eno on backing vocals. I had no idea who Joe Arthur was but I loved the other two so I checked it out. I was initially quite dismayed to hear those unique American vocals instead of what I expected, was about to instantly delete it, but then I thought... I might listen to it again, it's not bad!
Not long after, I dug up more and more of his stuff, started to collect everything the man released and he became one of my most favourite artist ever, which he still is now, 15 years later.

Valentijn, Friday, 30 November 2018 22:30 (seven months ago) link

Sting is also on Arcadia's 'The Promise'.

Valentijn, Friday, 30 November 2018 22:32 (seven months ago) link

Oh and not quite exactly 'backing vocals', but I love the story of how the Super Furry Animals got Paul McCartney to guest on their album and then they had him eat carrot and celery in the background of 'Receptacle for the Respectable'.

Valentijn, Friday, 30 November 2018 22:35 (seven months ago) link

That Joseph Arthur album was on Real World, iirc, so there's your Peter Gabriel connection.

I've brought it up on the Eno thread, but Eno pops up as backing singer (but not producer) on a track on the Walkabout's "Scavenger," which fits this thread's criteria: obscure sort of folk-rock band on Sub Pop snags vox from Eno? That's not expected.

Josh in Chicago, Friday, 30 November 2018 22:42 (seven months ago) link

Joni Mitchell specializes in extremely qualified backing singers. Apart from the usual suspects, there’s Chaka Khan on “The Tenth World” and “Dreamland” on Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter and, new to me, Lionel Richie on “Ladies Man” and (more of a feature) “You Dream Flat Tires” on Wild Things Run Fast.

breastcrawl, Friday, 30 November 2018 22:43 (seven months ago) link

Scarlett Johanssons ’Fannin Street’ and ’Falling Down’ features David Bowie. Makes both tracks immensely better!

mathiasa, Friday, 30 November 2018 23:09 (seven months ago) link

I’m a Bowie fan though...

mathiasa, Friday, 30 November 2018 23:09 (seven months ago) link

Björk on Ólöf Arnalds' "Surrender".
Thom Yorke on Björk's "Náttúra".
PJ Harvey on Sparklehorse's "Piano Fire" and "Eyepennies", as well as on Marianne Faithfull's Before the Poison record.

ˈʌglɪɪst preɪ, Friday, 30 November 2018 23:37 (seven months ago) link

No one has mentioned JT and Linda R on young Neil’s “old man?”

calstars, Saturday, 1 December 2018 00:09 (seven months ago) link

I’m a Bowie fan though...

take it to the controversial music opinions thread

sans lep (sic), Saturday, 1 December 2018 02:16 (seven months ago) link

Emmylou

banjoboy, Saturday, 1 December 2018 02:50 (seven months ago) link

Toni 'Captain and' Tennille along with Carl and Bruce from The Beach Boys on Elton John's 'Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me'.

Toni and Bruce are also on Pink Floyd's "The Show Must Go On."

Al Jardine, Carl Wilson and Dennis Wilson on Chicago's "Wishing You Were Here." Both groups were recording at Caribou Ranch at the time.

The choir at the end of Squeeze's "The Day I Get Home" includes Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Michael Penn.

Hideous Lump, Saturday, 1 December 2018 03:36 (seven months ago) link

Oh yeah, and Dusty Springfield sings backup on Elton John's Caribou and Tumbleweed Connection albums.

Hideous Lump, Saturday, 1 December 2018 03:42 (seven months ago) link



Al Jardine, Carl Wilson and Dennis Wilson on Chicago's "Wishing You Were Here." Both groups were recording at Caribou Ranch at the time.
.
yeah! So cool

calstars, Saturday, 1 December 2018 03:48 (seven months ago) link

How many of these are a case of somebody dropping in from the studio down the hall?

Hideous Lump, Saturday, 1 December 2018 04:17 (seven months ago) link

Linda Ronstadt sang backup on Nicolette Larson's "You're Running Wild"

all five members of the Byrds backed Jackie DeShannon on "Splendor in the Grass" around the time they were recording Mr. Tambourine Man (I'm guessing this was a "dropping in from the studio down the hall" scenario)

ghood ghravie (unregistered), Saturday, 1 December 2018 04:42 (seven months ago) link

Billy Ocean on Scott Walker's 'Track Three'

Gavin, Leeds, Saturday, 1 December 2018 08:36 (seven months ago) link

Mercury, May and Taylor on BVs (was never listed as "featuring Queen")
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJeBctbw7kc

PaulTMA, Saturday, 1 December 2018 16:40 (seven months ago) link

Don't know about overqualified but I want to include the Jesus & Mary Chain shouting "guilty" on Drama! by Erasure

wow, I didn’t know this!!

crüt, Saturday, 1 December 2018 16:40 (seven months ago) link

Wild! was the first album I owned and for years wondered why the guilty's sounded so Scottish. Think they were recording Automatic in the same studio.

