The first major hit song of 2021 so far has been Driver’s License, written and sung by 17-year-old American pop singer Olivia Rodrigo. Although it’s commonplace to see teenagers dominate the Billboard charts with songs they’ve performed, it doesn’t come as a surprise that most of them are written by adults. After all, song-writing skills typically take years to hone. But from time to time a song-writing prodigy comes along and is able to create something that demonstrates they are wise beyond their years. Here’s a look at 8 popular songs over the years that were written by teenagers.
1. Avril Lavigne — Complicated
When Canadian native Lavigne was 2 years old, she’d sing hymns on the family’s way home from church. Her parents recognized her potential and encouraged her to pursue a career in music. Her father bought her a microphone and drum kit, and converted their basement into a studio. She won several local competitions, including one that allowed her to perform on stage with fellow Canadian Shania Twain in front of 20,000. It was her first hit “Complicated” – which she wrote at the age of 17, that made her a star. In 2002, the song reached #1 on the US Adult Top 40 charts where it remained for a then-record 16 weeks. It was also nominated for two Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
2. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller — Hound Dog
In 1952, Blues singer Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton needed a song, and R&B bandleader Johnny Otis decided 19-year-olds Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were just the guys to write it. As they were meeting with Thornton, they went about crafting a song that suited her personality as a sassy, badass Black woman. It took all of 15 minutes to write Hound Dog but almost 70 years later it remains a legendary song. It was popularized by Elvis Presley, whose career took off as a result. To date, Hound Dog has been covered 250 times and was ranked #19 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
3. Taylor Swift —Teardrops on My Guitar
With 10 Grammy Awards, holder of 27 Guinness World Records, and with more than 200 million albums sold worldwide, Taylor Swift is pretty good. It was her song “Teardrops on My Guitar,” which she wrote when she was 17, that put her on the Billboard charts for the first time, peaking at #13. The song is based on the feelings she had for a high school crush who had no idea she was into him. He would speak about his girlfriend to her and she would pretend to find it endearing, although in reality it made her feel jealous. Years later, he would come by the house to express his feelings for her, but she rejected him. Too late. Oops.