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16 Famous Songs You Never Realized Were Written By Black Musicians Until Reading This Post

Did you know Lenny Kravitz wrote "Justify My Love" for Madonna?

We asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell us which popular songs most people don't know were written by Black musicians. Here are the eye-opening results.

Note: Not all submissions were made by Community users.

1. Pharrell co-wrote "Boys" for Britney Spears' 2001 album, Britney with Chad Hugo of The Neptunes. The hit also appeared on the Austin Powers in Goldmember movie soundtrack in 2002.

Jive / Samir Hussein / Getty Images

Pharrell is also responsible for writing major hits like "Señorita" for Justin Timberlake's 2002 album, Justified, and he helped write "Hollaback Girl" with Gwen Stefani for her 2004 album, Love. Angel. Music. Baby.. He's a songwriting machine, and he continues to crank out hit after hit for artists and various movie soundtracks — check out his full songwriting credits here.

Listen to the song here:

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Jive / Via youtube.com

2. Prince wrote "Manic Monday" for the Bangles' 1986 album, Different Light.

BBC / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Susanna Hoffs (lead singer of the Bangles) told NPR that Prince wrote "Manic Monday" for the band because he was such a big fan of their music. He invited the Bangles to his studio to listen to a demo, and the Bangles "hovered around the cassette machine and [they] were smitten with the song."

Listen to the Bangles' version here:

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Listen to Prince's version here:

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Paisley Park / Warner Bros. / Via youtube.com

3. Mariah Carey, aka the Queen of Christmas, wrote Faith Hill's "Where Are You Christmas?" for the How the Grinch Stole Christmas soundtrack in 2000.

Warner Bros. Nashville / Interscope / Columbia

"Mariah Carey wrote almost all of her own discography (except for the covers) — she even wrote the Mixed-ish theme song, 'In the Mix,' which she recorded with her children, Roc and Roe." —sr123455

Carey originally wrote "Where Are You Christmas?" to perform herself for the Grinch soundtrack, but Faith Hill recorded the Christmas classic for the movie instead.

Listen to the song here:

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Warner Bros. Nashville / Interscope / Via youtube.com

4. Lenny Kravitz co-wrote "Justify My Love" with Ingrid Chavez for Madonna's 1990 greatest hits album, The Immaculate Collection.

Sire / Warner Bros. / Sean Zanni / Getty Images

In a 2020 interview with Yahoo! Entertainment, Kravitz revealed he wrote the song after he met Madonna at a club in Europe in 1990. He recorded a bunch of demos after his first music tour, Let Love Rule, and believed it was a better fit for Madonna to sing rather than himself.

Listen to the song here:

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Sire / Warner Bros. / Via youtube.com

5. Alicia Keys wrote "Impossible" for Christina Aguilera's 2002 album, Stripped.

MTV / Via youtube.com

Suggested by: sr123455

MTV followed Aguilera's journey while recording her 2002 album, Stripped. In the documentary, she described how effortless it was to work with Keys because she didn't bring her ego as a performing artist into the studio — she worked with Aguilera as a songwriter and producer. The two worked closely together on "Impossible" at Electric Lady Studios in New York City, with Keys teaching Aguilera her go-to vocal warmups at the piano.

Listen to the song here:

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RCA / Via youtube.com

6. Keri Hilson co-wrote "Wait a Minute" with Timbaland for The Pussycat Dolls' 2005 album, PCD.

A&M / Prince Williams / Getty Images

Suggested by: talormadisonc

Outside of her own successful solo career, you probably didn't know Hilson has written some pretty big hits for major artists. She's responsible for co-writing "Gimme More" for Britney Spears' 2007 album, Blackout, "Take Me as I Am" for Mary J. Blige's 2006 album, The Breakthrough, and "Runaway Love" for Ludacris's 2006 album, Release Therapy.

Listen to the song here:

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A&M / Via youtube.com

7. Ne-Yo co-wrote "Irreplaceable" for Beyoncé's 2006 album, B'Day.

Columbia / Music World / Sony Urban / Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images

In an episode of VH1's Behind the Music, Ne-Yo described what it was like writing the major Beyoncé hit, "Irreplaceable." He said: "We took country guitars and put a hip-hop verse over it and wrote a country hip-hop song and it works. We experimented with something and it worked." If you're unfamiliar with Ne-Yo's impressive list of songwriting credits, check them out here.

Listen to Beyoncé's version here:

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Columbia / Music World / Sony Urban / Via youtube.com

Listen to Ne-Yo's version here:

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SME / Sony Urban Music / Columbia / Via youtube.com

8. Tayla Parx co-wrote most hits from Ariana Grande's 2019 album, thank u, next, like "7 rings, "NASA," and "thank u, next."

Listen to the song here:

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Republic / Via youtube.com

9. Led Zeppelin's 1971 hit "When the Levee Breaks" was actually written and recorded by Memphis Minnie in 1929. Memphis Minnie wrote the song with her husband, Kansas Joe McCoy, about the Great Mississippi Flood.

GAB Archive / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Suggested by: runner1399

Listen to Led Zeppelin's version here:

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Atlantic / Via youtube.com

Listen to Memphis Minnie's version here:

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Columbia / Via youtube.com

10. And Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" from 1969 was directly ripped off of Muddy Waters' 1963 hit "You Need Love," which was composed by blues songwriter Willie Dixon.

