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Backing vocalists or backup singers are singers who provide vocal harmony with the lead vocalist or other backing vocalists. A backing vocalist may also sing alone as a lead-in to the main vocalist's entry or to sing a counter-melody. Backing vocalists are used in a broad range of popular music, traditional music, and world music styles.
Solo artists may employ professional backing vocalists in studio recording sessions as well as during concerts. In many rock and metal bands (e.g., the power trio), the musicians doing backing vocals also play instruments, such as guitar, electric bass, drums or keyboards. In Latin or Afro-Cuban groups, backing singers may play percussion instruments or shakers while singing. In some pop and hip hop groups and in musical theater, they may be required to perform dance routines while singing through headset microphones.
Styles of background vocals vary according to the type of song and genre of music. In pop and country songs, backing vocalists may sing harmony to support the lead vocalist. In hardcore punk or rockabilly, other band members who play instruments may sing or shout backing vocals during the chorus (refrain) section of the songs.
Alternative terms for backing vocalists include backing singers, backing vocals, additional vocals or, particularly in the United States and Canada, backup singers,background singers, or harmony vocalists.
While some bands use performers whose sole on-stage role is backing vocals, backing singers commonly have other roles. Two notable examples of band members who sang back-up are The Beach Boys and The Beatles. The Beach Boys were well known for their close vocal harmonies, occasionally with all five members singing at once such as "In My Room" and "Surfer Girl".
The Beatles were also known for their close style of vocal harmonies[ opinion ] – all of them sang both lead and backing vocals at some point, especially John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who frequently supported each other with harmonies, often with fellow Beatle George Harrison joining in. Ringo Starr, while not as prominent as a singer due to his distinctive voice, songs backing vocals in such tracks as "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" and "Carry That Weight". Examples of three-part harmonies by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison include "Nowhere Man", "Because", "Day Tripper", and "This Boy". The members of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Bee Gees each wrote songs, sang backup or lead vocals, and played various instruments in their performances and recordings.
In the recording studio, some lead singers record their own backing vocals by overdubbing with a multitrack recording system, record his or her own backing vocals, then recording the lead part over them. Some lead vocalists prefer this approach because multiple parts recorded by the same singer blend well.
A famous example overdubbing is Freddie Mercury's multipart intro to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody".Other artists who have recorded multitrack lead and backing vocals include Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy, Tom DeLonge of Angels and Airwaves, Wednesday 13 in his own band and Murderdolls, Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran, and Brad Delp of Boston.
With the exception of a few songs on each album, Michael Jackson, Prince, Dan Fogelberg, Eddie Rabbitt, David Bowie and Richard Marx sing all of the background vocals for their songs. Robert Smith of the Cure sings his own backing vocals in the studio, and doesn't use backing vocalists when performing live.
Prominent vocalists who provide backing vocals in other artists' recordings are often uncredited to avoid conflicts with their own recording agreements, and for other reasons. Examples include:
Beatles for Sale is the fourth studio album by the English rock band the Beatles. It was released on 4 December 1964 in the United Kingdom on EMI's Parlophone label. The album marked a departure from the upbeat tone that had characterised the Beatles' previous work, partly due to the band's exhaustion after a series of tours that had established them as a worldwide phenomenon in 1964. Beatles for Sale was not widely available in the US until 1987, when the Beatles' catalogue was standardised for release on CD. Instead, eight of the album's fourteen tracks appeared on Capitol Records' concurrent release, Beatles '65, issued in North America only.
The Beatles, also known as the White Album, is the ninth studio album and only double album by English rock band the Beatles, released on 22 November 1968. Its plain white sleeve contains no graphics or text other than the band's name embossed, which was intended as a direct contrast to the vivid cover artwork of the band's previous LP Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Beatles is recognised for its fragmentary style and diverse range of genres, including folk, British blues, ska, music hall and the avant-garde. It has since been viewed by some critics as a postmodern work, as well as among the greatest albums of all time.
"You Won't See Me" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1965 album Rubber Soul. It was written by Paul McCartney and credited to Lennon–McCartney. As with songs such as "We Can Work It Out" and "I'm Looking Through You" from the same period, the lyrics address McCartney's troubled relationship with Jane Asher and her desire to pursue her career as a stage and film actress. The Beatles recorded the song during what author Mark Lewisohn describes as a "marathon" final recording session for Rubber Soul, to ensure the album's pre-Christmas release.
