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Signature song

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Title: Signature song  
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Subject: One-hit wonder, Theme music, Back to Black (song), Bidi Bidi Bom Bom, Si Una Vez
Collection: Song Forms
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Signature song

A signature song is the one song (or, in some cases, one of a few songs) that a popular and well-established singer or band is most closely identified with or best known for, even if they have had success with a variety of songs. Signature songs can be the result of spontaneous public identification and/or a marketing tool developed by the music industry to promote artists, sell their recordings, and develop a fan base.[1]


  • Importance 1
  • One-hit wonder 2
  • Shared signature songs 3
  • Anthems 4
  • Examples 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7


A signature song is important for many artists. Bands with a signature song often choose to perform it at every concert appearance.[2] Marketing programs by recording companies and fan expectations for these signature songs sometimes result in the artist's having difficulty performing other kinds of music. Two examples of this phenomenon are Ricky Nelson's ill-treatment by his fans at Madison Square Garden in 1971 (see "Garden Party") and Merle Haggard's public fight with Capitol Records to release his tribute album of Bob Wills dance songs after the success of "Okie from Muskogee" in 1969.

One-hit wonder

The term signature song is generally not applied to the successful song of a one-hit wonder, an artist who is closely identified with one song because they have had no other successful song recordings.

Shared signature songs

Some songs are so iconic and popular that many different singers may share that song as their signature song. For example, "I Will Always Love You" was originally written and sung by Dolly Parton; it was then in turn sung by Whitney Houston nearly twenty years later and was a mainstay of hers as well. Other examples of songs that have been identified with more than one singer are "Ol' Man River," which became the signature song of Paul Robeson and William Warfield, and "Goodnight Irene," which became the best-known track for Lead Belly and The Weavers.[3]


Official songs or anthems for dignitaries also perform a similar function of fanfare and/or association: being played when a particular person or group makes their entrance. An example of this is the President of the United States with "Hail to the Chief".


