Who writes the songs that make the whole world sing? (Barry Manilow, for one)

Walking on the treadmill earlier today, I kept skimming through my iPod to pick out whatever suited my workout fancy of the moment.  At one point I idly wondered whether the song I was listening to had been written by the group singing it – and that’s when I realized for the first time that iTunes doesn’t identify songwriters.

Vinyl has always listed songwriters, on both LPs and 45s.  I even dug out some of my old 78s – and found songwriters credited on the labels of those brittle, old records, as well. 

When The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, everyone already knew that John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote most of group’s songs.  But there on the cardboard circle in the center of my vinyl copy are their names (Lennon-McCartney) listed beneath the title of every single song except “Within You Without You,” which George Harrison wrote . . . and which I know because his name is beneath the title.

The exclusion of songwriter identification on iTunes’ “labels” may be a remnant of digital music’s Napster origins, which were all about file sharing . . . getting songs for free.  Maybe piracy is easier if you pretend that music sort of spontaneously generates itself, and just “is.”  Then you don’t have to feel guilty about robbing the songwriter of royalties.  The beauty of iTunes, though, is that it’s so easy and inexpensive now for people to do the right thing and pay for music.

Wouldn’t it be nice if Apple could also figure out a way for songwriters not only to be acknowledged but also once again to be visibly linked with the music they created?

UPDATE: (October 23, 2021) I wrote this post in July 2012. Today I noticed that someone had visited it, and because it has been a long time since it has come up in my stats, I decided to pull it up to read through. Then I was curious to know if this situation was still the same. And no, it is not! As of the past year or two, at least two music services (Spotify and iTunes) actually do make it possible to see the songwriters’ names. Look on your screen for the three dots that mean “more” info and click on those. You’ll see lots of song “details,” including the composer(s). YAY!!!

About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. I also volunteer with a Milwaukee homeless sanctuary, Repairers of the Breach, as chair of the Communications and Fund Development Committee.
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1 Response to Who writes the songs that make the whole world sing? (Barry Manilow, for one)

  1. How true. I never really thought about it! I usually buy my music on CD and download it to I-tunes, because the I-tune store format won’t play on my swimming MP3 player. That sort of makes me think of all the other media we don’t know who wrote. Like TV shows or movies or even books. I do think I personnally need to pay more attention. I think we take these creative people for granted!!!


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