3 Songs You Didn’t Know Poison’s Bret Michael’s Wrote for Other Artists

Born March 15, 1963, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Bret Michaels started writing songs when he was 15. His first song, “Crystal Lake,” wasn’t inspired by the fictional small town featured in the Friday the 13th films, but a song inspired by Bob Seger’s 1976 song “Night Moves.”

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A star quarterback for his high school football team, Michaels was also crafting his songwriting and gained some attention for his song “Up the Hammers,” which won a Rock to Riches contest and was released on an album featuring the competition winners.

Michaels later formed a band with future Poison bassist Bobby Dall and drummer Rikki Rockett, and played around the Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania area as Paris. After changing their name to Poison and relocating to Los Angeles in 1983, they connected to guitarist C.C. DeVille and released their debut Look What the Cat Dragged In in 1986.

Throughout the ’80s and 1990s, Michaels had a hand in writing the band’s biggest hits from “Talk Dirty To Me” and “I Won’t Forget You” to the power ballad “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” which went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, “Fallen Angel” from the band’s second album Open Up and Say… Ahh!. Michaels also wrote Flesh & Blood tracks “Unskinny Bop,” which peaked at No. 3, and “Something to Believe In” at No. 4, and the majority of songs on the band’s seven albums.

In the early ’90s, Michaels also co-wrote and produced then-girlfriend Susie Hatton’s album Body & Soul and wrote a number of songs for other bands and artists. “One of the best things about songwriting is when you work with people who are really talented,” Michaels told American Songwriter in 1991.”You can get into the beauty of watching them bring your song to life. It’s a great feeling.”

In between exploring film and starring on television, including his mid-2000s VH1 hit Rock of Love, Michaels also released four solo albums from Songs of Life in 2003 through his 2013 release, Jammin’ with Friends.

[RELATED: Loretta Lynn Played “Good Good Times” with Bret Michaels Before Her Death]

The latter album featured collaborations with Miley Cyrus—who later covered Poison’s “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” on her 2010 album Can’t Be Tamed—along with Jimmy Buffett, Def Leppard‘s Phil Collen, Mark McGrath, and late Lynyrd Skynyrd founding member Gary Rossington. Loretta Lynn and Joe Perry also joined Michaels on a rerecording of “Every Rose.”

Michaels also dipped into country music with his 2005 album Freedom of Sound, after serving as a judge on the competition show Nashville Star.

“When you’re writing a song, don’t worry about who might record it or how much money it could make, write exactly what you feel,” said Michaels. “I think that’s the beauty of songwriting. I wrote songs before I was famous and I’ll be writing songs long after I’m famous. The thing about music is to enjoy it. You can go anywhere with it.”

In honor of Michaels’ diverse catalog, here’s a look at three songs he also wrote for other artists.

1. “Love’s a Hard Game to Play,” Stevie Nicks (1991)
Written by Bret Michaels and Pat Schunk

On Stevie Nicks‘ 1991 release, Timespace: The Best of Stevie Nicks, there were three additional tracks, including “Sometimes It’s a Bitch,” co-written by Jon Bon Jovi, and “Love’s a Hard Game to Play,” which Michaels co-penned with Pat Schunk.

“One of these men who has everything—beauty, sensitivity, warmth, and a love for life that I had not seen in a long time,” said Nicks of Michaels in the liner notes of the album. “I recorded his song, singing it for him to the best of my ability, hoping that the people would love the song as much as we loved doing it.”

[RELATED: How a Twist of Fate Led to the Name Stevie Nicks]

She added, “Finding someone like him seldom happens in one’s lifetime. But when it does there is nothing like it. He was happy because I believed in him. And he has brought something back to me that I thought I had lost, my laughter.”

Nicks performed the song during an appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show in ’91.

Wake up my sweet child
There’s something I’ve got to say to you tonight
It’s time you took a look at me
‘Cause there’s so much more to me than meets the eye

Well, there’s more to love than makin’ time
The harder you look the more you’ll find
It’s never easy – no matter what they say

Love’s a hard game to play
The heart’s the price you pay
Love’s a hard game to play
No matter what they say
Win or lose, no matter what they say
Love’s a hard game to play

2. “Wake Me Up,” Tuff (1991)
Written by Bret Michaels, Jeff Wilson, and Pat Schunk

When glam metal band Tuff was recording their 1991 debut What Comes Around Goes Around, they Michaels contributed the track “Wake Me Up.”

“Our manager then sends the tape to us and now we get to hear it,” said Tuff vocalist Stevie Rachelle. “Upon my first listen to ‘Wake Me Up’ I thought, This is not Bret singing.’ And the song wasn’t simple, like Every Rose [Has It’s Thorn]’ or ‘I Won’t Forget You.’ It was more complex, higher vocal register and some minor chords—nothing like a Poison song.”

I’m a man standing on solid ground
Pretending to be hard as rock
Well, I’ll soon be falling, ’cause I’m all alone
So I keep on searching for your magic touch
I know I left you with an emptiness
But you’re the one thing that keeps me going

Wake me up in the morning
I wanna hear you call my name
I need to hear that phone ring
And have my angel say:
“Are you coming home?
When are you coming home
To fill my dreams?”

3. “Once a Cowboy,” Trick Pony (2005)
Written by Bret Michaels, Jeffrey Steele, and Shane Minor

In 2004, Jeffrey Steele released “Once a Cowboy” on his album Outlaw. A year later, the song was reworked by the former country trio Trick Pony, which consisted of vocalist Heidi Newfield, guitarist Keith Burns, and bassist Ira Dean. The song was released on the group’s third and final album R.I.D.E. in 2005.

Well, he’s been known to lose more than he wins
He falls down just to get back up again
The way he smiles, his face is weathered an’ leathered an’ lined
You can tell he’s learned to laugh through a lotta hard times
He gets by without shovin’; a drifter and a dreamer
He gets stoned on a roll your own, what you get is what you see here

Once a cowboy, always a cowboy
Between the blue sky an’ unbroken ground
He wears his freedom like a crown
Let the whole world around him change
That don’t mean a thing
Once a cowboy, always a cowboy

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation

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