There are only 26 letters in our common alphabet and only so many ways even the most creative songwriter can arrange them. As a result, numerous songs that may vary wildly from one another end up sharing one most basic element in common: their title.
Here’s a list of ten such fertile monikers that have produced multiple classic hits for different artists in different genres, often (but not always) during different time periods. So when putting in a request for, say, “Fire” or “Jump” or even the relatively surprising “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” be sure to be very specific.
Three smash singles titled “Jump” have leapt to the highest peaks of the pop charts, with each one being extremely evocative of the time they were released and, likely not coincidentally, a lot of fun to jump along to from the moment they start.
“Jump” – Pointer Sisters (1983)
On their 1983 album Breakout, the song is simply titled “Jump,” but for its single release in April’84, the Pointer Sisters preemptively added a parenthetical “(For My Love)” to avoid confusion with Van Halen’s “Jump.” It worked. The video featured athletes in various sports rocketing themselves foot-first to various victories and, timed as the song was with the 1984 Summer Olympics, that worked, too.
“Jump” – Van Halen (1984)
VH’s 1984 pop breakthrough initially courted controversy by showcasing Eddie Van Halen’s skill with a synthesizer keyboard front-and-center instead of his signature guitar. On immediate impact, though, “Jump” and its clown-around but still hard-rocking music video, proved utterly irresistible. Everybody figured they might as well jump.
“Jump” – Kriss Kross (1992)
The Mac Daddy was 12, the Daddy Mac was 13, and together they wore backward clothes and successfully combined sweet bubblegum with intensely delivered rap for the hip-hop hit, “Jump.” Both kids were also named Chris.
3. Best of My Love
Only once in Billboard chart history have two song two separate songs that share one title hit #1: “Best of My Love” by the Eagles topped the chart in 1974, and then “Best of My Love” by the Emotions took the peak position three years later.
“Best of My Love” – Eagles
The Eagles’ very first #1 smash (in a series), “Best of My Love” is a laid-back, eased-up, warm-blanket-on-a-Sunday-morning of a country-rock number from the group’s LP, On the Border, Initially, the band hadn’t even planned on releasing the song as a single; that changed when Kalamazoo, Michigan radio DJ Jim Higgs fell in love with the tune and put it into heavy rotation on his show. Heartland listeners spoke out, the Eagles listened, and a classic was born.
“Best of MY Love” – The Emotions
Chicago’s dance-soul singing sister act the Emotions brought classic girl group dynamics and harmony to the disco age, and never more delectably than they do on their signature smash, “Best of My Love.” Sweet-voiced siblings Jeanette, Sheila, and Wanda Hutchinson unleash vocal sunshine all over the song’s popping bash and up-swinging horns. Try not to shake and sway along with the Emotions here. You will fail—very happily.
Both 1971 hits titled “Superstar” deal with hurt and anger that comes from feeling let down by a larger-than-life figure into which the singer had placed blind and passionate faith.
“Superstar” – Carpenters (1971)
Arguably the Carpenters’ most heartbreaking number, “Superstar” is sung from the point of view of a jilted fan whose fling with a rock star led her to believe he’d be coming back around again, baby. Baby, baby, baby… oh, baby. The song originated as “Groupie (Superstar)” by Delaney and Bonnie and has been covered by a multitude of artists, from Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen to John Belushi as Joe Cocker. The Sonic Youth take featured in the movie Juno is outstandingly dumb, limp, and odious—what are you trying to do, Thurston Moore, out-“eerie” Karen Carpenter? Boo!
“Superstar” – Murray Head (1971)
The single and effective theme song from the original 1971 concept album Jesus Christ Superstar features British actor and singer Murray Head bemoaning the decision of the divine title figure to not use his power on Earth for greater, or at least better-timed, good. Head sing the part of Judas on JCS; Christ himself is sung by Deep Purple frontman Ian Gillan.
To evoke isolation and disconnectedness, no numeric figure could serve a songwriter as well as “One.” The two distinct takes featured here push that notion out in seemingly quite disparate, but ultimately not dissimilar, directions.
“One” – Three Dog Night (1969)
Driven by one of the most insistently percussive piano riffs in rock, “One,” written by Harry Nilsson, provided Three Dog Night with a #5 hit and the rest of humanity with an easy-to-sing, but not always easy-to-swallow, truth: “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.”
“One” – Metallica (1988)
“One” is a Metallica concert in miniature, a table-of-contents for the band circa 1988 that proved so flawlessly demonstrative of what they do best that the Bay Area thrash gods selected the song for their very first music video (nearly seven years into their ongoing juggernaut). The lyrics speak for the blind, mute, deaf, and limbless war veteran of Dalton Trumbo’s novel and subsequent film, Johnny Got His Gun. Metallica actually bought the rights to the movie and they used clips from it to haunting and powerful effect in the video.
Romance and finance tend to drive the drama in everyone’s personal lives. It’s surprising than that, for all the infinite love songs out there, more lyrical odes don’t focus on lucre, filthy or otherwise. This pair cuts right to the Chase (Bank) with their shared title.
