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10 Famous singers who sang backing vocals

Have you ever listened to a song and thought the backing vocalist sounded familiar? Well, there have been plenty of famous singers who have appeared on hit singles as backing vocalists. We take a listen to some of the voices from the back.

Three Dog Night 'Mama Told Me' - Donna Summer

Three Dog Night had a hit with this track in 1970 and a virtually unknown singer Donner Gains would appear on the track. Her first single, "Wassermann", a German version of the song "Aquarius" from the musical Hair, was released in Europe in 1968 under her maiden name, Donna Gaines. While working as a model part-time and backing singer in Munich, Summer met producer Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte during a recording session for Three Dog Night at Musicland Studios The trio forged a working partnership, and Donna was signed to their Oasis label in 1974. She would become known as Donna Summer from 1974 onwards and go on to have huge success in the 70 and a revival in the 80s.

TLC 'waterfalls' - CeeLo Green

Unprotected sex, drugs, crime and HIV, TLC's iconic 90s track 'Waterfalls' is a catchy pop song with a darker meaning. Back-up vocals for the track were done by CeeLo Green. Organized Noize were producing the track, they were also working with rap group Goodie Mob, who were in the studio when 'Waterfalls' was being recorded. One of their vocalists, CeeLo popped into the studio to record some vocals for the track.

David Bowie 'Sound and Vision' - Mary Hopkin

Knock knock, who's there - it's Eurovision winner Mary Hopkin doing backing vocals for David Bowie! Having Mary Hopkin lending her vocals to this track might seem a bit bizzare, but remember Hopkin was married to Bowie's producer, Tony Visconti! The track also features vocals from Brian Eno.

Steve Winwood 'Higher love' Chaka Khan

This 1986 hit for Steve Winwood features Chaka Kahn on back-up vocals. Chaka also appears in the music video, as does Nile Rogers who plays guitar in the band.

Jeff Beck - 'Hi Ho Silver Lining' - Rod Stewart

In May 1967, Jeff Beck released his version of 'Hi Ho Silver Lining. Beck's version peaked at No. 14 (for three consecutive weeks) on the UK Singles Chart during a then lengthy 14-week run. Rod Stewart features on backing vocals and Led Zeppelin's, John Paul Jones played bass in a session musician job.

The B side of the track was 'Beck's Bolero' - a track that became synonymous with Beck throughout his career and was much more indicative of his style of music. Incidentally, fellow Yardbird alumni Jimmy Page and Keith Moon were also on that track. Rod Stewart features on backing vocals and Led Zeppelin's, John Paul Jones played bass in a session musician job.

Elton John - 'This Train Don't Stop There Anymore' - Gary Barlow

"This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore", taken from the 2001 album, Songs From The West Coast, has Justin Timberlake as Elton at the manic height of his 1970's popularity. Director David LaChapelle also cast Pee-Wee Herman and look-alikes for Liza Minnelli and Cher in the sequence.

Elton and Gary became good friends and Elton supported Gary during his "wilderness years". The two would record a track together called 'Face to Face' in 2014.

SWV - 'Right Here' - Pharrell Williams

"Right Here" is the debut single of American R & B group SWV. The original album version sounds a bit different, but the remix from 1993 is far better known. It samples Michael Jackson's hit song 'Human Nature.' The remix also features Pharrell Williams on the rap section of the track.

Rihanna/Calvin Harris - 'This Is What You Came For' - Taylor Swift

Swifties will know the name "Nils Sjoberg". For the uninitiated it's Taylor Swift's nom de plume when she co-wrote this 2026 song with Calvin Harris. Taylor can be heard singing the "ooh, ooh, ohhhh" parts.

Robbie Williams – 'No Regrets' Neil Tennant and Neil Hannan

This track taken from Robbie's 1998 album 'I’ve Been Expecting You' gets you two uncredited vocalists. Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant and Neil Hannan from The Divine Comedy. Neil Tennant was happy to work on the track as he thought it was a "really fantastic melody"

Robbie worked with Neil T again on the Rudebox album.

Carly Simon - 'You're So Vain' - Mick Jagger

This classic track from 1972 features Mr Peacock himself, Mick Jagger. Simon pointed out in 1983 that the song isn't about Mick Jagger.

Carly Simon was recording the track for the album 'No Secrets' at Trident Studios in London. Mick dropped in and Simon asked if he wanted to pop some vocals on the track. The rest as they say is history.


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