Signature Song
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Signature Song

A signature song is the one song (or, in some cases, one of a few songs) that a popular and well-established recording artist or band is most closely identified with or best known for. This is generally differentiated from a one-hit wonder in that the artist usually has success with other songs as well. There have also been instances where an actor has acquired a signature song by giving a popular vocal performance in a film. Signature songs can be the result of spontaneous public identification, or a marketing tool developed by the music industry to promote artists, sell their recordings, and develop a fan base.[1] Artists and bands with a signature song are often expected to perform it at every concert appearance, usually as an encore on concert tours, sometimes being the last song of the setlist.[2]

Examples of signature songs for selected artists

Artist Song Released Notes
ABBA Dancing Queen 1976 Written by Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Stig Anderson[3]
Christina Aguilera Beautiful 2002 Written and produced by Linda Perry[4]
Lynn Anderson Rose Garden 1970 Written by Joe South[5]
The Animals The House of the Rising Sun 1964 Traditional folk song[6]
Louis Armstrong What a Wonderful World 1967 Written by Bob Thiele (as "George Douglas") and George David Weiss[7]
Eddy Arnold The Cattle Call Written/recorded in 1934 by Tex Owens[8]
Asia Heat of the Moment 1982 Written by John Wetton and Geoff Downes[9]
Rick Astley Never Gonna Give You Up 1987 Written and produced by Stock Aitken Waterman[10]
A*Teens Upside Down 2000 The band's first original release[11]
Backstreet Boys I Want It That Way 1999 Written by Max Martin and Andreas Carlsson[12]
Jimmy Barnes Working Class Man 1985 Written by Jonathan Cain[13]
Count Basie One O'Clock Jump 1937 A 12-bar blues instrumental written by Basie in 1937[14]
Shirley Bassey Goldfinger 1964 The title song from the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger[15]
Bauhaus Bela Lugosi's Dead 1979 Considered the harbinger of gothic rock music[16]
Beck Loser 1993 Written by Beck and producer Carl Stephenson[17]
Tony Bennett I Left My Heart in San Francisco 1953 Written by George Cory and Douglass Cross[18]
Chuck Berry Johnny B. Goode 1958 Recorded January 6, 1958 at Chess Records[19]
Bikini Kill Rebel Girl 1993 Written by Kathleen Hanna, Billy Karren, Tobi Vail and Kathi Wilcox[20]
Blue Öyster Cult (Don't Fear) The Reaper 1976 Written and sung by lead guitarist Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser[21]
Bon Jovi Livin' on a Prayer 1986 Written by Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Desmond Child[22]
Jeff Buckley Hallelujah 1994 Originally written and recorded by Leonard Cohen in 1984[23]
Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville 1977 Recorded 1976 at Criteria Studios and Quadrafonic Sound Studios[24]
Glen Campbell Rhinestone Cowboy 1975 Originally written and recorded by Larry Weiss in 1974[25]
The Carpenters We've Only Just Begun 1970 Written by Roger Nichols and Paul Williams[26]
Ray Charles What'd I Say 1959 Recorded on February 18, 1959[27]
Cheap Trick I Want You to Want Me 1977 Written by Rick Nielsen and produced by Tom Werman[26]
Chicago Beginnings 1969 Written by Robert Lamm and produced by James William Guercio[26]
Eric Clapton Layla 1970 Written by Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon[28][29]
Marc Cohn Walking in Memphis 1991 Described as an iconic part of the Great American Songbook[30]
Cold Chisel Khe Sanh 1978 Their debut single, written by Don Walker[31]
John Coltrane My Favorite Things 1961 Published in 1959 by Rodgers and Hammerstein[32]
Conway Twitty Hello Darlin' 1970 Written and recorded on November 18, 1969[33]
Culture Club Karma Chameleon 1983 Featured on the group's 1983 album Colour by Numbers[34]
Billy Ray Cyrus Achy Breaky Heart 1991 Written in 1990 by Don Von Tress[35]
Sammy Davis Jr. I've Gotta Be Me 1968 Written by Walter Marks[36]
