Co-written and first recorded (as “Groupie (Superstar)”) by Delaney & Bonnie (1969).
Also recorded by Rita Coolidge (1970), Bette Midler (1970 |1972).
Hit versions by The Carpenters (US #2/CAN #3/JPN #7 1971), Luther Vandross (US #87/R&B #5 1983).
From the wiki: “Accounts of the song’s origin vary somewhat, but it grew out of the late 1969-early 1970 nexus of English and American musicians known as Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, involving Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, Leon Russell, Eric Clapton, and various others. The song’s working title during portions of its development was ‘Groupie Song’. In its first recorded incarnation, the song was titled ‘Groupie (Superstar)’, and was recorded and released as a non-album B-side to the Delaney & Bonnie single ‘Comin’ Home’ (promoting the album On Tour with Eric Clapton) in December 1969. ‘Groupie’ would see an eventual album release in 1972, on D&B Together.
“During the first half of 1970, Joe Cocker’s legendary ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen Revue’ toured the United States. Ex-Delaney and Bonnie vocalist Rita Coolidge was a singer on the tour (she’d been a backup vocalist on the original recording), and song co-writer Leon Russell was the bandleader. Some accounts have Coolidge suggesting or inspiring the song’s creation in the first place, and working with Bonnie Bramlett on her portion of the writing. In any case, Coolidge was given a featured vocal on the song during the Mad Dogs tour.
“In August 1970, the live album Mad Dogs and Englishmen was released, using performances of the song featuring Coolidge, titling the song ‘Superstar’, recorded in March and June of that year. The Mad Dogs album became a huge hit, reaching #2 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart and #23 on the Billboard Black Albums chart.
“The then-unknown but very lively singer Bette Midler began making regular appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in August 1970. During one such appearance, she performed ‘Superstar’ with an understated arrangement featuring only a piano for accompaniment. (Midler would later record a version of ‘Superstar’ for her debut album, The Divine Miss M.) It was this Tonight Show performance that caught the attention of Richard Carpenter.
“Carpenter recalls: ‘I came home from the studio one night and heard a then relatively unknown Bette Midler performing this song on The Tonight Show. I could barely wait to arrange and record it. (It remains one of my favorites).’ Somewhat ironically, Karen Carpenter had heard the Coolidge rendition on a promotional copy of the Mad Dogs album, but she did not think that much of it.
“Richard’s arrangement was recorded with members of the famed Los Angeles session musicians group The Wrecking Crew (in which Leon Russell was an early-mid 1960s member). Karen Carpenter recorded her vocal in just one take (which in fact was the ‘work lead’ normally used to guide the other musicians), using lyrics scribbled by Richard on a paper napkin.
“Luther Vandross recorded ‘Superstar’ in 1983 in a slower, more soulful fashion, as part of a medley with Stevie Wonder’s ‘Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)’ on his album Busy Body. This was the first prominent version by a male singer, and by that time, the original ‘groupie’ association was far gone. Instead, the song was presented as a tale of universal longing.”
Rita Coolidge, “Superstar” (1970):
Bette Midler, “Superstar” album version (1972):
The Carpenters, “Superstar” (1971):
Luther Vandross, “Superstar/Until You Come Back to Me” (1983):