PaulTMA, Saturday, 1 December 2018 16:45 (seven months ago) link

Oh and not quite exactly 'backing vocals', but I love the story of how the Super Furry Animals got Paul McCartney to guest on their album and then they had him eat carrot and celery in the background of 'Receptacle for the Respectable'.

― Valentijn, Friday, November 30, 2018 2:35 PM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

he'd done this on "vegetables" by the beach boys.

I just went round to the studio because they invited me. I just thought it would be fun to sit there and watch them record, ‘cause I’m a big fan. And so I was there, and then it was, I think, Brian who came over and said, ‘Oh Paul, got a favor to ask: would you mind recording something?’ I thought, ‘Oh, no! But great, I could do that!' Oh God, I’m gonna be singing on a Beach Boys record or something, you know! I got a bit kind of intimidated and thought, 'Okay, here goes nothing'. And they said, ‘Well, what we want you to do is go in there and just munch!’ … Well, I can do that! So, if you hear somebody munching celery, that’s me![10]

visiting, Saturday, 1 December 2018 16:59 (seven months ago) link

"Rockwell - "Somebody's Watching Me" - Michael Jackson"

what's weird about this is when this came out everyone assumed it was Michael Jackson but I believe it was denied so I assumed, for many years, until, like, seriously, last year, that this was NOT him.

akm, Saturday, 1 December 2018 17:08 (seven months ago) link

wait MJ actually does sing on "Somebody's Watching Me"????

flappy bird, Monday, 3 December 2018 18:42 (seven months ago) link

Yes.

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Monday, 3 December 2018 19:58 (seven months ago) link

Jermaine Jackson is on it too, iirc.

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Monday, 3 December 2018 19:59 (seven months ago) link

IMO the presence of Michael and Jermaine on 'Somebody's Watching Me' actually rescues the track - Rockwell was not one of Motown's great talents. I guess his dad being the label's founder went a long way to explaining why he was able to put out music.

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Monday, 3 December 2018 20:07 (seven months ago) link

Chaka Khan on "Higher Love."

Your sweetie-pie-coo-coo I love ya (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 3 December 2018 20:09 (seven months ago) link

somebody's watching me is hilarious because it's a talking heads song

galaxy brian (voodoo chili), Monday, 3 December 2018 20:47 (seven months ago) link

Can't believe nobody has mentioned Stevie and Lindsey on Bob Welch's "Sentimental Lady." Or David Crosby and Graham Nash on "Doctor My Eyes."

Plinka Trinka Banga Tink (Eliza D.), Monday, 3 December 2018 21:03 (seven months ago) link

guest harmonies from Carl & Dennis Wilson and Al Jardine
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41s69oNimZg

PaulTMA, Tuesday, 4 December 2018 00:16 (seven months ago) link

Rob Halford on QOTSA's "Feel Good Hit of the Summer".

Elton John, Mark Lanegan, Trent Reznor, Jake Shears and Alex Turner provided backing vox on various "...Like Clockwork" songs too.

Vernon Locke, Tuesday, 4 December 2018 02:48 (seven months ago) link

six months pass...

the jackson 5 sing background on stevie's you haven't done nothin

Jeff the grown man (voodoo chili), Tuesday, 11 June 2019 17:52 (one month ago) link

the liner notes of the warren zevon s/t is just one overqualified backing vocalist after another

american bradass (BradNelson), Tuesday, 11 June 2019 17:54 (one month ago) link

according to the credits on the promo 12-inch to jellybean's "sidewalk talk"...

lead vocals: catherine buchanan
background vocals: madonna, cindy mizelle, audrey wheeler

madonna wrote the song and her vox are quite discernible in the chorus. she had already become a pretty big crossover star by the time it got released on 45 so if you look on discogs you'll see some sleeves for the single that pretty prominently display "written by MADONNA" lol

dyl, Wednesday, 12 June 2019 02:33 (one month ago) link

Prince on so many of his productions for other artists (777-9311, Glamorous Life iirc, etc)

change display name (Jordan), Wednesday, 12 June 2019 03:17 (one month ago) link

Dumbstruck that Chrissie Hynde sang on U2's "Pride"... I've never heard a female vocal anywhere in that track in my hundreds of listens to it. Guessing she's a part of the oh-oh-ohs at the end?

Vinnie, Thursday, 13 June 2019 15:51 (one month ago) link


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