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Five Songs From Artists Singing About Other Artists

Gerry Hardy
Gillian Welch and her partner David Rawlings wrote a mournful meditation about Elvis Presley.

Songwriters will write songs about what inspires them, and often they (like us) are inspired by other musicians and songwriters.  

Here are five of my favorites from that category.

David Bowie - Song For Bob Dylan

One of Bob Dylan's earliest attempts at songwriting was his 1962 "Song To Woody," for Woody Guthrie.  About a decade later, David Bowie wrote this song.  It was at a time when Dylan himself was maintaining a low profile, while his seminal work from the 1960s was becoming mythic.

Gillian Welch - Elvis Presley Blues

Released in 2001, decades after the death of "The King of Rock 'n' Roll."  Gillian Welch and her partner David Rawlings wrote a mournful meditation on the country boy who had such a powerful effect on audiences in the 1950s.

Jonathan Richman - Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground were not very successful during their run in the 1960s, with Lou Reed leaving the band in 1970, and the group ending a couple of years later.  But the right people got what they were doing, among them Jonathan Richman who started his band The Modern Lovers about the time Reed left The Velvet Underground.  Richman recorded this song in 1992. 

The Replacements - Alex Chilton

Big Star were the early 1970s equivalent of The Velvet Underground, seemingly a failure but then going on to be very influential.  Paul Westerberg and his bandmates in The Replacements were fans of Big Star and that group's frontman Alex Chilton, and they recorded this song in 1987.  You don't have to know or care about Chilton to appreciate the song's infectious energy.

MGMT - Brian Eno

Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser of MGMT may not have been totally serious in their homage to synth pioneer and art rock founding father Brian Eno.  But synths are omnipresent these days, and MGMT's great song performs the service of perhaps sparking some curiosity about Eno's music for the uninitiated.  

Mark Simmet is a Senior Producer and Studio One Host