One trend that is apparent in the music of the young century is the tendency for artists to allude to someone else’s song in their own tune. It has occurred across all genres, from rap to pop to rock.
Lil Wayne, back in 2009, paid homage the Miracles hit “Love Machine.” A few years before, Fountains of Wayne admitted to learning “the chords to Just the Way a You Are” by Billy Joel. Rock legend Neil Young on his latest studio album even wrote a song about the first time he heard Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.”
Much rarer, and perhaps more daring, is for an artist to mention one of his own earlier tunes in a new song. Here are ten artists who have been bold enough to reference their own works in a different tune.
The Beatles in “Glass Onion”: On this track from the White Album, John Lennon refers to previous hits “Fool on the Hill,” “I Am the Walrus” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.”
Queen in “Bicycle Race”: Freddie Mercury gives a nod to Brian May’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls” when he warns us to look out for those beauties who will be riding today.
Steve Miller Band in “The Joker”: In the first verse of Miller’s biggest hit he references three of his earlier songs, “Gangster of Love,” “Space Cowboy” and “Maurice.”
David Bowie in “Ashes to Ashes”: The glam rock legend hardens back to his early 70s hit “Space Oddity” on this single from the Scary Monsters album.
Alice Cooper in “Generation Landslide”: On this tune from the group’s best album, they use the title track in the line, “Who never conceived of us Billion Dollar Babies.”
Bob Dylan in “Sara”: Reflecting on the lengthy track that comprises all of side four of Blonde on Blonde, the folk-rock bard serenades Sara by singing for her “Sad eyed Lady of the Lowlands.”
Elton John in “Captain and the Kid”: Teaming with Bernie Taupin after nearly two decades apart, the duo recall two classics from their heyday together on the line “Turn you into a brown dirt cowboy and me into a rocket man.”
Steely Dan in “What a Shame about Me”: This track from Two Against Nature has Donald Fagen asking “Why don’t we make believe we’re back at our old school,” a tongue in cheek reference to the best song from Countdown to Ecstasy.
Nilsson in “Joy”: At the end of this country-tinged ditty, the pop-rock friend of The Beatles asks her to “Turn on Your Radio,” the perfect lead in for the next song on Son of Schmilsson.
Rick Nelson in “Garden Party”: The younger son of Ozzie and Harriet mentions his hit “Hello Mary Lou” on this reflective single that served as a short-lived comeback for the rocker.