10 Hit Songs That Were Written in Just a Few Minutes

Sometimes, it takes a long time to create brilliance. People spend weeks, months, or even years working on their masterpiece, be it a book, a painting, a sculpture, or some other work of art. And then sometimes, it all comes together in just a few minutes. Of course, you can’t write an entire book in just a couple minutes. (Trust us; we’ve tried!) But you can write a song in just a few minutes! Even a very brilliant song!

And that’s what we’re looking at in this list today. We’ll take a stroll through music memory lane and recall how ten very popular, very famous songs were all written in just a couple quick minutes. The songwriters in these cases had a flash of brilliance in an instant. They then put it down on paper, and over time, it proved iconic!

Related: 10 Albums by Great Bands That Were Never Released

10 “Yesterday” by The Beatles

Let’s start with a song that wasn’t even written in a few minutes at all—it was written in a dream! Paul McCartney was staying in a room at the family home of a friend on Wimpole Street in London one day early on in his tenure with The Beatles. He went to bed one night just like normal. The next morning, he woke up, and bam! There was a melody in his head!

The tune was burning through his brain. McCartney tried to ignore it at first. He assumed it was a jazz song he’d heard his father play for him years before. But the melody proved so catchy that he simply couldn’t let it slide. So he went to the piano and knocked out a song right then and there. And that song, of course, became “Yesterday.”

“I was living in a little flat at the top of a house, and I had a piano by my bed,” McCartney recalled years later. “I woke up one morning with a tune in my head, and I thought, ‘Hey, I don’t know this tune… I went to the piano and found the chords to it, made sure I remembered it, and then hawked it round to all my friends, asking what it was: ‘Do you know this? It’s a good little tune, but I couldn’t have written it because I dreamt it.’”[1]

9 “Sweet Child o’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses

One of the most iconic ’80s hair metal songs of all time was written in just five minutes. And the band didn’t even expect it to become a hit! Yes, we’re talking about Guns N’ Roses and their catchy tune “Sweet Child o’ Mine.” The whole thing took shape when group members Slash and Izzy Stradlin were playing around on their guitars and doing interesting riffs.

Lead singer Axl Rose liked the sound of one of the riffs, so he used it as an opportunity to write up a song. And his then-girlfriend Erin Everly was the perfect muse for it, functioning as the “sweet child” so termed in the track. And in five minutes, that was that!

Band member Duff McKagan recalled the situation years later in an interview. Even so long after, he was still shocked that “Sweet Child o’ Mine” became such a hit. “It was written in five minutes,” McKagan said matter-of-factly. “It was one of those songs, only three chords. You know that guitar lick Slash does at the beginning? It was kinda like a joke because we thought, ‘What is this song? It’s gonna be nothing. It’ll be filler on the record.’” And then it wasn’t!

By the way, that’s not the only Guns N’ Roses song that was written in a bizarre way that turned out to be a mega-hit. One of their other supremely popular and most well-known tracks is “Paradise City.” And that one was written in the back of a rental van while the group was crammed in among each other and all their gear while commuting between shows!

The boys were on their way home to Los Angeles from a show in San Francisco when they started playing around with lyrics and guitar riffs. Now, “Paradise City” took a bit longer than five minutes to write. They did have an hours-long trip home to LA to do it. But imagine the group all crammed into the back of a van (and perhaps drinking a little bit, too) and knocking out another iconic song almost as an afterthought![2]

8 “Dust on the Bottle” by David Lee Murphy

David Lee Murphy released his debut country music album Out With A Bang in 1995, and despite the title, it didn’t exactly go out with a bang. That is until he released a fourth single off the album called “Dust on the Bottle.” After minor successes with his first three singles, this fourth one hit big. It shot to number one on the Billboard Hot Country Singles charts in late ’95 and stayed there for weeks. But the crazy part of that story isn’t only that it was an unlikely hit. It’s that it was written in just a few minutes one morning—while Murphy and his producers were already recording other tracks for the album!

“We started recording on a Monday, and Tuesday morning, I was drinking coffee at my kitchen table,” Murphy recalled years later. “I started playing the opening chords on my guitar for ‘Dust on the Bottle.’ It just came out of nowhere. The song just fell out in, like, 15 minutes.” And as it turned out, that was that!