See also


  1. ^ Umphlett, Wiley Lee (2004). The Visual Focus of American Media Culture in the Twentieth Century: The Modern Era, 1893–1945. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. p. 157. This practice soon began equating performers with signature songs as a way to promote and sell recordings and sheet music as well as establish a cult of fans to market these songs to. 
  2. ^ Prescott, John (2000). A Career in Show Business: Variety Entertainer. Chicago: Institute for Research. p. 8. And if there's a phrase ... or you have a signature song ... then your audience will probably be disappointed if you don't repeat yourself. 
  3. ^ "(Goodnight) Irene". NPR. August 19, 2000. Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  4. ^ Abba Gold. Continuum International Publishing Group. 2004.  
  5. ^ "Garth Brooks Official Site". Retrieved February 3, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Shirley Bassey: New CD for 'Goldfinger' Diva". March 15, 2008. Retrieved March 28, 2012. 
  7. ^ "His Heart's Still In San Francisco". CBS News. December 21, 2005. 
  8. ^ Allmusic. Review: "When A Man Loves A Woman". retrieved April 6, 2013.
  9. ^ "Bon Jovi Stunned By Living On A Prayer Success". August 20, 2006. Retrieved February 3, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Buckley's Big Voice Built a Loyal Following". NPR. May 29, 2007. Retrieved February 3, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Jimmy Buffett sings for Clinton". CNN. August 26, 2000. Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Ray Charles". Filmbug. Retrieved February 3, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Mansour, David. From Abba to Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia. p. 204.  
  14. ^ "Mini-Biography". Petula October 28, 2000. Retrieved February 3, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Mack The Knife". Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  16. ^ "Rhno masters Sammy Davis, Jr.". Archived from the original on April 5, 2001. 
  17. ^ Ellis, Iain (2008). Rebels Wit Attitude: Subversive Rock Humorists. Soft Skull Press. p. 178.  
  18. ^ Deep Purple on allmusic (Made in Japan > Overview)
  19. ^ "That Old Feeling: Marlene's Siren Songs". January 27, 2002. Retrieved March 29, 2012. 
  20. ^ Caramanica, Jon (September 16, 2008). "Emotions With Exclamation Points". 
  21. ^ "Special Event". CNN. Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  22. ^ "Cnn Live Event/Special". CNN. February 7, 2001. Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  23. ^ "Thanks for the Memory". Archived from the original on February 4, 2007. Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  24. ^ allmusic (The Best of the RCA Years > Overview)
  25. ^ Ellis, Iain (2008). Rebels Wit Attitude: Subversive Rock Humorists. Soft Skull Press. p. 58.  
  26. ^ "Etta James: Biography". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 5, 2008. 
  27. ^ "How Billy Joel became the Piano Man". Jun 2, 2014. 
  28. ^ Cooper, Peter (May 2, 2013). "George Jones' life proved to be a joyful song". USA Today. 
  29. ^
  30. ^ "Gladys Knight on". Retrieved March 29, 2012. 
  31. ^ "Official band website". April 27, 1977. Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  32. ^ "Imagine: John Lennon's signature song". Retrieved July 11, 2014. 
  33. ^ "Welcome to Producers, Inc". Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  34. ^ "Julie London at Brian's Drive-In Theater". Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  35. ^ "Lynn fights for her songs". Archived from the original on December 9, 2004. 
  36. ^ "News : 20 Questions With Barbara Mandrell". CMT. October 18, 2006. Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  37. ^ "". CNN. Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  38. ^ "Australia Photos". Retrieved April 24, 2014. 
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  40. ^ "Can't Get You Out of My Head". Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  41. ^ allmusic
  42. ^ Nirvana's 'Nevermind' is ever-covered, spoofed-Retrieved January 13, 2012
  43. ^ Ian Inglis (2006). Performance and Popular Music: History, |Place and Time. Ashgate. p. 36. 'Try a Little Tenderness' was one of his signature tunes, an old standard that he regularly used to end his concerts. 
  44. ^ "'"Satisfaction is 'top Stones song. August 17, 2006. Retrieved March 28, 2012. 
  45. ^ McFarlane " Encyclopedia Entry for Savage Garden|'Savage Garden' entry". Retrieved June 29, 2010. 
  46. ^ Breaking Up Is Hard To Do Song Review November 29, 2011
  47. ^ "Semisonic Singer Dan Wilson Explains His 11-Year Rule". Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
  48. ^ Paul Simpson. The rough guide to cult pop. p. 83. 
  49. ^ Steve Hendershot, Chicago Tribune. Percy Sledge is still in love with "When a Man Loves a Woman". October 07, 2005. retrieved April 7, 2013.
  50. ^ "Celebrity Lawmaker Wore Renewed Fame Lightly". CNN. Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  51. ^ Johnson, Chris. "'"Mel B: 'I barely speak to the other Spice Girls even though Victoria only lives a few miles away. London: Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  52. ^ "Sarah McLachlan to perform at autism benefit". Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  53. ^ Sochen, June (2007). From Mae to Madonna: Women Entertainers in Twentieth-century America. University Press of Kentucky. p. 45.  
  54. ^ allmusic
  55. ^ Shirley Temple Black, child star who became diplomat, dies at 85
  56. ^ Richard Ashcroft – From urban hymns to united nations The Independent
  57. ^ allmusic (16 Biggest Hits > Overview)
  58. ^ "Bert Williams – Free Music Downloads, Videos, Lyrics, CDs, MP3s, Bio, Merchandise and Links". Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  59. ^ Fish, George. Against the Current, September/October 2007, "Jerry Lee Lewis at 70".
  60. ^ "Mix104.1". July 25, 2011. Retrieved February 3, 2013. 
  61. ^ [1]allmusic (Stand by Your Man > Overview)
  62. ^ "Lynyrd Skynyrd Biography". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2014-11-07. 
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