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An answer song (or response song) 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 an answer record. 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 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
- "I Wonder Why Bill Bailey Don't Come Home" was written by William Jerome Jerome and recorded by Arthur Collins in 1902 as an answer to "(Won't You Come Home) Bill Bailey", published by Hughie Cannon and recorded by Collins earlier the same year.
- "I Used to Be Afraid to Come Home in the Dark"  was recorded by Billy Murray (singer) in 1909 as a response to his own 1908 hit, "I'm Afraid to Come Home in the Dark"
- "Answer to Rainbow at Midnight" was written in 1947 by Lost John Miller and Ernest Tubb as an answer to their own 1946 "Rainbow at Midnight". Tubb recorded it 11 August 1947, and it was released as 'Decca Records 46078'.
- 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.
- "Can't Do Sixty No More", written and performed by The Dominoes, was a response to their own hit song from four years earlier (1951), "Sixty Minute Man".
- "I Shot Mr. Lee" (1958) was The Bobbettes' response to their own 1957 hit, "Mr. Lee".
- "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.
- "Oh Neil!" was Carole King's response to Neil Sedaka's "Oh! Carol" (1959).
- "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."
- "Tell Tommy I Miss Him" (1960) by Marilyn Michaels is a response to "Tell Laura I Love Her" (1960) recorded separately by both Ray Peterson and Ricky Valance. Versions of this answer song were also released by Skeeter Davis and Laura Lee.
- "I'll Save the Last Dance for You" by Damita Jo (1960) answers The Drifters' "Save the Last Dance for Me", sung by Ben E. King (also 1960). Another Damita Jo track, "I'll Be There" (1961), was in response to King's solo hit "Stand by Me" (1960).
- "He'll Have to Stay" (1960) was Jeanne Black's response to Jim Reeves' "He'll Have to Go" (1959), and was answered in turn by Johnny Scoggins' "I'm Gonna Stay" (also 1960).
- "(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).
- "There's Nothing on My Mind" (1960) was The Teen Queens' response to Bobby Marchan's "There's Something on Your Mind" (also 1960).
- "Yes, I'm Lonesome Tonight" (1960) was Dodie Stevens's response to Elvis Presley's "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" (also 1960).
- "I Really Want You to Know" (1961) was Skeeter Davis' response to Eddy Arnold's "I Really Don't Want to Know".
- "I'm No Run Around" (1961) by Ginger Davis and the Snaps is a response to Dion's "Runaround Sue" (also 1961).
- "Hey Memphis" (1961) was LaVern Baker's response to Elvis Presley's "Little Sister" (also 1961).
- "Don't Let Him Shop Around" by Debbie Dean (1961) was a response to The Miracles' "Shop Around" (1960). Interestingly, both songs were written by Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson.
- "My Big John" (1961) was Dottie West's response to Jimmy Dean's "Big Bad John" (also 1961).
- "Don't Wanna Be Another Good Luck Charm" (1962) was Jo's (of Judy and Jo) response to Elvis Presley's "Good Luck Charm" (also 1962).
- "I'm the Girl from Wolverton Mountain" (1962) was Jo Ann Campbell's response to Claude King's "Wolverton Mountain" (also 1962).
- "Judy's Turn to Cry" (1963) was Lesley Gore's response to her own song "It's My Party" (1963) on the same album.
- "Blackhead Chinaman" (1963) was Prince Buster's response to Derrick Morgan's "Housewives Choice" (1961). Specifically, Buster claimed that Morgan and 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".
- "Dawn of Correction" by The Spokesmen in response to "Eve of Destruction" by Barry McGuire (both 1965).
- "Evil Off My Mind" (1966) by Burl Ives was a response to Jan Howard's song "Evil on Your Mind" (1966).
- "When a Woman Loves a Man" (1966) by Ketty Lester was a response to "When a Man Loves a Woman" (1966 also) by Percy Sledge.
- French Johnny Hallyday’s 1966 Cheveux longs et idées courtes is a riposte to a direct, personal mockery in a verse of Antoine’s Élucubrations of the same year; both were hit songs. (See Antoine’s rivalry with Johnny Hallyday)
- "Back in the U.S.S.R." (1968) by The Beatles was a response to "California Girls" by The Beach Boys (1965).
- "Billy, I've Got to Go to Town" (1969) by Geraldine Stevens was a response to "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town" by Johnny Darrell (1967).
- "(Should I) Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree?" was the 1973 response by Connie Francis to "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree" by Tony Orlando & Dawn.
- "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.
- "Bad Boy" (1982) by Ray Parker Jr. was a response to his own hit of the same year, "The Other Woman".
- "Major Tom (Coming Home)" (1983) by Peter Schilling was the response to David Bowie's 1969 song "Space Oddity."
- "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).
