|Song by Delaney & Bonnie|
|Genre||Adult contemporary, pop, soft rock|
|Bonnie Bramlett, Leon Russell|
"Superstar" is a 1969 song written by Bonnie Bramlett and Leon Russell with a songwriting credit also given to Delaney Bramlett that has been a hit for many artists in different genres and interpretations in the years since; the best-known version is by the Carpenters in 1971.
In its first recorded incarnation, the song was called "Groupie (Superstar)," and was recorded and released as a B-side to the Delaney & Bonnie single "Comin' Home" in December 1969. Released by Atlantic Records, the full credit on the single was to Delaney & Bonnie and Friends Featuring Eric Clapton.
In August 1970, the live album Mad Dogs and Englishmen by Joe Cocker was released, using performances of the song under the title "Superstar," recorded in March and June of that year. The Mad Dogs album became a hit, reaching number 2 on the Billboard pop albums chart and number 23 on the Billboard Black Albums chart.
Australian rock-group McPhee recorded the song for their eponymous first album in 1970. Vikki Carr used the song as the title track of a 1971 album. Also in 1971, ex-Smith singer Gayle McCormick recorded the song on her self-titled debut solo album on Dunhill Records. The following year, Peggy Lee included the song on her album Norma Deloris Egstrom from Jamestown, North Dakota. In Australia, Colleen Hewett's recording of "Superstar" was released by May 1971.
Picture sleeve for U.S. vinyl single
|Single by Carpenters|
|from the album Carpenters|
|"Bless the Beasts and Children"|
|Released||August 12, 1971|
|Carpenters singles chronology|
|Carpenters track listing|
|Single by Sonic Youth|
|from the album If I Were a Carpenter|
|Sonic Youth singles chronology|
The song "Superstar" became most popular after its treatment by the Carpenters. Richard Carpenter became aware of the song after hearing it sung by Bette Midler on late night television. He remembered, "I came home from the studio one night and heard a then relatively unknown Bette Midler perform it on The Tonight Show. I could barely wait to arrange and record it. It remains one of my favorites."
Produced by Richard Carpenter with Jack Daugherty, it was recorded with members of "The Wrecking Crew," a famed collection of Los Angeles area session musicians. As the song's storyline was originally more risqué than what was typical for the Carpenters, Richard changed a lyric in the second verse from
to the somewhat less suggestive
Upon hearing the final recording, Karen Carpenter later noted: "For some reason that tune didn't hit me in the beginning. It's the only one. Richard looked at me like I had three heads. He said: 'Are you out of your mind?' When I heard his arrangement of it I fell over, and now it's one of my favorites too."
Karen Carpenter's vocal was praised for its intensity and emotional nature. When asked in a 1972 interview how she could communicate the heart of the song while lacking the personal experience it depicted, Karen replied, "I've seen enough groupies hanging around to sense their loneliness, even though they usually don't show it. I can't really understand them, but I just tried to feel empathy and I guess that's what came across in the song." In truth, Karen struggled with loneliness herself, and the personal implications of the song made it one of the three she found most emotionally difficult to sing, the other two being the previous "Rainy Days and Mondays" and the subsequent "I Need to Be in Love."
The duo's rendition was included on the May 1971 album Carpenters, and then released as a single in August 1971, rising to number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart (held out of the top spot by Rod Stewart's "Maggie May"), and spending two weeks at number one on the Easy Listening chart that autumn and earned gold record status. It also reached number 18 on the UK pop singles chart and did well in Australia and New Zealand as well.
Richard would be nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist for his efforts. "Superstar" would go on to appear on two mid-1970s Carpenters live albums as well as innumerable compilation albums. For instance, it appeared on the Carpenters's 2004 SACD compilation, The Singles: 1969-1981 (not to be confused with the regular CD, The Singles: 1969-1981), as a remix of the original 1973 mix on the similarly titled compilation The Singles: 1969-1973.
The song has been featured in films:
The original Delaney and Bonnie version would finally surface on an album in 1972 when D&B Together was released, shortly before their marriage and collaboration ended. This version was also included as a bonus track on a 2006 reissue of the 1970 album Eric Clapton.
|"Superstar/Until You Come Back to Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)"|
|Single by Luther Vandross|
|from the album Busy Body|
|Format||Vinyl 7" 45 RPM|
|Length||5:32 (single edit version)|
|Luther Vandross singles chronology|
Vandross then recorded "Superstar" in 1983 in a slower, more soulful fashion, as part of a medley with Stevie Wonder's "Until You Come Back to Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)" on his album Busy Body. Released as a single the following year, it became an R&B hit, reaching number 5 on the Billboard Top R&B Singles chart. It did not have much pop crossover effect, however, only reaching number 87 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Second-season American Idol contestant Ruben Studdard found his melismatic, R&B groove early in the Final 12 rounds when he performed a Vandross-influenced "Superstar". It got rave reviews from the judges and established Studdard as one of the early leaders in the competition, a position he held through his narrow May 2003 win over second-place finisher Clay Aiken.
By now his signature song, Studdard recorded "Superstar" as the B-side of his June 2003 first single and number two hit, "Flying Without Wings". Studdard earned a 2004 Grammy Award nomination for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for "Superstar", but he lost to his own idol, Vandross, who won for "Dance with My Father". Studdard's treatment was also included on his December 2003 debut album, Soulful.