Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Joy to the World

Written and first recorded by Hoyt Axton (1971).
Hit version by Three Dog Night (US #1 1971).

From the wiki: “‘Joy to the World’ was originally intended for use in The Happy Song, an animated film for children. The film never materialized. The story is told that while recording material for his first album with Capitol Records, the song’s writer, Hoyt Axton, had to convince the label to let him record ‘Joy to the World’. He had the tune, he said, but not all of the lyrics. Axton was encouraged by the engineers to sing nonsensical lyrics so that an arrangement could be built around the tune and he could later record ‘real’ lyrics.

“Axton recalls ”Jeremiah’ was an expedient of the time. I’d had the chorus for three months [but nothing else]. I took a drink of wine, leaned on the speaker, and said ‘Jeremiah was a bullfrog.’ It was meaningless. It was a temporary lyric.’ (A member of Three Dog Night said he’d heard that the original lyric to the song was ‘Jeremiah was a prophet’ but ‘no one liked that.’)

“With the chart success of Three Dog Night’s recording of ‘Joy To The World’ (it topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks), Hoyt and his mother, Mae Boren Axton, became the first (and still only) songwriting mother and son who each wrote or co-wrote a US #1 hit. Mae Axton co-wrote Elvis Presley’s #1 hit, ‘Heartbreak Hotel‘.”

Three Dog Night, “Joy to the World” (1971):

Hoyt Axton, “Joy to the World” live performance @ Live Aid (1985):

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