Guess Who Sang It

Black Music Month: See if you can identify these lyrics from black artists. Share how many you get!

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    Liberty Records

    Ike & Tina Turner

    The Song: “Proud Mary” (1970)
    Fun Fact: Part of the infamously tragic couple’s Workin’ Together album, the song, though one of Tina Turner’s defining hits, was originally recorded (with a much different arrangement) by Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1969. 

     

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    Epic Records

    Michael Jackson

    The Song: “Billie Jean” (1983)
    Fun Fact: The video for “Billie Jean” was one of the first from a black artist played on MTV, and its success is widely credited for diversifying the fledgling network’s music programming.

     

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    ABC Records

    Louis Armstrong

    The Song: “What a Wonderful World” (1967)
    Fun Fact: Written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss to bring some positivity to the era’s racial and political strife and recorded by Armstrong at the age of 66, the song would not reach peak popularity in the U.S. until after Armstrong’s death in 1971. It was, however, an immediate smash hit in the U.K., becoming the highest-selling single there in 1968.

     

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    MCA

    Mary J. Blige

    The Song: “Family Affair” (2001)
    Fun Fact: If we had included the words — and we use that term loosely — “hateration,” “holleration” or “dancerie,” this one would have been a dead giveaway. This modern classic, recorded during a time when Blige was reveling in her new drama-free life, has major longevity. She brought the house down when she performed it in Charlotte, N.C., at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, 11 years after the track was released.

     

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    Epic Records

    Sly and the Family Stone

    The Song: “Everyday People” (1968)
    Fun Fact: This ode to unity and understanding has been covered by as diverse a range of artists as you could possibly imagine — think Aretha Franklin, Maroon 5, Dolly Parton and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (to name a few). It was famously sampled for Arrested Development’s 1992 hit, “People Everyday.”

     

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    Geffen Records

    Snoop Dogg (aka Snoop Lion)

    The Song: “Drop It Like It’s Hot” (2004)
    Obvious Fact: It was very difficult to find an appropriate lyric to share from any of his songs.
    Fun Fact: This track, recorded with Pharrell Williams, was the rapper’s first No. 1 hit on the Billboard 100.

     

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    Atlantic Records

    Ray Charles

    The Song: “I Got a Woman” (1954)
    Fun Fact: If you guessed Kanye West, shame on you! Of course, West famously sampled the R&B legend’s classic for his 2005 hit “Gold Digger,” introducing the tune to several new generations of fans. The original, a reworked version of “My Jesus Is All the World to Me,” is, according to Songfacts, the first to mix secular lyrics with the stylistic elements of gospel.

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    Columbia Records

    Nas

    The Song: “If I Ruled the World,” feat. Lauryn Hill (1996)
    Fun Fact: This hit — Nas’ first on the R&B charts — would be nothing without its three major musical influences: “Friends” by Whodini, “If I Ruled the World” by Kurtis Blow and “Walk Right Up to the Sun” by The Delfonics.

     

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    MCA

    Patti LaBelle

    The Song: “New Attitude” (1985)
    Fun Fact: LaBelle shot the first music video of her already long, storied career for this song. 

     

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    Motown

    Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

    The Song: “The Tracks of My Tears” (1965)
    Fun Fact: According to Rolling Stone, Pete Townshend of The Who was so obsessed with songwriter Robinson’s use of the word “substitute” that he was actually inspired to write the 1966 song “Substitute” for his band.

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    Def Jam

    LL Cool J

    The Song: “Around the Way Girl” (1990)
    Fun Fact: This ode to ladies with extensions in their hair, bamboo earrings and Fendi bags samples Mary Jane Girls’ “All Night Long” and Keni Burke’s “Risin’ to the Top.”

     

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    Def Soul

    Musiq Soulchild

    The Song: “Just Friends” (2000)
    Fun Fact: In what must have been the ultimate compliment, Prince recorded a version of this song for his 2002 live-album box set One Night Alone … Live!

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    Wikimedia Commons

    Billie Holiday

    The Song: “God Bless the Child” (1942)
    Fun Fact: In her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, Holiday said a fight with her mother over money inspired this song.

     

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    Motown

    Marvin Gaye

    The Song: “What’s Going On” (1971)
    Fun Fact: Motown founder Berry Gordy initially didn’t like the idea of Gaye recording a protest song and possibly negatively affecting the company’s (or Gaye’s own) positive image. Gordy told the Wall Street Journal in 2011, “I said, ‘Even though something is true, Marvin, why should you and Motown be the ones to say it?’ Marvin said, ‘Who else but us?’ Of course, Marvin was right.”

