An answer song (or answer record) is, as the name suggests, a song (usually a recorded track) made in answer to a previous song, normally by another artist. It is also known as a response song. The concept became widespread in blues and R&B recorded music in the 1930s through 1950s. Answer songs were also extremely popular in country music in the 1950s and 1960s, most often as female responses to an original hit by a male artist.
The original "Hound Dog" song sung by Big Mama Thornton reached number 1 in 1953, and there were six answer songs in response; the most successful of these was "Bear Cat", by Rufus Thomas which reached number 3. This led to a successful copyright lawsuit for $35,000 which is said to have led Sam Phillips of Sun Records to sell Elvis Presley’s recording contract to RCA.
Today, this practice is most common in hip hop music and filk, especially as the continuation of a feud between performers; the Roxanne Wars was a notable example which resulted in over a hundred answer songs. Answer songs also played a part in the battle over turf in the The Bridge Wars. Sometimes an answer record imitated the original very closely and occasionally a hit song would be followed up by the same artist.
Answer song examples
- Woody Guthrie's anthem “This Land Is Your Land” was written in 1940 as an answer to “God Bless America” written by Irving Berlin in 1918 (and revised in 1938). Guthrie originally called his response "God Blessed America for Me".
- “It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”, written by J. D. "Jay" Miller in 1952 and originally sung by Kitty Wells, was a response to “The Wild Side of Life”, made famous that same year by Hank Thompson.
- "Mannish Boy" (1955) by Muddy Waters was a response to Bo Diddley's "I'm a Man", which also happened to be a response to "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man", an earlier song by Muddy Waters in 1954.
- "That Makes It" was Jayne Mansfield's response to The Big Bopper's “Chantilly Lace” (1958), suggesting what the girl may have been saying at the other end of the line.
- "Short Mort" (1959) by Carole King was a response to Annette Funicello's "Tall Paul" (1959), referencing "Tall Paul" in the line, "You can keep Tall Paul, I'll take Short Mort."
- "I’ll Save The Last Dance For You" by Damita Jo answers “Save The Last Dance For Me” (1960) by The Drifters, sung by Ben E. King. Her 1961 "I'll Be There" was also in response to Ben E. King singing "Stand By Me" (1960).
- "He'll Have to Stay" (1960) was Jeanne Black's response to Jim Reeves' “He'll Have to Go” (1959).
- "(I Can't Help You) I'm Falling Too" (1960) was Skeeter Davis' response to Hank Locklin's “Please Help Me, I'm Falling”, as was Betty Madigan's "I'm Glad That You're Falling" (1960).
- "Yes, I'm Lonesome Tonight" (1960) was Dodie Stevens's response to Elvis Presley's “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” (1960).
- "Hey Memphis" (1961) was LaVern Baker's response to Elvis Presley's “Little Sister” (1961).
- "I'm The Girl From Wolverton Mountain" (1962) was Jo Ann Campbell's response to Claude King's "Wolverton Mountain" (also 1962).
- "Blackhead Chinaman" (1963) was Prince Buster's response to Derrick Morgan's “Housewives Choice”. Specifically, Buster claimed that producer Leslie Kong stole hooks that Buster had created. Morgan responded with “Blazing Fire” and “No Raise, No Praise”. The musical feud reportedly engulfed Jamaican culture to a level where the government ordered the two to appear in public together to calm the frenzied nation.
- "Queen of the House" (1965) was Jody Miller's response to Roger Miller's “King of the Road” (1964).
- "That's My Life (My Love And My Home)" (1965) by Alfred Lennon, John Lennon's father, was a response to his son's song "In My Life" (1965).
- "Hurry, Mr. Peters" (1965) by Lorene Mann and Justin Tubb, a response to Roy Drusky and Priscilla Mitchell's "Yes, Mr. Peters".
- "Evil Off My Mind" (1966) by Burl Ives was a response to Jan Howard's song "Evil on Your Mind" (1966).
- "Sweet Home Alabama” (1974) was Lynyrd Skynyrd's response to Neil Young's “Southern Man” (1970) and “Alabama” (1972).
- From His Woman to You "(1975) sung by Barbara Mason was the response to "Woman to Woman" (1974) sung by Shirley Brown.
- "Baby Hold On" (1978) was Eddie Money's answer to Doris Day's 1953 "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)".
- "Superstar" (1983) by Lydia Murdock was an answer song to "Billie Jean" (1983) by Michael Jackson.
- "Taxi (Take Him Back)" was Anne LeSear's 1984 response to J. Blackfoot's 1983 song "Taxi".
- Melba Moore's "King of My Heart" (1985) was an answer song to Billy Ocean's "Caribbean Queen" (1984).