“I called Tony Brown, who was producing my record, and I told him, ‘Man, I just wrote this new song,’” Murphy added. “We had all the songs picked out already for the album. He told me to bring it in and play it for him that day. When he heard the song, he said, ‘Man, we’ve got to cut this.’ So we cut it, and what’s on the record is the first take of the song. A lot of the vocals on it were the first time I sang it.”[3]

7 “Hometown Glory” by Adele

Adele was just 16 years old when she wrote “Hometown Glory.” The song would become her debut hit and eventually catapult her into superstardom. She wrote the entire thing in less than ten minutes after getting into an angsty fight with her mother about what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. At the time, Adele’s mom was worried about the teenager’s direction in the world.

She wanted her beloved daughter to go to college instead of striking it out on the rough path of the music business. But Adele was too stubborn to listen. So, in the midst of a blow-up about their competing interests, the teenage singer stormed off to her bedroom, locked herself away, and wrote “Hometown Glory” in less than ten minutes.

“It’s called ‘Hometown Glory,’ and it was all about how I felt about London and stuff like that,” Adele recalled years later (and long after she became world famous) during a 2015 BBC show. “I actually wrote it on guitar, and I was at school at the time. I actually find this song really emotional now. So much has happened since I wrote it, and it’s been like 11 years since I wrote it. So my whole career has happened, and it’s one of my favorites still, to this day.”[4]

6 “See You Again” by Charlie Puth

Charlie Puth and Wiz Khalifa came together for quite a memorable hit nearly a decade ago now when they released “See You Again.” And while the song is simple, it’s also remarkably poignant and very meaningful for both artists, as well as for fans who were moved by it. So you’ll be no doubt stunned to note that such a moving song was only written in ten minutes! And if you don’t believe that, well, Charlie himself has the technology time stamps to prove it.

In a 2015 interview with MTV News, the New Jersey-born singer revealed that he wrote out the entire song in the Notes app on his phone in just a couple minutes upon getting the inspiration for it unexpectedly one day. And just as soon as he started, he was done—and he had a mega-hit on his hands! Pretty ironic, considering Charlie famously sings “It’s been a long day” as part of the very first line of the song, right? Because of his songwriting process, it wasn’t a long day at all!

“I wrote the song on July 17 at 6 pm,” Puth told MTV. “I know that because I have it saved in my phone, the lyric note. … I want to frame that. I wrote it in 10 minutes, which is very unusual. Usually, songs take a little bit longer to write for me.”[5]

5 “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen

If it sounds to you like Queen’s song “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” was inspired by the likes of Elvis Presley, well, you’d be exactly right. The late Freddie Mercury wrote it back in the day after being heavily influenced by two of his longtime musical heroes: Elvis and Sir Cliff Richard. Wanting to deliver a song that was up to par with the music those two had been putting out, Mercury came up with “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”

Ever since, it’s been a Queen staple and one of their most well-known and well-loved tracks. But you’re not here for music history. You’re here for the crazy story of how it all came together in a flash! According to Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor, Freddie wrote the song in “about ten minutes” while he was in the bathtub. Yes, really! Not only did Mercury pen the track in a relative instant, but he was having a soak in the tub while doing it. Sounds relaxing!

At the time Freddie wrote the track in 1979, Queen was used to going into the studio with very little as far as pre-recording preparation. They preferred to get their musical inspirations together in one big group and see what came up. And they made some great tracks that way! But not with “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” This one was Freddie’s baby from the start.

“We got into this rather indulgent way of just bowling into the studio with no ideas, or very few ideas, and just doing it from scratch,” May recalled years later. “[But Freddie] was very fond of Elvis and of Cliff. … Freddie wrote it very quickly and rushed in and put it down with the boys. By the time I got there, it was almost done.”[6]

4 “What’d I Say” by Ray Charles

Why write a song in five or ten minutes when you can write a masterpiece in no time at all? That’s what Ray Charles thought to himself one day in 1958 when he got into a bit of a bind in the middle of a show and needed to pivot somewhere new—and fast.

See, the legendary musician was playing a show at a club in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, one night in December 1958. The only problem was that he was booked to play for a very, very long time. Longer than he had pre-planned music to fill! Twelve minutes longer, in fact. And when he got through every song he knew and realized he still had those twelve minutes to fill, he panicked a little bit.