     

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    Getty Images

    Andre 3000

    The Song: “Hey Ya” (2003)
    Fun Fact: This might be more depressing than it is fun, but this song — part of Outkast’s Speakerboxx/The Love Below album. came out 10 years ago. Ten years ago.

     

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    King Records

    James Brown

    The Song: “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” (1966)
    Fun Fact: The song title is a play on the 1963 comedy film It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, according to Rolling Stone. Musical influences are found in strange places.

     

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    Getty Images

    Alicia Keys

    The Song: “No One” (2007)
    Fun Fact: Perhaps no one can get in the way of Keys’ love, but at least everyone heard this song. It was the most-listened-to single of 2008, with 3.08 billion radio listeners.

     

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    RCA

    Little Richard

    The Song: “Tutti Frutti” (1955)
    Fun Fact: The song’s famous, nonsensical chorus was originally “Tutti Frutti, good booty.” Today, it would easily pass by censors, but it was a little much in ’55. Little Richard cleaned it up for his record label, and the rest is music history.

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    Interscope

    Blackstreet

    The Song: “No Diggity” (1996)
    Fun Fact: It ranked No. 32 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of the ’90s. And it samples Bill Withers’ 1971 hit “Grandma’s Hands.”

     

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    Getty Images

    Miguel

    The Song: “Adorn” (2012)
    Fun Fact: Even though the track is a huge hit for the singer — it led Billboard’s hip-hop/R&B airplay chart for more than 20 weeks — it might be forever remembered as the song Miguel was performing during his ill-fated, onstage stunt at the 2013 Billboard Awards.

     

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    Casablanca Records

    Donna Summer

    The Song: “Hot Stuff” (1979)
    Fun Fact: Summer became the first artist to win a Grammy for best female rock vocal performance for this hit.

     

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    Interscope

    2Pac

    The Song: “Dear Mama” (1995)
    Fun Fact: A Tupac song is forever and officially enshrined at the Library of Congress, believe it or not. In 2010, “Dear Mama” was inducted into the National Recording Registry for being “a moving and eloquent homage to both the murdered rapper’s own mother and all mothers struggling to maintain a family in the face of addiction, poverty and societal indifference.”

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    Getty Images

    Prince

    The Song: “I Would Die 4 U” (1984)
    Fun Fact: A decades-long discussion among Prince fans about the religious themes of this song has yet to yield a definitive conclusion. Is he comparing himself to Jesus? Is he singing from the viewpoint of Jesus? Or is it all just about his relationship with Jesus? Touré’s new book, I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon, delves deeper into the issue, but still there are no answers.

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    Elektra

    Missy Elliott

    The Song: “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” (1997)
    Fun Fact: That unforgettable inflated trash-bag contraption she wore in the video? When filming, she had to leave the set and fill up her costume using an air pump at a gas station. 

     

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    Motown

    Diana Ross

    The Song: “Do You Know Where You’re Going To” (1975)
    Fun Fact: The ballad is the theme song for the 1975 film Mahogany. And ’90s divas Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez covered the hit for international versions of their records, #1s and On the 6, respectively.

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    Columbia Records

    Eddie Murphy

    Song: “Party All The Time” (1985)
    Fun Fact: Rick James produced this track for Murphy in 1985, allegedly from the singer’s home studio in Buffalo, N.Y. This collaboration is proof of the James and Murphy family connection, which, of course, gave us this Chappelle’s Show gem.

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    Columbia Records

    Beyoncé

    The Song: Déjà Vu” (2006)
    Fun Fact: Some fans didn’t approve of the song’s video, not just because it was overtly sexual and featured “too much gyrating,” but because they thought Queen Bey was capable of better. Seriously. More than 6,000 fans signed an online petition demanding that she reshoot it to better reflect her talent.

     

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    Columbia Records

    Lauryn Hill

    The Song: “Doo Wop (That Thing)” (1998)
    Fun Fact: This was the 10th single in Billboard 100 chart history to debut at No. 1. 

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    Parkway Records

    Chubby Checker

    The Song: “The Twist” (1960)
    Fun Fact: It’s most popular of all of the No. 1 songs in the Billboard Hot 100 chart’s 50-year history, beating out Elvis and The Beatles. Makes sense, as Checker is the only artist to ever have the same single go to No. 1 on the record charts twice in different years (1960 and 1962).

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    Arista Records

    Whitney Houston

    The Song: “I’m Your Baby Tonight” (1990)
    Fun Fact: The legend goes that after Houston was famously booed at the Soul Train Music Awards in 1989 for sounding too mainstream (and “singing white”), she took some creative control of her third studio album, which shares a title with this track. To shed her cookie-cutter image, she solicited the help of producer Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, who infused the record with his signature funk-pop timbre. 

     

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