"And Your Bird Can Sing" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles. It was released on their 1966 album Revolver, apart from in the United States and Canada, where it instead appeared on Yesterday and Today. The song was written mainly by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. The recording features an extended dual-guitar melody, played by George Harrison and Paul McCartney, which anticipated the harmonised guitar arrangements commonly used by Southern rock, hard rock and heavy metal bands.
"Come Together" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles, written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. The song is the opening track on their 1969 album Abbey Road and was also released as a single coupled with "Something". The song reached the top of the charts in the United States and peaked at No. 4 in the United Kingdom.
"Oh! Darling" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles, appearing as the fourth song on the 1969 album Abbey Road. It was composed by Paul McCartney. Its working title was "Oh! Darling ". Although not issued as a single in either the United Kingdom or the United States, a regional subsidiary of Capitol successfully edited it as a single in Central America, having "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" as its B-side. It was also issued as a single in Portugal. Apple Records released "Oh! Darling" in Japan with "Here Comes the Sun" in June 1970.
"Birthday" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1968 double album The Beatles. Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, it is the opening track on the third side of the LP. Surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr performed it for Starr's 70th birthday at Radio City Music Hall on 7 July 2010.
"One After 909" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1970 album Let It Be. It was written by John Lennon, with input from Paul McCartney, and was credited to their joint partnership. The album version is the live performance from the rooftop concert which took place on 30 January 1969. This performance is also included in the Let It Be film. The song was written no later than spring 1960 and perhaps as early as 1957, and is one of the first Lennon–McCartney compositions. "One After 909" is perhaps more reminiscent of early American rock 'n' roll than any of the other songs from the rooftop show, and as a joke for the rooftop chatter, Lennon sings a variant on the opening line of "Danny Boy" after the song is finished.
"I'm So Tired" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1968 double album The Beatles. It was written and sung by John Lennon, though credited to Lennon–McCartney. Lennon wrote the song during the Beatles' stay in India about insomnia he was having due to constant meditation and because he missed Yoko Ono. The song was recorded in the same session as another White Album song, "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill".
"Cry Baby Cry" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles, written by John Lennon from their 1968 double album The Beatles. The coda of the song is a short segment referred to as "Can You Take Me Back", written by Paul McCartney, which was actually an outtake from the "I Will" session.
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"Words of Love" is a song written by Buddy Holly and released as a single in 1957.
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"You've Really Got a Hold on Me" is a song written by Smokey Robinson, which became a 1962 Top 10 hit single for the Miracles. One of the Miracles' most covered tunes, this million-selling song received a 1998 Grammy Hall of Fame Award. It has also been selected as one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. It was recorded by English rock group the Beatles for their second album, With the Beatles (1963). Many other musicians also recorded versions.
"Do You Want to Know a Secret" is a song by English rock band the Beatles from their 1963 album Please Please Me, sung by George Harrison. In the United States, it was the first top ten song to feature Harrison as a lead singer, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard chart in 1964 as a single released by Vee-Jay, VJ 587.
"There's a Place" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their debut album, Please Please Me, released in March 1963. It was written primarily by John Lennon and credited to McCartney–Lennon. In the United States, the song was released in July 1963 on the group's first US LP, Introducing... The Beatles, later reissued in January 1964 as Beatlemania surged there. It was also issued as a non-album single in the US, in March 1964, as the B-side to "Twist and Shout", reaching number 74 in the Billboard Hot 100.
"All Together Now" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles written primarily by Paul McCartney and credited to the Lennon–McCartney partnership. The song was recorded during the band's Magical Mystery Tour period, but remained unreleased until it was included on the Yellow Submarine soundtrack. It was released as a single in 1972 in European countries such as France and Germany, backed by "Hey Bulldog.”
"Good Night" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1968 double album The Beatles. It was written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. The lead vocalist on the recording is Ringo Starr, who was the only Beatle to appear on the track. The music was provided by an orchestra arranged and conducted by George Martin. Written for Lennon's five-year-old son Julian, "Good Night" is the final song on the White Album.
"Don't Let Me Down" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles, recorded in 1969 during the Let It Be sessions. It was written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. The band recorded the song with Billy Preston; the single release with "Get Back" was credited to "the Beatles with Billy Preston".
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