Doris Day Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) 1956 Written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans[37]
Dead Kennedys Holiday in Cambodia 1980 Written by Jello Biafra and John Greenway. Recorded 1979[38]
Def Leppard Pour Some Sugar on Me 1987 3rd single from the 1987 album Hysteria[39]
Deep Purple Smoke on the Water 1972 Recorded in December 1971[40]
John Denver Take Me Home, Country Roads 1971 Written by Denver, Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert[41]
Diamond Rio Meet in the Middle 1991 Written by Chapin Hartford, Jim Foster, Don Pfrimmer[42]
Marlene Dietrich Falling In Love Again 1930 Composed by Friedrich Hollaender[43]
Mariah Carey Hero 1993 Written by Carey and Walter Afanasieff[44]
Celine Dion My Heart Will Go On 1997 Written by James Horner (music) and Will Jennings (lyrics)[45]
The Doors Light My Fire 1967 Recorded in August 1966[46]
Eagles Hotel California 1977 Written by Don Felder, Don Henley, Glenn Frey[47]
Electric Light Orchestra Mr. Blue Sky 1977 Written by Jeff Lynne and recorded 1977 at Musicland Studios[48]
Duke Ellington Take the 'A' Train A jazz standard composed by Billy Strayhorn in 1939[49]
Lorraine Ellison Stay with Me 1966 Co-written by Jerry Ragovoy and George David Weiss[50]
Eminem Lose Yourself 2002 First hip hop song to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song[51]
Aretha Franklin Respect 1967 Originally written by Otis Redding in 1965[52]
Gloria Gaynor I Will Survive 1978 Written by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris[53]
Brantley Gilbert Kick It in the Sticks 2010 Written by Gilbert, Rhett Akins and Ben Hayslip[54]
Lee Greenwood God Bless the USA 1984 A popular American patriotic song[55]
Bill Haley & His Comets Rock Around the Clock 1954 Recorded April 12, 1954 at Pythian Temple studios[56]
Bob Hope Thanks for the Memory 1938 Composed by Ralph Rainger with lyrics by Leo Robin[57]
Lena Horne Stormy Weather 1933 Written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler[58]
Imagine Dragons Radioactive 2012 From their major-label debut EP Continued Silence[59]
Billy Joel Piano Man 1973 Selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry[60]
George Jones He Stopped Loving Her Today 1980 Written by Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman[61]
Evelyn "Champagne" King Shame 1977 Written by John H. Fitch, Jr. and Reuben Cross[62]
The Kingsmen Louie, Louie 1963 Written by Richard Berry in 1955[63]
The Kinks You Really Got Me 1964 Written by Ray Davies and recorded in July 1964[64]
Kiss Rock and Roll All Nite 1975 Recorded at Electric Lady Studios in February 1975[26]
Gladys Knight & the Pips Midnight Train to Georgia 1973 Written by Jim Weatherly[65]
John Lennon Imagine 1971 Recorded during May-July 1971 at Ascot Sound Studios[66]
Jerry Lee Lewis Great Balls of Fire 1957 Written by Otis Blackwell and Jack Hammer[67]
Guy Lombardo Auld Lang Syne 1939 A Scots-language poem written by Robert Burns in 1788[68]
Julie London Cry Me a River 1955 Written by Arthur Hamilton and first published in 1953[69]
Loretta Lynn Coal Miner's Daughter 1970 Based on the true story of Lynn's life growing up in rural Kentucky[70]
Lynyrd Skynyrd Free Bird 1973 First featured on the band's 1973 debut album[71]
Men at Work Down Under 1980 Released as the 2nd single from their debut album Business as Usual[72]
Kylie Minogue Can't Get You Out of My Head 2001 From the artist's 8th album, Fever, released in 2001[73]
The Moody Blues Nights in White Satin 1967 Written and composed by Justin Hayward, recorded October 1967[26]
Motörhead Ace of Spades 1980 Released as the only single from the bands fourth studio album[74]
Nirvana Smells Like Teen Spirit 1991 The opening track and lead single from their 1991 album.[75]
Oasis Wonderwall 1995 Written by Noel Gallagher, the song was recorded in May 1995.[76]
Old Crow Medicine Show Wagon Wheel 1994 Co-written by Bob Dylan and Ketch Secor, recorded in 2003.[77]
One Direction What Makes You Beautiful 2011 Written by Savan Kotecha, Rami Yacoub and Carl Falk.[78]
Ozzy Osbourne Crazy Train 1981 Released as the first single from Osbourne's debut solo album.[79]