But then, something came to him. He thought back to the days of his youth and how the preacher in church every Sunday would always call things out that the congregation would repeat back to him. Drawing on that, Charles moved to improvise a bit. He turned back to his band and told them to follow his lead. Then, he looked over to his backup singers, The Raeletts, and asked them to simply repeat everything he said in rhythm. And that’s how “What’d I Say” was born!

“I had sung everything I could think of,” Charles remembered years later. “So I said to the guys, ‘Look, I’m going to start this thing off, I don’t know where I’m going, so y’all just follow me.’ And I said to the girls, ‘Whatever I say, just repeat after me.’” And it worked! Of course, improvisation on stage at a show isn’t exactly a new thing. But the fact that Charles crafted such a tight and memorable song in literal seconds—and then moved to make it an actual single on a record later after liking it so much—undoubtedly proves his considerable musical genius.[7]

3 “Chandelier” by Sia

Sia became something of an unlikely pop star in 2014 when her hit “Chandelier” caught radio play all over the English-speaking world and became one of the biggest singles of the year. Even now, a decade later, it is still a staple when it comes to pop music. And it seems to be on every single high-energy playlist put together by anyone at any age under about 50 at this point!

So to say the Aussie had major success with the catchy tune would be a bit of an understatement, right? But success doesn’t always come about after months or years of careful and painstaking work. Sometimes, it comes about after 15 minutes of good luck!

In an interview with NPR not long after the song was first released, Sia spoke candidly about how she came up with the whole thing in just a couple minutes longer than it takes you to brush your teeth! “‘Chandelie’ took, like, four minutes to write the chords and then, like, 12-15 minutes to write the lyrics,” Sia told the outlet. And that wasn’t all! When it came time to go into the studio to record it, that went very fast, too! “[It was] probably 10 or 15 minutes to cut the vocals,” she added.” Less than a half hour of actual work later, and Sia had a mega-hit on her hands![8]

2 “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey

There are few songs more iconic than “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey. Just saying the title will have you singing it in your head for the next few hours—or days. So, uh, we’re sorry about that. But this song does very much fit the bill as part of this list, considering its sudden and lightning-fast spark toward lyrical genius.

Carey wrote the song alongside veteran songwriter Walter Afanasieff. And while those two have each written quite a few songs before, neither one of them expected the Christmas classic to come about as quickly as it did. In fact, Afanasieff thinks that the song has endured so long simply because they wrote it so quickly and trusted their gut about what makes a good love song (and a good holiday song!).

Speaking to Billboard years after “All I Want for Christmas Is You” began to annually dominate the holiday season, Afanasieff explained how he and Carey honed in on the track in just minutes after first setting out to write it. “We would write the nucleus of the song, the melody, primary music, and then some of the words were there as we finished writing it,” he explained. “That one went very quickly. It was an easier song to write than some of the other ones.” Easier to write for both of them, better to sing for Mariah, and ideal to play on repeat by all of us every time the month of December rolls around.[9]

1 “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper

We all know “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” will forever be tied to Cyndi Lauper. But did you know she didn’t write it? And that alone isn’t especially weird since pop stars don’t always write their own music anyway. But here’s where it gets really weird: It was actually written, recorded, and released by an entirely different performer—a male performer, no less—four years before Cyndi had ever heard of it!

The man’s name was Robert Hazard, and he was a musician and performer in his own right. He was in the shower one day in 1979 when he started thinking up a melody for a new song. In less than 20 minutes—while he was soaping up and scrubbing with shampoo—he came up with the lyrics and melody for “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” That’s quite a productive shower!

Well, he recorded it later in 1979 and then released it. The song didn’t really go anywhere for him. If you’re like us, chances are you’ve never heard of Hazard before this moment. But other producers took note of the catchy melody and filed it away in the back of their heads. One of those producers in question was Rick Chertoff. And when 1983 rolled around, he was flummoxed with trying to find the right material to produce Lauper’s debut album She’s So Unusual. Recalling Hazard’s catchy song from four years earlier, Chertoff reached out to him.

Then, Rick set up a meeting between Hazard and Lauper. The duo changed up a few lyrics in order for the song to make better sense as part of Cyndi’s “girl power” aesthetic. And then they were off to the races! In short order, Lauper’s recording of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” turned out to be a mega-hit. It dominated the charts for much of 1983 and 1984. Then, the music video’s release on then-fast-growing MTV ensured Lauper had a new audience all over the globe. And it all started when a random (to Cyndi, at least) guy thought up a song in a couple minutes while showering.[10]

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