Superstar (Delaney and Bonnie song)

Superstar (Delaney and Bonnie song)

"Superstar" is a 1969 song written by Bonnie Bramlett, Delaney Bramlett, and Leon Russell [ [ "Superstar"] , "All Music Guide", retrieved on 2008-04-25] which has been a hit for many artists in different genres and interpretations in the years since; the best known version is by The Carpenters in 1971.

Original Delaney and Bonnie version

Accounts of the song's origin vary somewhat, but it grew out of the late 1969/early 1970 nexus of English and American musicians known as Delaney, Bonnie & Friends, that involved Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, Leon Russell, Eric Clapton, and various others. The song's working title during portions of its development was "Groupie Song".

In its first recorded incarnation, the song was called "Groupie (Superstar)", and was recorded and released as a B-side to the Delaney & Bonnie single "Comin' Home" in December 1969. Released by Atlantic Records, the full credit on the single was to Delaney & Bonnie and Friends Featuring Eric Clapton.

Sung by Bonnie, the arrangement featured slow guitar and bass parts building up to an almost gospelish chorus using horns.

The song was about, as the title suggests, a groupie who holds a strong love for a rock star after a short sexual involvement. He has moved on to the next town, and despite his promises to see her again she can now only hear him on the radio. She is just left with the pure hopeless yearning of the chorus:

:"Don't you remember! You told me you loved me, baby":"You said you'd be coming back this way again, baby":"Baby, baby, baby, baby, oh, baby, I love you! I really do ..."

Delaney & Bonnie were not yet well known at the time, and "Comin' Home" only reached number 84 on the U.S. pop singles chart, although it achieved a peak of sixteen on the UK Singles Chart.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen version

During the first half of 1970, Joe Cocker's legendary Mad Dogs and Englishmen revue toured in the United States. Ex-Delaney and Bonnie vocalist Rita Coolidge was a backup singer on this tour, and song co-writer Leon Russell was the bandleader. Some accounts have Coolidge suggesting or inspiring the song's creation in the first place, and working with Bonnie Bramlett on her portion of the writing. In any case, Coolidge was given a featured vocal on the song during the tour; she took the verses with an air of resignation but the choruses with more anguish. The arrangement was fueled by Russell's evocative piano line laced with dynamic fills, with understated horns, guitar, and choir behind it.

In August 1970, the live album "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" was released, using performances recorded in March and June of that year. The song, now under the name "Superstar", appeared on it. The album became a huge hit, reaching number 2 on the Billboard pop albums chart and number 23 on the Billboard Black Albums chart. So it was on this album that people started becoming aware of the song. The performance helped vault Coolidge to greater visibility, especially when it was also included in the 1971 "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" film of the revue.

Bette Midler version

The unknown but very lively singer Bette Midler began making regular appearances on "The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson" in August 1970. During one such appearance, she sang "Superstar".

Later, once The Carpenters' version had become a hit, she sang it again on "The Tonight Show" in October 1971. Her recording of it then appeared on her 1972 debut album "The Divine Miss M".

Other early versions

Around September 1970, Cher recorded "Superstar" as her last single for Atco Records. Released in October or November 1970, and in the gap between Sonny and Cher's heyday and the start of Cher's solo successes, it did not chart. After the song became better known, a concert performance of it was included in the 1973 "Sonny & Cher In Las Vegas, Volume 2".

Next up was Australian singer Colleen Hewett's recording of "Superstar", which was released by May 1971 and became a moderate hit in Australia.

Carpenters version

Infobox Single
Name = Superstar

Caption = Cover to the Carpenters' hit single, "Superstar"
Artist = The Carpenters
from Album = Carpenters
B-side = "Bless the Beasts and Children"
Released = August 12, 1971
Format = 7" single
Recorded = Early 1971
Genre = Pop
Length = 03:46
Label = A&M Records
Writer = Leon Russell, Bonnie Bramlett, Delaney Bramlett
Producer = Jack Daugherty
Certification =
Last single = "Rainy Days and Mondays" (1971)
This single = "Superstar" (1971)
Next single = "Bless the Beasts and Children" (1971)
Misc = Extra tracklisting
Album = Carpenters
Type = studio
Tracks = ;Side one
# "Rainy Days and Mondays"
# "Saturday"
# "Let Me Be the One"
# "(A Place to) Hideaway"
# "For All We Know";Side two
# "Superstar"
# "Druscilla Penny"
# "One Love"
# "Bacharach/David Medley"
# "Sometimes"

"Superstar" became its biggest hit version for the Carpenters. Richard Carpenter was unaware of the Bramlett or Mad Dogs originals, but as he later wrote in a compilation album's liner notes: "I came home from the studio one night and heard a then relatively unknown Bette Midler performing this song on the "Tonight Show". I could barely wait to arrange and record it. (It remains one of my favorites)."

Carpenter's arrangement featured an oboe line at the start, followed by Karen Carpenter's clear contralto voice set against a quiet bass line in the verses, which then built up to up-tempo choruses with a quasi-orchestral use of horns and strings. Produced by Richard with Jack Daugherty, it was recorded with members of the famed Los Angeles session musicians The Wrecking Crew. It is said that Karen Carpenter recorded her vocal in just one take, using lyrics scribbled on a napkin. Since the song's subject was more risqué than usual for the clean-cut image of the Carpenters, Richard changed a lyric in the second verse [cite news |first=Johnny |last=Black |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=The Greatest Songs Ever! Superstar
url= |work=Blender |publisher= |date=October 2002 |accessdate=2008-02-19
] from:

:"And I can hardly wait:"To sleep with you again

To the somewhat less suggestive:

:"And I can hardly wait:"To be with you again.

