15 Famous Musicians Who Wrote Massive Hit Songs At Freakishly Young Ages

1.The Hanson brothers — Isaac, Taylor, and Zac — came up with the infectious chorus to their worldwide number one hit "MMMBop" when they were just 13, 11, and 9 years old, respectively.

The Hanson brothers on the red carpet

The chorus was originally meant to be a backing vocal part for another song, but it didn't quite fit. It was very catchy, though, and as Isaac told Songwriter Magazine, he didn't forget it. "I was definitely the one who kept bringing up the idea: ‘Hey, remember that idea? That was really cool.’"

A couple of years later, an older and wiser 13-year-old Taylor wrote the song's first verse. The three brothers then completed the rest of the song together.

Isaac added, "When we did the final version, it was very clear that it was very catchy and really stuck out as an idea and melody that was going to stick in people’s heads. It stuck in our heads, so it’s reasonable to think it would stick in other people’s heads too."

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Listen to Hanson's "MMMBop" here:

2.Taylor Swift was just 14 and in her first year of high school when she cowrote the song "Tim McGraw," which appeared on her self-titled debut album, reaching No. 6 on the country charts and becoming her first-ever Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 (she's, uh, had a few more since then).

Close-up of Taylor smiling

"I wrote [the song] in my freshman year of high school," Swift told CMT in 2006. "I got the idea in math class. I was just sitting there, and I started humming this melody. I kind of related it to this situation I was in. I was dating a guy who was about to go off to college. I knew we were going to break up. So I started thinking about all the things that I knew would remind him of me. Surprisingly, the first thing that came to mind was that my favorite country artist is Tim McGraw."

Swift had started writing songs two years earlier (in fact, one of the first songs she wrote, as a 12-year-old, was "The Outside," which appeared on her debut album). A year later, she signed an artist development deal with RCA and began songwriting sessions with Nashville songwriter Liz Rose, to whom Swift brought her "Tim McGraw" song sketch.

“The first time we wrote," Rose told the Washington Post, "I walked out and said, ‘I don’t know what I was doing there. She really didn’t need me.’” Rose says she largely acted as an editor during the "Tim McGraw" songwriting session, making suggestions for what to cut or move around. Rose's work paid off, even if other songwriters chided her for working with Swift: “I was catching flak: ‘What are you doing writing with a 14-year-old?' I was like, ‘Hey, this kid’s brilliant, and it’s the easiest, funnest thing I do all week.'"

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Listen to Taylor Swift's "Tim McGraw" here:

3.Paul McCartney wrote the music for "When I'm Sixty-Four" — off the Beatles' landmark album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band — when he was just 16 years old.

An 18-year-old McCartney in 1960 with John and George (plus Stu Sutcliffe on bass and a guy named Johnny Hutch on the drums)

"The melody of 'When I'm Sixty-Four' was fully worked out by the time I was about sixteen," he wrote in his book The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present. "It was one of my little party pieces, and when we were later on the lookout for songs for the Beatles, I thought it would be quite good to put words to it."

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Listen to the Beatles' "When I'm Sixty-Four" here:

4.Fiona Apple was 15 when she wrote "Never Is a Promise," an emotional, standout track on her debut album, Tidal.

Fiona smiling onstage

Apple is incredibly gifted, so it makes sense that she'd have an easier time than others breaking into the music industry, but her path was almost too easy.

Concerned about what she would do after high school, Apple recorded a three-song demo — including "Never Is a Promise," composed after her boyfriend became interested in another girl — and made 77 copies of it. She only ever gave out one, though, to a friend who babysat for a music publicist. When the publicist heard the demo, she sent it to an executive at Sony Music, who signed Apple to a record deal!

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Listen to Fiona Apple's "Never Is a Promise" here:

5.Daniel Johns and Ben Gillies of Silverchair were just 14 years old in 1994 when they wrote "Tomorrow," which they then entered into a nationwide band competition in their native Australia — and beat out over 800 other acts to win! The song became a phenomenon, reaching number one in Australia and then becoming the most played song on modern rock radio in the United States the following year.

