5 Surprisingly Great Songs by Non-Lead Singers

Most band’s instrumentalists can rock out their guitars, drums, whatever on any day of the week. But sometimes, the “not” lead singers deliver some of the band’s most memorable songs – and it’s about time they get praised for the masterpieces they created.

Related: “Elton John, Bernie Taupin: Finding Each Other Again”

Most band members tend to stick to their first function, only jumping on the microphone for backing vocals. Some go on to release full songs that become some of the most memorable from their band. On that note, these are my picks for the top 5 songs performed by non-lead singers.

“Cold Cold Night” – The White Stripes

The White Stripes split, and that’s a very sensitive topic for most fans. But besides all of the amazing tunes sung by Jack, this song by Meg got us all in our feels. One of the most slow-paced songs of the band, “Cold Cold Night” can easily transport you to a big dark room with a few lit candles. And if that won’t convince you to go listen to it right now, let’s just say the lyrics paint a picture in your mind far more inspiring than many movies from the last decade.

“Beth” – Kiss

Written and performed by Kiss’ drummer, Peter Criss, the song tells the story of a band member working late at a studio while their girl awaits them back home. Having clearly a very personal connotation behind it, “Beth” is the kind of song you want to listen to around a fire pit with your friends. It evokes a nostalgia you might not even know you have, of the good old days, when everything was relatively simpler.

“Breathe” – Pink Floyd

Sung by guitarist David Gilmour, the song starts with a sadistic background of screams and construction noises. The song then follows its normal pace with the peaceful voice and great chords that Pink Floyd is known for. The lyrics are about moving forward — and how we often don’t.

Related: “A Personal Connection to Pink Floyd’s ‘The Final Cut'”

“Coffee & TV” – Blur

At first, “Coffee and TV” reminds listeners of a dystopia. Soon after, the song takes a new tone that resembles a kind of conformity. The lyrics are about alienation, making a case for the ordinary person’s life, highlighting how we really believe we are content with the mediocre life we’re so used to living. The song ends with a subtle message of change when it says, “We can start over again.”

This sonic masterpiece is performed by the band’s guitarist, Graham Coxon. To this day, it remains one of the band’s best songs.

“Here Comes The Sun” – The Beatles

The first two names when mentioning the Beatles are “John” and “Paul,” both geniuses in their own songwriting right. Plus, they tended to trade off on lead vocals for much of the hits. This Beatles track by George Harrison is a fan favorite and has a particular spot in the heart of all Beatlemaniacs.

“Here Comes The Sun” will always have its deserved place among the band’s biggest hits.

-Victoria Oliviera

Photo: George Harrison (Getty Images)

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17 comments on “5 Surprisingly Great Songs by Non-Lead Singers

  1. My Wife by the Who

  2. Cliff Cherry

    My first thought seeing the headline was “Beth” – glad you included it.

    When you think about it, Kiss modeled their vocalist allocation much like the Beatles. The bassist and rhythm guitarist split the majority of the vocals; occasionally the lead guitarist sang; and very rarely the drummer went center stage behind the mic.

    Not sure if that was coincidence or intentional, but an interesting parallel nonetheless.

  3. Michael

    The track by Pink Floyd does not belong on this list. David Gilmour was the lead singer on the vast majority of Floyd’s songs.

  4. Kevin Clarke

    Take it to the limit

  5. Norm Blanchard

    Smithers-Jones by the Jam (Bruce Foxton, bass). Love Is Only Sleeping and Listen to the Band by the Monkees (Mike Nesmith, though he did a lot of singing, so that may not count). A Legal Matter by the Who. Cool for Cats by Squeeze.

  6. Steven M Valvano

    Nice idea for an article…..
    You can add “Near Wild Heaven” by R.E.M (Mike Mills vocal)

  7. George Harrison wrote and sang tunes on pretty much every Beatles LP. His other song from Abbey Road “Something” is probably the most covered Beatles tune since Yesterday. I would hardly call him a non lead singer.

    • Don Klees

      I found the inclusion of Harrison on this list a bit odd as well.

    • Yeah, I think calling Harrison a ‘surprise lead singer’ a bit much – there was a reasonable rotation of lead singers within the Beatles – even Ringo got a go.

  8. The Beatles were proud of the fact that all their members could take the lead when the song called for it. George sang many songs, both his own compositions and covers of songs the lads loved to play. I wouldn’t call any of them non-leads.

  9. Murray Clarke

    David Gilmour was the lead singer of Pink Floyd. After Sid of course.

  10. Tony Reiss

    Clearly not as well known, but Derek St Holmes was the better singer on earlier Ted Nugent LPS; songs like Stranglehold, Live It Up, Snake Skin Cowboy, Hey Baby…. Ted fires him advising that a band only needs one alpha dog.

  11. bill flanigin

    Nancy Wilson of Heart….These Dreams. A true hit for the band as well. Nice article and cool premise.

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