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13 Great Songs Sung by Non-Lead Singers

September 13, 2010  |  8:58am

It doesn’t always turn out so well when a band switches things up. Mess with the equation too much, and you’ll have fans running for the exits. Sometimes, however — whether it’s for the sake of keeping egos in check or otherwise — a band member who doesn’t normally sing lead will step up to the mic and magic’ll happen.

Therefore, we bring you 13 Great Songs Sung by Non-Lead Singers. Here’s to you, second bananas! Who says the frontmen should have all the glory?

13. The Supremes — “Buttered Popcorn”
This early Supremes single from 1961 features Florence Ballard on lead vocals, and the innuendo-laced track is not unlike buttered popcorn — salty, fluffy, and oh so good. Motown president Berry Gordy’s subsequent decision to let Diana Ross take over as lead singer destroyed Ballard, and she passed away at age 32. Rest in peace, Flo.

12. R.E.M. — “Superman”
Bassist Mike Mills took over singing duties on this cover of The Clique’s 1969 B-side. Lyrics like “You don’t really love that guy you make it with, now do you/I know you don’t love that guy cause I can see right through you” make this required listening for anyone who needs a little psyching up before going after that guy or gal they’ve been pining over.

11. The White Stripes — “In the Cold, Cold Night”
Meg White is notoriously shy, but that’s not the case on this sultry, stripped-down track off of 2003’s Elephant. No offense to The Raconteurs or The Dead Weather, but this little ditty makes us yearn for the days when this dynamic duo was still touring the globe and pretending to be siblings.

10. Cream — “Crossroads”
Legend has it that when Cream formed in 1966, Eric Clapton urged Jack Bruce to be the group’s lead singer because he was still shy about singing. It seems that by 1968, when he helmed this Robert Johnson cover, nerves were no longer an issue.

9. Pavement — “Date w/ IKEA”
Spiral Stairs (Scott Kannberg) takes over for Stephen Malkmus on this 1997 single off of Brighten the Corners. Give this a listen while you practice for your chance at stardom.

8. The Rolling Stones — “Happy”
Keith Richards’ signature track off of The Rolling Stones’ 1972 magnum opus Exile on Main St. is a perfect example of the legendary guitarist’s laissez-faire style. Somehow, we don’t have a hard time believing that you “always took candy from strangers,” Keef.

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