Phish You Enjoy Myself 1988 Written by Trey Anastasio, the song is a regular live feature.[80][81]
Poison Every Rose Has Its Thorn 1988 3rd single from the band's 2nd album and their only US no. 1[82]
The Police Every Breath You Take 1983 Written by Sting and featured on the band's final album[83]
Jeanne Pruett Satin Sheets 1973 Originally recorded by Bill Anderson and Jan Howard[84]
Lionel Richie Hello 1983 Released as the third single from his second solo album[85][86]
Kenny Rogers The Gambler 1978 Written by Don Schlitz in August 1976 and recorded by several artists[87]
The Rolling Stones (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction 1965 The band's first no. 1 in the US.[88]
Linda Ronstadt Blue Bayou 1977 Written by Roy Orbison and Joe Melson[89]
Neil Sedaka Breaking Up Is Hard to Do 1962 Co-written by Sedaka and Howard Greenfield[90]
Semisonic Closing Time 1998 Released March 1998 as lead single from their second studio album[91]
Blake Shelton Ol' Red 2002 Co-written by James "Bo" Bohon, Don Goodman, and Mark Sherrill[92]
Carly Simon You're So Vain 1971 Released as the first single from Simon's 3rd studio album[93]
Simon & Garfunkel Bridge over Troubled Water 1970 Written by Simon and recorded November 9, 1969[94]
Frank Sinatra My Way 1969 Originally written by French songwriter Jacques Revaux[95]
Percy Sledge When a Man Loves a Woman 1966 Written by Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright[96]
Sonny & Cher I Got You Babe 1965 The first single from the duo's debut album[97]
Spice Girls Wannabe 1996 Written by the band, Matt Rowe and Richard Stannard[98]
Bruce Springsteen Born to Run 1975 Released as the first single from his third studio album[99]
Rod Stewart Maggie May 1971 Co-written by singer Rod Stewart and Martin Quittenton[100]
Eva Tanguay I Don't Care 1922 Recorded in 1905[101]
Tears for Fears Shout 1985 Released as the second single from their second studio album[102]
Shirley Temple On the Good Ship Lollipop 1934 Composed by Richard A. Whiting with lyrics by Sidney Clare[103]
The Temptations My Girl 1964 Recorded by the Temptations in 1964[104]
Tiny Tim Tiptoe Through the Tulips 1968 Written by Al Dubin (lyrics) and Joe Burke (music)[105][106]
Randy Travis Forever and Ever, Amen 1987 Written by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz and recorded in 1987[107]
Vanilla Ice Ice Ice Baby 1990 Samples "Under Pressure" by Queen and David Bowie[108][109]
The Verve Bitter Sweet Symphony 1997 Written by Ashcroft and recorded January-March 1997[110]
Village People Y.M.C.A. 1978 Written by Jacques Morali, Victor Willis and Henri Belolo[111]
Andy Williams Moon River 1962 Composed by Henry Mancini with lyrics by Johnny Mercer[112]
Joe Williams Every Day I Have the Blues 1955 Written by Aaron "Pinetop" Sparks and Milton Sparks[113]
Vanessa Williams Save The Best For Last 1992 Written by Phil Galdston, Wendy Waldman and Jon Lind in 1989[114]
Amy Winehouse Rehab 2006 Written by Winehouse from her second album Back to Black[115]
Tammy Wynette Stand by Your Man 1968 Co-written by Tammy Wynette and Billy Sherrill[116]

See also


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  2. ^ Prescott, John (2000). A Career in Show Business: Variety Entertainer. Chicago: Institute for Research. p. 8. And if there's a phrase ... or you have a signature song ... then your audience will probably be disappointed if you don't repeat yourself.
  3. ^ Abba Gold. Continuum International Publishing Group. 2004. ISBN 9780826415462.
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  6. ^ "SEPTEMBER 05, 1964 : "HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN" BY THE ANIMALS TOPS THE U.S. POP CHARTS". Archived from the original on September 5, 2015. Retrieved 2016.
  7. ^ Orr, Tamra (September 30, 2012). Louis Armstrong. Mitchell Lane Publishers, Inc. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-61228-340-1.
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External links

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