The three members of Silverchair

The school-aged boys' success was extra remarkable considering they had no contacts or fancy instruments/recording equipment when they made "Tomorrow." Johns said at the time, we "recorded that at a really cheap studio. It cost about $75. We weren't in there for more than an hour."

He then added, sounding very much like a teenager, "The first time we heard 'Tomorrow' on the radio, it was really embarrassing. We were in a car with a whole heap of our friends and it came on. We turned it off as quick as we could."

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Listen to Silverchair's "Tomorrow" here:

6.Lorde was only 15 when she wrote the lyrics to her number one hit "Royals" in just half an hour. She then co-composed the music with musician Joel Little shortly after that.

Lorde giving the peace sign

Amazingly, Lorde was only 12 when she signed with Universal after they saw a video of her performing Duffy’s “Warwick Avenue” at her school talent show.

“The music-making process was very, very casual in the beginning because I was only 12 and didn’t know what I wanted to do,” she told the Daily Beast. “I took singing lessons and started working with songwriters in a very casual setting — trying to find someone and a sound I could click with.” That person ended up being Joel Little, who cowrote all the songs with Lorde on her debut album, Pure Heroine.

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Listen to Lorde's "Royals" here:

7.In 1953, a 15-year-old Maurice Williams tried unsuccessfully to get his date to stay out with him past her parents' 10 p.m. curfew. The next day, he was inspired to write the timeless number one hit "Stay."

Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs

Looking back on it, Williams said, "Like a flood, the words just came to me." He didn't do anything with the future smash hit, though, until seven years later, after he'd formed a doo-wop group — Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs — and was looking for songs they could sing.

In addition to the Zodiacs' version (which had quite the resurgence in the late '80s when it appeared in Dirty Dancing), Williams's composition has been covered by the Hollies, the Four Seasons, Jackson Browne, and Cyndi Lauper. Not bad for a 15-year-old!

Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Listen to Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs perform "Stay" in 1967 here:

8.Adele wrote her very first song when she was 16 years old after her mother wanted her to leave London to attend university in Liverpool. The song — her future debut single, "Hometown Glory" — was a protest song of sorts explaining why she wanted to stay in London, her hometown.

Adele sitting onstage and playing guitar

Adele told Blue and Soul that she wrote the song "on the guitar — it's just four chords pressing one string." As for the song's subject matter, she added, "In London — even if I'm having a really shit day — there's still something I love about the place. So really, yeah, in general it is an ode to the place where I've always lived."

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Listen to Adele's "Hometown Glory" here:

9.Eddie Vedder was in his mid-20s when he joined Pearl Jam, but long before that, a teenage Vedder wrote one of their most famous songs, "Better Man," while sitting on his bed after a day in high school.

Eddie smiling and holding up a "No Bush 92" T-shirt

Reflecting on fame to the Los Angeles Times in 1996, Vedder said, "Sometimes I think of how far I've come from the teenager sitting on the bed in San Diego writing 'Better Man' and wondering if anyone would ever even hear it. But then there are times when it just all seems too much."

Anna Krajec / Getty Images

Listen to Pearl Jam's "Better Man" here:

10.Olivia Rodrigo was just 16 and starring on Disney+'s High School Musical: The Musical: The Series when she wrote "All I Want" from her character Nini's point of view for the show.

Close-up of Olivia

The show's executive producer Tim Federle was understandably impressed. “Olivia wrote this emotional, in-depth song in just three days while filming the series and going to school,” he told Playbill.

“It’s basically about Nini and, kind of, her boy troubles," Rodrigo told TVLine. "She just found out that E.J. really betrayed her and did something really untrustworthy, so she’s just grappling with that, and also looking back on her relationship with Ricky. I think it’s a very relatable concept, at least for me.”

The song ended up the biggest hit from the series, a trend on TikTok, and the impetus to her signing with Interscope. The rest — "Driver's License" and Sour — is history.

