5 Songs You Didn’t Know Sonny Bono Wrote for Other Artists

Long before the explosion of Sonny & Cher and his later political pursuits, Sonny Bono was writing songs for other artists. First working at Specialty Records as a songwriter and A&R rep, Bono later connected with producer Phil Spector, co-penning the 1963 Jackie DeShannon hit “Needles and Pins.”

Videos by American Songwriter

“I always wanted to be a songwriter and a singer,” said Bono. “I always knew I was limited as a singer and it used to frustrate me. I used to try so hard, seven different kinds of voices to try to find a voice that would work, and I just didn’t have the power in my pipes but I was determined to become a singer as well.”

He wrote the lyrics and his other half delivered the vocals when Sonny & Cher first broke out in the early 1960s with the Bono-penned hits “I Got You Babe” and “Baby Don’t Go” and later with “The Beat Goes On,” among other songs by the couple.

Within their decade-long run together Bono and Cher sold more than 40 million records worldwide. Bono even wrote songs for Cher during the earlier days of her solo career, along with releasing a number of singles of his own, including “Laugh at Me,” which peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The couple continued to work together throughout the 1970s on their variety show, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, and through their divorce in 1975. By the 1980s and ’90s, Bono also jumped into acting before embarking on his career in politics, serving as the mayor of Palm Springs, California from 1988 through 1992. He later served as the U.S. representative for California’s 44th district from 1995 until his death in 1998 at the age of 62 from a skiing accident.

In honor of Bono’s contribution to music as a songwriter, here’s a look at five songs he wrote for other artists outside of his work with Cher.

1. “I’ve Got My Sights Set On Someone New,” Roddy Jackson (1958)
Written by Sonny Bono

Influenced by Little Richard and Fats Domino early on, George Rodrick “Roddy” Jackson began recording for Specialty Records in the 1950s. During this time, Bono penned “I’ve Got My Sights Set On Someone New” for the rock and roll singer and multi-instrumentalist.

Sometimes I think, you don’t want me no more
Sometimes I think, you gonna slam that door
But that’s alright, oh yes it’s true
I’ve got my sights on someone new
You think I cry, the whole day through
And spend my days, just thinkin’ of you
But that’s alright, oh yes it’s true
I’ve got my sights on someone new

2. “Touch and Go,” Wynona Carr (1958)
Written by Sonny Bono and Wynona Carr

Gospel, R&B, and rock singer Wynona Carr had a fairly short career, which was partly modeled after her great influence at the time, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. After releasing her 1957 hit, “Should I Ever Love Again?” Carr continued releasing songs, including the more rockabilly ‘Touch and Go,” which she co-wrote with Bono. Carr worked with Specialty Records through 1959 before signing with Frank Sinatra‘s Reprise Records in 1961. Shortly after releasing a pop album, her declining health from tuberculosis forced Carr to move back to her hometown of Cleveland, where she slipped out of the music scene and died in 1976.

Do you love
Is it yes or no
If you love me you should tell me so

If you love me
Baby don’t be shy
Cus’ I’ll never pass you by

Do you love me baby, or is it just touch and go?

3. “Koko Joe,” Don & Dewey (1958)
Written by Sonny Bono

“Koko Joe” was a song Bono wrote when he was 16. Originally recorded by the R&B duo of Don & Dewey (Don “Sugarcane” Harris and Dewey Terry), the song was later covered by a number of other artists, including The Righteous Brothers in 1963.

There’s a monkey in the jungle named Koko Joe
The coolest little monkey that you ever did know
Don’t wear a tail like the other monkeys do
Trimmed down suede and he dyed it blue

4. “She Said Yeah,” Larry Williams (1959)
Written by Sonny Bono and Roddy Jackson

Originally recorded and released by singer Larry Williams in 1959, several artists later covered the song. The Animals released their version of their 1965 album, The Animals on Tour. A year later, The Rolling Stones‘ cover of “She Said Yeah” appeared on their 1965 album, December’s Children. In 1999, Paul McCartney even slipped his own rendition of the Bono classic on his 11th album Run Devil Run.

Dam deedle dee dam dam
Little girl, where did you come from
Try a little bit to make my mouth dribble
Come on baby, let’s ride away in the rain Baby you drive me crazy
Drive my poor heart hazy
Just a little bit
A little while with you

5. “Needles and Pins,” Jackie DeShannon (1963)
Written by Sonny Bono and Jack Nitzsche

Known for singing the Burt Bacharach and Hal David composed “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and her own penned “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” Jackie DeShannon also wrote the hits “When You Walk in the Room” and “Bette Davis Eyes,” which became a hit for Kim Carnes and The Searchers. In the early 1960s, DeShannon also recorded and released “Needles and Pins,” cowritten by Bono and composer Jack Nitzsche. Soon after, The Searchers’ cover of the song peaked at No. 1 on the U.K. charts.

Over the decades, a number of artists covered “Needles and Pins,” including Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Stevie Nicks, Gene Clark, and The Ramones, among others.

I saw her today, I saw her face, it was a face I loved, and I knew
I had to run away, and get down on my knees and pray that they’d go away
But still they’d begin, needles and pins
Because of all my pride, the tears I gotta hide

Hey I thought I was smart, I’d won her heart
Didn’t think I’d do, but now I see
She’s worse to him than me, let her go ahead
Take his love instead, and one day she will see
Just how to say please, and get down on her knees
Hey that’s how it begins, she’ll feel those needles and pins

Photo by Jeff Hochberg / Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Megan Danielle Earns Her “Wings” Singing “Angel From Montgomery” on ‘American Idol’