- "Fuck wit Dre Day (And Everybody's Celebratin')" (1993) was Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg's answer to Tim Dog's "Fuck Compton" (1991).
- "I Wrote Holden Caulfield" (1994) was Screeching Weasel's response to "Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?" (1992) by Green Day.
- “The Boy Is Mine” (1998) by Brandy and Monica was a response to “The Girl Is Mine” (1982) by Michael Jackson featuring Paul McCartney.
- After TLC released the song "No Scrubs" in 1999, Sporty Thievz made an answer song called "No Pigeons" that same year.
- "Hippie From Olema" (1971) was the Youngbloods' answer to Merle Haggard's country hit, "Okie from Muskogee".
- "Basketball Jones featuring Tyrone Shoelaces" (1973) was Cheech and Chong's parody of the romantic song "Love Jones" by Brighter Side of Darkness.
- Travis Tritt wrote and released the song "Strong Enough to Be Your Man" in 2002 in response to Sheryl Crow's "Strong Enough" (1994).
- KJ-52 released the song "Dear Slim" (2002) in response to Eminem's song "Stan" (2000).
- “F.U.R.B. (Fuck You Right Back)” (2004) was Frankee's response to Eamon's “Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)”, promoting rumors that the two had been dating. It was the first answer song to reach No. 1 in the United Kingdom. Both songs had topped the charts in that country.
- "Me and Mr. Jones" (2006) on the Back to Black album by Amy Winehouse was an answer song to—at least a riff off the title of—"Me and Mrs. Jones" (1972) made famous by Billy Paul.
- Camera Obscura made the song "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken" (2006) in response to Lloyd Cole and the Commotions 1984 song "Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?".
- "Boys, Boys, Boys" (2008) on The Fame album by Lady Gaga's was a response to "Girls, Girls, Girls" (1987) by Mötley Crüe.
- "California Gurls" (2010) by Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg was a response to "Empire State of Mind" (2009) by Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys. It was the first time both the original song and the answer song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
- Marina and the Diamonds' cover of Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend" (2012) is an answer song to the original tune, the lyrics adapted to give it a female perspective.
- Drake and Lil Wayne made the song "The Motto" (2011) in response to Nickelback's "If Today Was Your Last Day" (2009). Lecrae made the song "No Regrets" (2012) in response to "The Motto".
Throughout his career, rapper M.C. Hammer has dissed hip hop DJs and rappers in general beginning in the mid-to-late 1980s. Since his debut album in 1987, Feel My Power (claiming he was "...second to none, from Doug E. Fresh, LL Cool J or DJ Run" on the single "Let's Get It Started"), Hammer has had "feuds" with several rappers. In fact, Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em was an effort to avoid disrespecting others on wax and becoming more "pop". Nevertheless, Hammer has created, responded to, attacked and/or participated in rap battles with MC Serch of 3rd Bass and LL Cool J (including a feud with other rappers on Mama Said Knock You Out and the remix of "I Shot Ya"), Dres of Black Sheep, Rodney O, A Tribe Called Quest (Q-Tip), Redman and Run DMC (on the track "Break 'Em Off Somethin' Proper" from The Funky Headhunter in 1994), Eminem and Busta Rhymes from Full Blast in 2004 (title track with music video) and most recently "Better Run Run" in response to a comment Jay-Z made about him on the single "So Appalled" in 2010.
- Salem, James M. (2001). The late, great Johnny Ace and the transition from R & B to rock 'n' roll'. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-06969-2.
- "sam phillips and the remix".
- Hess, Mickey (2009). Hip Hop in America: A Regional Guide: Volume 1: East Coast and West Coast. ABC-CLIO. p. xx. ISBN 0-313-34323-3.
- Woody Guthrie: this man is your myth, this man is my myth, section American Hero
- CMT.com : Kitty Wells : Biography
- The Big Bopper www.hotshotdigital.com
- damita jo www.soulwalking.co.uk
- Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. pp. 255–256. ISBN 0-89820-177-2.
- Alabama http://music.yahoo.com/
- Moring, Mark. "Getting It Right". Christianity Today International. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
- arts.guardian: Discs at Dawn
- "Answer Records / Sequels". everyhit.com.
- Hill, Kellus (14 May 2012). "Lecrae - Church Clothes". Da South. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
- "Answer Records / Sequels", list of Answer Songs from everyhit.com
- B. Lee Cooper and Wayne S. Haney, Response Recordings: An Answer Song Discography, 1950-1990, Scarecrow Press, 1990, ISBN 081082342 (A comprehensive alphabetized list of over 2500 hit tunes that prompted the production of answer songs or other forms of response recordings)