Jc Olivera / WireImage

Listen to Olivia Rodrigo's "Sour" here:

11.Stevie Wonder was only 15 years old when he cowrote "Uptight (Everything's Alright)." He'd arrived at a writing session with songwriters Sylvia Moy and Henry Cosby having already thought up the “Everything is alright, uptight” hook and an uptempo riff inspired by his time on tour with the Rolling Stones. Together, the three finished the rest of the Grammy-nominated classic.

Stevie Wonder holding a harmonica and smiling

Incredibly, the 15-year-old Wonder was no musical newbie. He'd already released four studio albums (including his debut at just 12 years old) and scored a chart-topping hit at age 13 with "Fingertips — Part 2."

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Listen to "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" here:

12.Long before she wrote "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)," a 13-year-old Kate Bush composed "The Man With the Child in His Eyes," which caught the ear of Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, who helped land her a record deal. The song became a top 10 UK hit when her debut album was released three years later, in 1978.

A young Kate Bush

Bush started writing songs when she was just 11, and recorded demos of them with the help of her older brothers, which eventually found their way to Gilmour. “I was intrigued by this strange voice,” Gilmour told the BBC. “I went to her house, met her parents down in Kent. And she played me, gosh, it must have been 40 or 50 songs on tape. And I thought, I should try and do something.”

Perhaps most remarkable of all is that "The Man With the Child in His Eyes" won the prestigious Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding British Lyric in 1979. Not bad for a 13-year-old!

Koh Hasebe / Shinko Music / Getty Images

Listen to Kate Bush's "The Man With the Child in His Eyes" here:

13.Black Francis (born Charles Thompson) wrote "Here Comes Your Man" — the biggest hit of the Pixies' career — when he was just 14 or 15 years old. The band was initially reluctant to record the poppy-sounding song at first, though, because their style was alternative/punk, and Black Francis had yet to discover punk music when he'd written it seven years earlier.

The Pixies

Still, "the Tom Petty song," as the band referred to it, was too infectious to ignore, and encouraged by producer Gil Norton, they recorded it for their second album, Doolittle.

Reflecting on the track to Spin magazine, Black Francis said he'd been writing songs for a couple of years by the time he wrote this one. "I had good musical encouragement in grade school, but I didn’t follow through on any of the lessons," he said. "I bought whatever I could get at the used-record store. They wouldn’t necessarily have the hippest punk rock records; it was more like Ten Years After and Led Zeppelin."

Rob Verhorst / Redferns

Listen to the Pixies' "Here Comes Your Man" here:

14.The 1980s icon Debbie Gibson released her triple-platinum debut album, Out of the Blue, when she was 16, and shortly thereafter became the youngest female artist to ever write, perform, and produce a number one hit ("Foolish Beat"). But what's even more impressive is that Gibson wrote another massive hit off the album — "Only in My Dreams" — when she was just 14.

Debbie seated and smiling

Gibson started writing songs at a very young age, and in 1983 — when she was only 12 — she submitted a demo of her original composition "I Come From America" to a song contest put on by the famous New York radio station WOR. When she won the contest, her mother converted the family garage into a recording studio for the budding young star.

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Listen to Debbie Gibson's "Only in My Dreams" here:

15.Booker T. Jones of Booker T. & the M.G.'s cowrote "Green Onions" — arguably the most famous instrumental song of the 20th century — when he was 17.

Booker in a suit

Jones's "musical talents became apparent at a very early age," read the liner notes to the band's debut album. "By the time he entered high school, Booker was already a semi-professional ... and while still in high school he worked as a staff musician for Stax Records."

Booker T. later told NPR how he came to write his famous song, saying, "Well, that happened as something of an accident. We were at the studio as session musicians to play a session for an artist who didn't show up. So we used the time to record a blues which we called 'Behave Yourself,' and I played it on a Hammond M3 organ. And Jim Stewart, the owner, was the engineer, and he really liked it — thought it was great, actually — and wanted to put it out as a record. And so we all agreed on that, and Jim told us that we needed something to record for a B side because we couldn't have a one-sided record. And one of the tunes that I'd been playing on piano, we tried on Hammond organ so that, you know, the record would have organ on both sides, and that turned out to be 'Green Onions.'"

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Listen to "Green Onions" by Booker T. & the M.G.'s here: