SOMETIMES YOU HEAR these songs and you swear it’s someone else, someone more famous, singing it. I was reminded of this the other day when I played “Rock Me Gently,” the #1 song from 1974 by Andy Kim. “Andy who?” you say? I actually knew who Andy Kim was when the song came out because my sister had the 45 of his “Be My Baby” from a few years prior; but still, the first time I heard “Rock Me Gently,” I thought it was Neil Diamond. So did a lot of people. (“What,” you say, “it isn’t‽”)
“Mistaken identity” songs are interesting because they’re our own — it’s not as though the record companies are putting the wrong labels on the records or the radio DJs are announcing them incorrectly. And it can be a little disturbing to find out you’ve been wrong about one of these all along. I’ll focus exclusively on the ’70s here since that’s what I do. (I don’t really know who sings anything these days.)
The first song I remember having this problem with was “Vehicle” (1970). It sounds just like Blood, Sweat & Tears, but it’s really Ides of March (I know, right?) doing a pretty rockin’ ripoff. Another good one is “Hang on in There Baby” (1974) by not Barry White, but famed songwriter Johnny Bristol. It took some guts to imitate The Man at the height of his career, and it’s a truly great song. Good going, Johnny!
I once heard someone insist that “After the Lovin’” (1976) by Engelbert Humperdinck was by Tom Jones, an instance where the real artist is a cheap imitation of the one they’re mistaken for (though, admittedly, Tom had gotten pretty bad by that point as well). As if it’s even a song worth arguing about, the mistaken person — I forget now who it was. Maybe that same person who argued with me about ABBA — wouldn’t listen to reason, try as I might to convince them of their error. This was before the iPhone, so we couldn’t just verify with Siri.
Are there others? Sure. I did a little Internet hunting on this very question and found a lot of confusion over “A Horse with No Name” (1972), which is by America, not Neil Young (and no, Neil Young isn’t the lead singer of America; interestingly enough, his “Heart of Gold” was knocked out of the #1 spot by “A Horse with No Name”); “Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress)” (1972) by the Hollies, not CCR; and “Stuck in the Middle with You” (1973), which some people seemed to think was by Bob Dylan instead of Stealers Wheel. Oh, and nothing by Badfinger is by the Beatles, though George Harrison did play on one of their hit songs, and Paul McCartney wrote another.
I had no such confusion about any of those, but apparently some people did. The same Internet that can correct such errors can also exacerbate them, since it’s not uncommon for YouTube videos, lyrics pages, song-sharing sites, and other such homegrown stops along what used to be called the information superhighway (I loved that expression! I want to revive it.) to credit the wrong artists.
I’m sure there are a lot of other good examples of these “sounds like” hits. Of course, you don’t know about them until you embarrassingly find out you’ve been wrong all along. Even so, ‘fess up and tell me, which are your favorites?