- Actor Danny Aiello appeared in the Madonna video for "Papa Don't Preach" (1986), as the titular "Papa", and later that year recorded "Papa Wants the Best for You", written by Artie Schroeck, as a representation of the father's point of view.
- "I'm Your Wild Thang" (1989) was Mamado and She's answer to Tone Lōc's "Wild Thing" (1988).
- "Fuck wit Dre Day (And Everybody's Celebratin')" (1993) was Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg's answer to Tim Dog's "Fuck Compton" (1991).
- "Erasure-ish" EP (1992) was Björn Again's answer to Erasure's previous ABBA tribute, "Abba-esque". "Erasure-ish" features two Erasure tracks ("A Little Respect" and "Stop!") performed in the style of ABBA.
- "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.
- Third Eye Blind's song Semi Charmed Life (1997) was written as a response to Lou Rawls' Walk on the Wild Side (1972), but from a San Francisco perspective.
- 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.
- "A Pretty Girl Is Like..." (1999) from the album 69 Love Songs by The Magnetic Fields was an answer song to Irving Berlin's "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody" according to songwriter Stephin Merritt.
- 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).
- "The Night I Fell in Love" by the Pet Shop Boys also refers to Eminem's song "Stan," which in turn mentioned the urban legend that "In The Air Tonight," with which Phil Collins charted in the 1980s, inadvertently sparked. Eminem later made a reference to the Pet Shop Boys in his song "Canibitch."
- "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.
- "Good Idea At The Time" (2005) on OK Go's "Oh No" album, was an answer song to the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" (1968): in it, the Devil argues that the historical atrocities enumerated in the original were entirely of human doing.
- "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?".
- "I Walk Alone," popularized by Tarja Turunen, is a response to "Bye Bye Beautiful" by Nightwish.
- "Menor Que Yo" on Sentimiento (2007) album by Ivy Queen was a response to "Mayor Que Yo", a collaborative single by Daddy Yankee, Hector "El Father", Wisin & Yandel, Baby Ranks, and Tony Tun Tun.
- "Boys, Boys, Boys" (2008) on The Fame album by Lady Gaga's was a response to "Girls, Girls, Girls" (1987) by Mötley Crüe.
- "A Baker's Tale" by Dean Friedman (2009, released 2010 on the album Submarine Races) was a response to "The Bastard Son of Dean Friedman" by Half Man Half Biscuit (1987, on the album Back Again in the DHSS). In 2010, Friedman performed his song at a Half Man Half Biscuit concert; and accompanied the band during a performance of theirs.
- "G.I.R.L.F.R.E.N" (2010) by Everybody Was in the French Resistance...Now! was a response to Girlfriend by Avril Lavigne. Part of an album "Fixin' The Charts" full of answer songs.
- "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".
- Ewert and the Two Dragons wrote their song "Jolene" on the album Good Man Down in response to Dolly Parton's 1973 single "Jolene" from the male perspective.
- "Big Girls Cry" on Sia's 2014 album 1000 Forms of Fear is an answer song to Fergie's hit "Big Girls Don't Cry" (2007).
- Ellie Goulding's "On My Mind" is seen as answer song to Ed Sheeran's "Don't" by many critics (2015).
- Christine and the Queens rewrote Beyoncé's Sorry from a male perspective.
- Esmé Patterson published Woman to Woman (2014), an album of seven answer songs from the perspective of famous women in pop songs, including Eleanor Rigby, Billie Jean and The Kinks' Lola.
- 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". Archived from the original on 2012-03-13.
- 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.
- "I Wonder Why Bill Bailey Don't Come Home".
- "I Used to Be Afraid to Come Home in the Dark".
- "I'm Afraid to Come Home in the Dark".
- Woody Guthrie: this man is your myth, this man is my myth, section American Hero
- CMT.com : Kitty Wells : Biography
- The Big Bopper Archived January 12, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. hotshotdigital.com
- damita jo soulwalking.co.uk
- Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. pp. 255–256. ISBN 0-89820-177-2.
- Alabama Archived July 18, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. http://music.yahoo.com/
- Liz Smith, "Papa Gets Second Chance In New Video", Sarasota Herald-Tribune (October 22, 1986), 5E.
- Moring, Mark. "Getting It Right". Christianity Today International. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
- arts.guardian: Discs at Dawn
- "Answer Records / Sequels". everyhit.com.
- Wright, Jade (September 29, 2011). "Dean Friedman tells Jade Wright why he’s planning revenge on Half Man Half Biscuit". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
- Hill, Kellus (14 May 2012). "Lecrae - Church Clothes". Da South. Archived from the original on 24 May 2013. 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 978-0810823426 (A comprehensive alphabetized list of over 2500 hit tunes that prompted the production of answer songs or other forms of response recordings)
- Answer Songs, Spotify playlist of some of the answer songs on this page