“Money” – Beatles (1963)
The Beatles’ “Money,” which is occasionally amended to be “Money (That’s What I Want)” is a rollicking re-do of a 1960 R&B single by soul singer Barrett Strong. It caught on fast and instantly turned the song into the British Invasion equivalent of what “Louie Louie” was among American garage bands: the jam that everybody just had to cover. New versions of “Money” quickly came out, then, by the Rolling Stones, the Searchers, and Freddie and the Dreamers. Twenty-six years later, UK new wavers Flying Lizards scored a 1979 hit with a cold, robotic, but still quite danceable take on the vintage nugget.
“Money” – Pink Floyd (1973)
A sarcastic takedown of upper-echelon societal greed, “Money,” from Pink Floyd’s masterwork Dark Side of the Moon, boasts one of the most instantly captivating and subsequently best-loved basslines in all of rock. It’s also been really cool how, for more than forty years, radio has never censored the song’s loud-and-clear declaration of “Don’t give me that do goody-good bulls—t!”
The notion of surrendering—that is, to give up—applies to the two best-known songs of that title in terms of anyone who dares try not to succumb to their profound charms. Give it up. Surrender.
“Surrender” – Elvis Presley (1961)
The King hit #1 with “Surrender,” a suspenseful, international-flavored confection of build-up and release that was adapted by song craftsman Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman from an early 20th century Italian song titled “Torna a Surriento” (“Come Back to Sorrento”).
“Surrender” – Cheap Trick (1978)
“This next song… is the first song… on our new album… and it’s called… ’Surrender!’” So announces Cheap Trick frontman Robin Zander to thousands of screaming Japanese fans on the group’s breakthrough double live LP, At Budokan. From there, the group launches into one of music’s weirdest, most entrancing sagas of parent-teen relationships that culminates with an electrifying snapshot of old folks getting busted being cool: “When I woke up/Mom and Dad/were rollin’ on the couch/Rollin’ numbers/Rock and rollin’/Got my Kiss records out!” Who could possibly not Surrender to that?
Even before rock-and-roll properly rocked and/or rolled, one great shout could communicate everything the music would eventually provide—be it pent-up turn-ons longing to schwing free, as in the case of the first song here, or rage and anger and the liberation of sonically letting loose, as in the latter.
“Shout” – Isley Bros (1959)
Conceived as an answer record to Jackie Wilson’s “Lonely Teardrops,” the Isley Brothers’ raucous, instantly party-starting “Shout” initially didn’t break the Top 40 but, in time, became a gold single. It’s been covered by the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Green Day, Tommy James, Lulu, and countless bar bands worldwide, no dearth of which are likely performing it somewhere this very minute. The best-known version of “Shout,” however, is performed by Otis Day and the Knights in the 1978 comedy classic, Animal House.
“Shout” – Tears for Fears (1985)
“Shout,” while still ballad-paced and spooky, represented a leap toward rock for the previously synth-pop-focused Tears for Fears. The group had previously explored primal scream therapy and while the connection to “Shout” could not be more obvious, singer and songwriter Roland Orzabal points out that it’s a call to rise up against global injustice. His musical partner Curt Smith, however, has expanded on that notion, saying, “It concerns protest inasmuch as it encourages people not to do things without actually questioning them. People act without thinking because that’s just the way things go in society. So it’s a general song, about the way the public accepts any old grief which is thrown at them.” Shout, shout, let it all out, dudes.
8. Feel Like Makin’ Love
While FM radio fragmented into niche outlets during the mid-1970s, Top 40 AM pop stations still spun back-to-back hits from a head-spinning array of genres. For example, Roberta Flack’s sweet-soul “Feel Like Makin’ Love” often ran just before our after Bad Company’s hard-rock proto-power-ballad take on the same title—even though they were released a year apart. That pairing says much of the time, as does dropping the “g” so that the word is spelled “Makin’.”
“Feel Like Makin’ Love” – Roberta Flack (1974)
Roberta Flack’s sexily swinging, horn-pumped “Feel Like Makin’ Love” rocketed to #1 in summertime 1974, adding a sophisticated, decidedly adult groove to the season that’s normally the domain of torrid teeny-bopper madness.
“Feel Like Makin’ Love” – Bad Company (1975)
Heavy blues-rock supergroup Bad Company added macho swelter to summer 1975 with their slow-burn, Top 10 anthem, “Feel Like Makin’ Love.” Frontman Paul Rodgers starts off demure enough, intoning, “Baby, when I think about you/I think about love,” but by the time the song gets to the metal-guitar surge of the chorus, thinking time is over. Makin’ time is on.
Derived directly from the Latin word for “glory” (as in the Christmas carol refrain, “Glo-o-o-o-o-o-ria in excelsis Deo”), the female name Gloria has been prominent in pop culture via Latin pop singer Gloria Estefan, disco diva Gloria Gaynor, feminist Gloria Steinem, and Sally Struthers as Archie Bunker’s All in the Family daughter, Gloria Stivic. The moniker has also graced the title of two distinctively impactful radio hits.
“Gloria” – Them (1965)
A garage rock masterpiece written by young Irish upstart Van Morrison and performed by his barnstorming first group, Them, “Gloria” forever branded its mark on our collective musical consciousness with its perfectly spelled out refrain: “G-L-O-R-I-A!” The song also provided a stateside hit for a band called the Shadows of Night, due to their version dropping Them’s then-scandalous line, “She comes to my room.” While “Gloria” has always been a live staple for bands from the hugest to the most humble, recorded covers of note include those by the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and Patti Smith.
“Gloria” – Laura Brannigan (1982)
Adult contemporary songbird Laura Brannigan’s “Gloria” is a huge, glossy, synth-disco update of a 1979 Italian hit by Umberto Tozzi. Brannigan’s “Gloria” sets out to overwhelm the listener from its first note and, unquestionably, it succeeds. Brannigan belts the vocal out of the stratosphere, and the record’s popularity followed, landing at #1 and eventually selling more than one million copies.
First, let’s acknowledge and then breeze past more recent hits titled “Photograph” by Nickelback and Ed Sheeran and instead jump straight to the 1970s and 1980s classics which, having been released in the third year of their respective decades, are separated by exactly one decade between them. Picture that!
“Photograph” – Ringo Starr (1973)
Lush, gorgeous, heartbreaking, and absolutely spellbinding, Ringo co-wrote the pop epic “Photograph” with his fellow ex-Beatle George Harrison on a swanky yacht in the South of France. You can actually pick up on that lap-of-luxury sophistication in both the instrumentation and Ringo’s witty-yet-undeniable vocals. “Photograph” stands as one of the great moments in any of the Fab Four’s solo outputs: a perfect snapshot of a perfect moment, perfectly preserved forever.
“Photograph” – Def Leppard (1983)
Def Leppard rode the New Wave of British Heavy Metal to a personal and creative crescendo that broke open all over the world with “Photograph.” A huge MTV and rock radio hit, Lep’s “Photograph” is an electrifying power pop onslaught that grabs up a musical gauntlet tossed down by past bubblegum metal pioneers such as Kiss and Sweet with a background intensity on par with the group’s NWOBHM peers such as Samson and Diamond Head. The multi-part chorus of “Photograph” alone is suite of styles that goes from soaring, operatic metal (“I see your face every time I dream…”) to intoxicating glam-pop sugar (“Oh! Look what you’ve done to this rock-and-roll clown!…”) to haunting, unshakable longing (“All I’ve got is a Photograph… it’s not enough!”). That’s some museum-quality mastery.
“Lady” can be a proper name or a royal title. Most often it’s just a swanky way of saying “woman.” Each of these three biggest “Lady” hits explores and expands on their own definitions of the term.
“Lady” – Styx (1973)
Still firmly plated in progressive rock, Styx turns “Lady” into a soaring love song worthy of the genre’s complexities and way-out leaps in unexpected directions. The hard-pounding crescendo really hammers home how deeply singer Dennis De Young digs this “Lady of the Morning” for whom he’s wailing.
“Lady” – Kenny Rogers (1980)
Commodores frontman Lionel Richie befriended country crooner Kenny Rogers in the late 1970s and the two have worked together in various capacities ever since. Their first collaboration was “Lady,” a mammoth hit for Rogers that was written and produced by Richie. The song hit #1 simultaneously on Billboard’s four biggest charts: the Hot 100, country, adult contemporary, and what was then called “Top Black Singles.” Not bad for a tune that Lionel came up with on the toilet!
“Lady” – The Commodores (1981)
After delivering a monster hit “Lady” to Kenny Rogers, Lionel Richie brought more of the same a year later to his own group, the Commodores, in the form of the upbeat dance number, “Lady,” which is sometimes listed as “Lady (You Bring Me Up).” Richie, however, did not compose this “Lady;” instead it was written by multi-instrumentalist and longtime Commodores member William King. Lionel does, however, sing lead.
Of the mighty elements of existence, fire comes closest to embodying the spirit of rock-and-roll. As a topic, fire is endlessly written and sung about in innumerable songs. For these four though, the heat burns so intensely, they just had to go with the most basic and incendiary of all names: “Fire.”
“Fire” – Jimi Hendrix (1967)
“Scorching” is a word that quickly comes to mind when asked to describe Jimi Hendrix’s guitar playing, and “Fire” provides one of the earliest and most blazing examples of his explosive might.
“Fire” – The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (1968)
English occult provocateur Arthur Brown beat both Alice Cooper and Kiss to combining hot-and-heavy hard rock with scary black-and-white face-paint. “I am the god of hellfire,” Brown announces at the beginning of his signature anthem, “And I bring you… FIRE!”
“Fire” – Ohio Players (1974)
Funk masters the Ohio Players burn down any joint, anywhere, any time this booty-shaking inferno gets cranked up and played loud—preferably as loud as a five-alarm siren.
“Fire” – Pointer Sisters (1978)
Soul siblings the Pointer Sisters truly smolder on this cover of a pressure-cooking song that Bruce Springsteen originally composed for Elvis Presley (tragically, the King died before he had a change to hear the demo). With stop-and-start intensity, the Pointers turn this “Fire” into an all-out inferno.