The duo's rendition was included on the May 1971 album "Carpenters", and then released as a single in September 1971. It rose to number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart that autumn and earned gold record status. It also reached number 18 on the UK pop singles chart and did well in Australia and New Zealand as well.

Richard Carpenter would be nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist for his efforts. "Superstar" would go on to appear on two mid-1970s Carpenters live albums as well as innumerable compilation albums.

It appeared on the Carpenters' 2004 SACD compilation, "The Singles: 1969-1981" (not to be confused with the regular CD, '), as a remix of the original 1973 mix on the similarly titled compilation '.

In the 1995 comedy film "Tommy Boy", David Spade's character and Chris Farley's character argue over what music to listen to on the radio (Farley prefers heavy metal; Spade prefers more modern rock) when they stumble upon this song. Both insist that the other should turn to another station if the song offends them; in the next scene both of them are loudly singing the song's chorus. The song was also used in the 2007 movie, "The Ghost Rider", with Nicolas Cage as the Ghost Rider. In the movie, Donal Logue tries to turn off "Superstar", when Cage defends the song and states that nobody messes with Karen Carpenter. On the "Ghost Rider" official soundtrack, a song is entitled "A Thing for Karen Carpenter."

Back to Bonnie

The original Delaney and Bonnie version would finally surface on an album in 1972 when "D&B Together" and "The Best of Delaney & Bonnie" were released, around the time that their marriage and collaboration ended. It also was included as a bonus track on a 2006 reissue of the 1970 album "Eric Clapton".

Bonnie Bramlett would later re-record the song on her 2002 solo album "I'm Still the Same". Now using just the "Superstar" title, she did it as a very slow, piano-based torch song.

Luther Vandross version

In the early 1980s American R&B singer Luther Vandross had "Superstar" in his stage act, sometimes in a rendition that stretched out at nearly six minutes, with vocal interpolations, an interpretive dancer, and plenty of swaying and swooning females in the audience.

Vandross then recorded "Superstar" in 1983 in a slower, more soulful fashion, as part of a medley with "Until You Come Back to Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)" on his album "Busy Body". Released as a single the following year, it became an R&B hit, reaching number 5 on the Billboard Top R&B Singles chart. It did not have much pop crossover effect, however, only reaching number 87 on the Billboard Hot 100.

This was the first prominent version by a male singer, and by now the original "groupie" association was far gone. Instead, the song was presented as a tale of universal longing.

Ruben Studdard version

Second-season "American Idol" contestant Ruben Studdard found his melismatic, R&B groove early in the Final 12 rounds when he performed a Vandross-influenced "Superstar". It got rave reviews from the judges and established Studdard as one of the early leaders in the competition, a position he held until winning the title in May 2003 in a close battle against Clay Aiken.

By now his signature song, Studdard recorded "Superstar" as the B-side of his June 2003 first single and number two hit, "Flying Without Wings". Studdard would earn a Grammy Award nomination for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for "Superstar", but lose out to his idol Vandross. Studdard's treatment was also included on his December 2003 debut album "Soulful".

Other later versions

In addition to those mentioned earlier, "Superstar" has been recorded by:

*American Spring (a group consisting of Brian Wilson's wife and sister-in-law) on their "Spring" album in 1972.
*English singer Elkie Brooks, on her million-selling 1981 album "Pearls"; it then became a staple of her live sets and a strong fan favorite.
*Sonic Youth, who always found unlikely inspiration from the Carpenters, [cite news | url= | title=Sonic Youth broke new ground with ‘Daydream Nation’ | author=Christopher Borrelli | publisher="The Blade" | date=2007-08-12 | accessdate=2008-02-27] on the 1994 tribute album "If I Were a Carpenter", and later on the soundtrack for the 2007 film "Juno". It was also featured in the film "The Frighteners" and in the theatrical trailer for "High Tension". It also appeared in professioal skateboarder Jerry Hsu's part in Bag of Suck, the critically acclaimed skateboarding video by Enjoi which won Transworld awards for both best video and best video part (Hsu's).
*English trance singer Jan Johnston in the early 2000s.
*Dogstar, a rock band best known for their bass guitarist, actor Keanu Reeves, covered the song on their 2000 album "Happy Ending".
*On the soundrack of the movie Wayne's World 2, a band called Superfan is covering Superstar. Superfan is a collective including Chrissie Hynde (from the Pretenders) on vocals and the musicians from Urge Overkill.
*Punk cover specialists Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, on 2004's "Ruin Jonny's Bar Mitzvah"; the original lyrics were set to the main riff from The Adolescents' "Kids of the Black Hole".
*Usher's homage to the now-late Vandross' version, on the 2005 "" album, for which he received a Grammy nomination for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.
*various other contestants on "American Idol" and other 2000s singing contest shows such as "New Zealand Idol", "Philippine Idol", and "The X Factor"; the song's licensing is clearly favorable, and the chance for singers to emote on the chorus seems irresistible.
*Raquel Welch performed the song with John Belushi (as Joe Cocker) on the April 24, 1976 broadcast of "Saturday Night Live".

Confused with ...

Because the song's title does not appear in its lyric, people sometimes do not associate the two, and get confused. The song's first line, "Long ago and oh so far away", lends itself to a mixup with two other songs of the same era, James Taylor's "Long Ago and Far Away" (from his 1971 album "Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon") and Carole King's "So Far Away" (from her 1971 album "Tapestry"). In the opposite direction, the title is sometimes confused with "Superstar", an unrelated song from the late 1970 rock opera "Jesus Christ Superstar".



* [ October 2002 "Blender" magazine article by Johnny Black]
* [ All Music Guide discussion of song's origins]
* [ IMDB listing of Bette Midler television appearances]
* [ Australian PopArchives entry]
* [ Australian Countdown entry]

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