Atlantic / Tom Copi / Getty Images

"Led Zeppelin has actually stolen many lyrics and melodies for several of their songs, of which they didn’t actually credit Black artists until much later on." —sr123455

In the 2006 biography Led Zeppelin IV (Rock of Ages), Robert Plant admitted to plagiarizing a lot of the band's hits when they were first coming onto the scene in the late 1960s — "Whole Lotta Love" being one of them. He said: "I think when Willie Dixon turned on the radio in Chicago 20 years after he wrote his blues, he thought, 'That's my song.' When we ripped it off, I said to Jimmy, 'Hey, that's not our song' and he said, 'Shut up and keep walking.'"

Listen to Led Zeppelin's version here:

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Listen to Muddy Waters' version here:

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Chess / Via youtube.com

11. The Black Crowes recorded "Hard to Handle" for their 1990 album, Shake Your Money Maker, but it was originally recorded by Otis Redding and appeared on his 1968 posthumous album, The Immortal Otis Redding.

Def American / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

You also know that little Aretha Franklin hit "Respect" from her 1967 album I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You? Yeah, Redding wrote that, too! He recorded it in 1965, a few years before Franklin rewrote some of the lyrics and made it popular.

Listen to The Black Crowes' version here:

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Def American / Via youtube.com

Listen to Otis Redding's version here:

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Atco / Via youtube.com

12. Missy Elliott wrote "My Love Is Like...Wo" for Mýa's 2003 album, Moodring.

Interscope / Paras Griffin / Getty Images

"Along with Timbaland, Missy Elliott also wrote most of Aaliyah's music from "One in a Million" onward. Along with her huge list of production credits, Elliott has written major hits for female artists, like "Oops (Oh My)" for Tweet's 2002 album, Southern Hummingbird and "Signs" for Beyoncé's 2003 album, Dangerously in Love." —sr123455

In 2018, Elliott tweeted about her experience writing "My Love Is Like...Wo" for Mýa: "I remember I had 10 shots of Patrón writing the lyrics. I played it for Mýa and we was dancing 'round the studio having a ball. In this music video, SHE DID DAT. The choreography was lit 🙌🏾🔥."

Listen to the song here:

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Interscope / Via youtube.com

13. Wynter Gordon co-wrote "Daddy Lessons," "Don't Hurt Yourself," and "Sorry" for Beyoncé's 2016 album, Lemonade.

Parkwood / Columbia / Taylor Hill / Getty Images

In a 2018 interview with Harper's Bazaar, Gordon went into great detail what it was like writing for the legendary album Lemonade, especially when it came down to the popular lyric "Becky with the good hair" from the fourth track, "Sorry."

Gordan said: "When you work with Beyoncé, she's really, really hands on. She has her own reasons for doing things. If Becky was somebody to her, I had no idea who it was. I just thought it was funny that everybody was like, 'Who is it?' like it was this personal person that we all knew about. I was just laughing."

Listen to the song here:

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Parkwood / Columbia / Via youtube.com

14. Elvis Presley's song "Hard Headed Woman" from the 1958 movie musical King Creole was actually written by Claude Demetrius. Elvis was also known for popularizing songs that were originally recorded by Black singers — "Hound Dog" was recorded by blues singer Big Mama Thornton four years before he made it a hit in 1956.

Archive Photos / Getty Images / Wikipedia / Creative Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

Suggested by: ariellej4

Listen to "Hard Headed Woman" here:

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RCA Victor / Via youtube.com

15. Before The Tokens popularized "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" in 1961, composer Solomon Linda wrote and recorded it in 1939 under the original title "Mbube." Because Linda didn't receive proper songwriting credit, he and his family had almost no money and barely survived.

RCA Victor / Wikipedia / Creative Commons / Via en.wikipedia.org

Suggested by: folkloreandevermorearemylife

Solomon Linda had no money when he died at the young age of 53 in 1962 (a year after The Tokens stole and made his song a major hit), and since his death, his surviving family members have struggled to gain proper royalties for the song. In 2016, years after The Tokens and The Lion King had success with the song, the New York Times reported Linda's family filed a lawsuit, and "Abilene Music agreed to pay Mr. Linda's family royalties from 1987 onward."

Listen to The Tokens' version here:

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RCA Victor / Via youtube.com

Listen to Solomon Linda's version here:

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Gallo Record Company / Via youtube.com

16. And Prince wrote and recorded "Nothing Compares 2 U" in 1985 before Sinéad O'Connor made it a hit in 1990.

Chrysalis / Paisley Park / Warner Bros.

"I was a teen when Sinéad O'Connor came onto the scene in the '90s — I later learned that 'Nothing Compares 2 U' was actually written by Prince, and his version was SOOO much better than hers. Prince forever!" —jackied11

Listen to Sinéad O'Connor's version here:

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Chrysalis / Via youtube.com

Listen to Prince's version here:

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Paisley Park / Warner Bros. / Via youtube.com

Submissions have been edited for length and clarity.

Which popular song do most people not know was actually written by a Black musician? Tell us in the comments below!

Follow more of BuzzFeed's Black History Month coverage here.

Brooke Greenberg / BuzzFeed

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