Misadventures in Music Journalism

Part One: “The Richest Songwriters Of All Time,” by Audrey Kyanova

Songwriters and musicians grow accustomed to reading distorted, if not entirely erroneous, articles about what we do. Not here at American Songwriter, of course. But that is our focus. Yet in less musical-oriented publications, crazy misinformation reigns.

It’s not that songwriting is that tough to understand, yet it remains a source of perpetual confusion. Music can be perplexing for a non-musician, so some lack of knowledge is understandable. But sometimes what is published is not just wrong, it’s strange.

Such is very much the case with “The Richest Songwriters Of All Time,” in Investing.com. A financial site, it is focused on the main aspect of songwriting considered most important: Just how rich are the richest songwriters?

There are many stories on this very topic, yet almost each one gets hung up on the question of if all singers write their own songs. That this is still an issue in question at all seems surprising, yet it’s prevalent. The Internet, with the potential to provide people with all the knowledge needed so as to lessen misinformational confusion, has done the exact opposite. Such an expansive glut of bizarre distortions, false assumptions and erroneous ideas are published every hour that people are more mixed-up than ever.

This story was by Audrey Kyanova (also spelled Kyanov here, perhaps a red flag), and opens with admitted confusion about songwriters. From there is gets into stuff that is wrong and then just weird. 

It opens with a false assumption, and goes from there:

“One common assumption we make is that the person who sings a song must be the same person who wrote it.”

Who exactly is she speaking for who makes this assumption? The misinformed?

Then she shares with us the fruit of her research, which led her, naturally, to: “the iconic, meme-worthy feud between rappers Drake and Meek Mill.

Iconic? Perhaps she’s using iconic in an ironic way?

It was a famous hip-hop feud over whether Drake wrote his own songs, or hired miniature Drakes to do the real work. In this conflict she saw the light:

Songwriters and singers aren’t always one in the same.” 

Meek Mill & Drake

That’s the opening, so we’re going into this thing at a disadvantage.

From there it sprinkles different amounts of misinformation into the biographies of many famous songwriters. Each one mentioned is framed with the information deemed most crucial: how much they are worth, and what are their greatest hits, the songs which generate the big bucks?

Here are some highlights:

James Taylor’s greatest hits: “Night Owl” and “Paint It Black.”
Huh? Yes, he did write “Night Owl,” an obscure song from his Flying Machine days with Kootch. But “Paint It Black”? That is a Rolling Stones song. “Paint It Black”? 

[James Taylor] also recorded many covers, including ‘Sweet Baby James.’”


Covers? He has done that. “You’ve Got A Friend,” for example, which Carole King wrote. And many others.

But “Sweet Baby James”? No. Not a cover. He wrote it, and it’s the title song of his most famous album, Sweet Baby James. The album which has his most famous song, “Fire and Rain.” But no “Paint It Black” anywhere.

Carole King’s greatest hits: “It’s Too Late,” “Nightingale” and “Jazzman.”

See? Yes, “It’s Too Late” was a hit. The only one out of the three that was. And given that she has written 118 hits, how do they land on two deep cuts?

“Carole King debuted several albums, including Writer and Tapestry. “


Really? That’s a neat trick. But in truth, you only get to debut once. Otherwise it just wouldn’t matter as much. Writer was her debut album as a solo artist, followed by Tapestry.

Stevie Wonder was a prodigy, and still is.”

Who knew? Stevie is the first 70-year old prodigy!

“Paul Simon was half of Simon & Garfunkel. The duo broke up in 1970, and Simon released Graceland, which was famously inspired by South Africa, where he lived for a while.” 

Okay. This sounds like Simon, perhaps so dejected by the end of his duo with Garfunkel, moved to Africa, where he lived for years creating Graceland.

He did go to Jamaica at that time, 1970, and recorded “Mother & Child Reunion” for his first solo album. He made Graceland sixteen years after Simon & Garfunkel broke up.

The idea that he lived in South Africa for “a while” is oddly funny. He did go there many times, but never moved there. e did move from Manhattan to Connecticut with his family, which still seems somewhat extreme for this famous New Yorker. But Connecticut, as many know, is not exactly Africa.

Randy Newman’s greatest hits:  “Just One Smile” and “I’ve Been Wrong Before.” 


Okay, by now it seems like some sort of prank. Or maybe secret code of some kind?

These are songs of his which are obscure even among Randyheads. Both songs were written before he made his own records, and recorded by others. “I’ve Been Wrong Before” is a great example of Randy’s genius really early on, recorded by Cilla Black in 1965.

Elvis Costello recorded it also. Randy never did. It was no “Short People.”

So some of this must be something else than a mistake. Digging those obscure old records up would require some effort. Possibly several minutes on Google. But why? What could be the possible motivation?  

Cilla Black, “I’ve Been Wrong Before,” by Randy Newman

It is a mystery. But one we are attempting to figure out. If you have any information about this, please share. Also if you have misinformation, you might as well share that, too.

Is it perhaps a bitter songwriter who has no success – or perhaps no recent success – and so is striking back? Or something else altogether?

Maybe just a normal response to the perpetually swirling  maelstrom of misinformation on the internet? To strike out in subversive, subtle ways, keeping under the radar but forever challenging the powers that be with absurd but not disconnected substitutions.  

In our next installation of Misadventures in Music Journalism, we bring you a look at “8 Singers Who Never Write Their Own Songs.” Which stars, of course, Elton John! One of the most famous songwriters ever.

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