Flying away on a wing and some air.
British girl group Little Mix has already started their journey towards dominating the United States with their first single, “Wings”. It currently stands at #44 on the CHR chart, though it hasn’t quite cracked the Billboard Hot 100 yet. In preparation for their debut, however, I thought it might be interesting to see how some other winged titles flew up the charts. In total, eight songs with “wings” in the title have hovered onto the Hot 100, and I’ve picked out my five favorites. So, let’s soar along with some sailing songs.
“BROKEN WINGS”, Mr. Mister (#1, 1985)
After an underperforming album, 1984’s I Wear The Face, this Arizona band was on the verge of breaking up after lead singer Richard Page was extended offers to be the lead singer in both Chicago and Toto. Page refused, focusing his attention on his band and what was about to become their biggest era ever. As the lead single from Welcome To The Real World, “Broken” spent two weeks at #1, propelling both the album and followup single, “Kyrie”, to the top spot in the spring of 1986. After a third album that did very little, the band broke up. A version done by Rick Springfield, featuring Page on backing vocals, garnered some minor adult contemporary airplay in 2005.
“FLYING WITHOUT WINGS”, Ruben Studdard (#2, 2003)
Back when American Idol wasn’t a sinking ship in the ratings, season 2 brought us a big battle between Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard. Studdard won the competition in a very close race, and his winning single was a cover of a song Irish boy band Westlife took to #1 in the U.K. in 1999. His version, issued with a b-side of “Superstar” (the old Carpenters hit), debuted at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 behind runner-up Clay Aiken‘s “This Is The Night”, which ruled for two weeks total. Studdard returned to the top ten the next year with “Sorry 2004”, but hasn’t had anything nearly as big since, though he’s had some moderate-sized R&B entries. He currently records for Shanachie Records.
“ON THE WINGS OF LOVE”, Jeffrey Osborne (#29, 1982)
Osborne first made a name for himself in the 70’s as the lead singer of L.T.D., but departed the group by 1980 and started up a solo career. “Love” was his second top-40 hit on the Hot 100 (following the #39 “I Really Don’t Need No Light”) and peaked at #29 around the Christmas holiday. His biggest crossover success wouldn’t come until 1986 and 1987 with a pair of top-20 singles. He last made the Hot 100 in 1988 and his regular chartings on the R&B chart were largely over by 1991. You may remember that he performed this song on The Bachelor several seasons ago when pilot Jake Pavelka was the star of that cycle. Too bad Pavelka’s relationship ended with an emergency landing.
“PRETTY WINGS”, Maxwell (#33, 2009)
This R&B singer had a pretty consistent track record from his 1996 debut, Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite, until his 2001 release, Now. All of studio albums were at least certified Platinum, and his singles generally did well on the R&B survey, including “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)” (1996, #8) and “Fortunate” (#1, 1999). Then, he simply disappeared. No new releases, no touring, no television appearances. He suddenly reemerged in 2008 with a series of live performances, which was followed by BLACKsummers’night in 2009. “Pretty”, the leadoff single, was welcomed with open arms by Urban radio, spending fourteen weeks at #1 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Three other singles from the effort charted. A new album is expected by him later this year.
“WIND BENEATH MY WINGS”, Bette Midler (#1, 1989)
Here’s a song that has quite a bit of history. Originally published in 1982, versions by Roger Whittaker and Sheena Easton were both recorded during that year, but neither rendition became a single. Lou Rawls made his last appearance on the Hot 100 with his take in 1983, but it only went to #65. Two other versions charted that year on genre-specific charts, one by Gladys Knight & The Pips (titled “Hero”, #23 AC) and the other by Gary Morris (#4 Country), which won a few accolades at the ACM and CMA Awards. However, the best known version of “Wind” is by the Divine Miss M, Bette Midler. Released on the soundtrack to Beaches, which she also starred in, the song went to #1 for one week in 1989. It won Record and Song Of The Year at the GRAMMY Awards the following year. Shortly afterwards, Midler saw most of her success on the adult contemporary survey (and a few dance hits.) Her last studio album, Cool Yule, was out in 2006.
The other three high-fliers:
“BUTTERFLY WITH BULLET WINGS”, Smashing Pumpkins (#22, 1995)
Years after they began charting at rock radio, the band finally cracked the top 40 on the Hot 100 with this song. It was their first of four big hits on the chart, the biggest of which was “1999”, which went to #12. They’ve made the Alternative survey as recently as last year.
“IF MY HEART HAD WINGS”, Faith Hill (#39, 2001)
“Heart” was the fourth single to be released from Hill’s 8x platinum album, Breathe. It hit the top 5 on the Country chart, which she wouldn’t achieve for another four years. Hill’s material has been underperforming as of recent, though she still performs live. Beginning in April, she and her husband, Tim McGraw, begin their Soul2Soul residency in Las Vegas.
“WINGS OF A DOVE”, Ferlin Husky (#12, 1961)
Beginning in 1953, Husky began a chart run of over twelve years on the Country chart, landing a total of eleven songs in the top ten. “Dove” was his last crossover hit to make the top 40, peaking at #12, as well as his final #1 single on the Country survey. He passed away in 2011.
Do you have a favorite flier in the flock? Maybe you prefer the band Wings better? Let me know! Comment below or find me on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.