If you’re a fan of early ‘90s alternative rock, you may have heard of 4 Non Blondes. While the band only released one album, they amassed a dedicated following of fans and became famous for their hit single, “What’s Up?” But what you may not know is that the band’s lead singer, Linda Perry, went on to write some huge pop hits for other artists. Here, we take a comprehensive look at the songs she’s written for other well-known musicians.
Who Is Linda Perry?
Linda Perry was born in Springfield, Massachusetts on April 5th, 1965. The daughter of a Brazilian mother and a Portuguese-American, Perry’s childhood was anything but idyllic. She battled kidney disease and drug addiction when she was young and did not get along well with her parents.
“I was raised in a time when parents brought out belts and you got tough love,” she told The Orange County Register in 2014. “If some of these things had happened today, it would be called child abuse, let’s just face it, there’s prosecutions from that. But I love my mother. I loved my dad, who passed nine years ago now. I actually had more issues with him than my mom, because my dad didn’t see me until I became famous. So, who is worse? The one that showed me affection through tough love or the one that just left?”
Eventually, Perry moved to the West Coast to pursue a career in music. She started out as a solo performer in San Francisco, playing Bay Area nightclubs and getting the attention of her fellow local musicians. One of these musicians was bassist Christa Hillhouse, who was looking for a lead singer for a band she was putting together.
Linda Perry Was The Lead Singer of ‘4 Non Blondes’
After Perry came on board in 1989, 4 Non Blondes began playing shows at local bars in San Francisco. Many of them were lesbian bars—all of the band members were openly gay—and the band developed a large lesbian following as a result. In 1992, 4 Non Blondes inked a deal with Interscope Records and released their first and only album, Bigger, Better, Faster, More! The song “What’s Up?”, which was released in 1993 as the record’s second single, became a huge hit in the U.S. and around the world.
Written by Perry, “What’s Up?” is a powerful anthem about feeling like an outsider due to oppression.
“I guess with all the emotions I grabbed my guitar and just wrote this song,” Perry told Rolling Stone.“It came out as a complete song. I heard Christa’s feet run down the hallway and she was all, ‘What was that?’ And I’m like, ‘It’s a song I’m writing.’ She’s like, ‘Bring that into practice. That’s amazing.’ I’d written a lot of songs prior to that, but it was probably my first real song. It was all together.”
The former 4 Non Blondes frontwoman also says she knew “What’s Up?” was going to be successful, and tried to keep it off the band’s first album to prevent them from falling prey to one-hit-wonder syndrome.
“I don’t mean to sound like a dick, but I knew it was going to be huge,” Perry said. “At a meeting with the label, I had presented the idea of us leaving ‘What’s Up?’ off the album. I said, ‘We’re new. The album is going to be buried under this song and we’re not going to have a chance with anything else.’ Everybody looked at me and thought I was crazy.”
But Perry was right. 4 Non Blondes disbanded in 1994 and—for better or worse—“What’s Up?” has become the song they will forever be known for.
Linda Perry Has Written Songs For Some Big Time Musicians
Thankfully, Perry’s career didn’t end when 4 Non Blondes broke up. Quite the contrary—the 55-year-old musician became a prolific songwriter and producer, creating music for some of the most successful pop stars of the 2000s and ‘10s, including:
In addition to writing the 2001 smash “Get the Party Started,” Perry co-wrote and produced the majority of Pink‘s second album, Missundaztood. “With that song, it became clear to me that helping artists with their vision is kind of cool,” she said.
“I knew she was the right person for the song,” Perry said of Aguilera and the 2002 hit, “Beautiful.” “I realized, ‘Oh, she’s insecure. She’s one of those beautiful people who’s got everything but is super insecure. Okay, this song is hers.’”
Perry co-wrote Gwen Stefani‘s 2004 solo hit, “What You Waiting For?” “We took turns coming up with ideas for the verses,” Perry explained. “[Gwen] wanted to do something where there was a bunch of different characters, so I set up six microphones and labeled them, and at every line I told her which microphone to go to.”
“Most of the words in the verses are just me ad-libbing and she just wrote them down,” Perry said of her experience helping Alicia Keys write the 2007 song, “Superwoman.” “It was a great hook and she would’ve figured it out on her own, with or without me. But to be generous and invite me to be a part of that process was awesome.”
And the list does not stop there. Other well-known artists Linda Perry has lent her songwriting and/or producer talents to include Ariana Grande, Adele, The Chicks (formerly The Dixie Chicks), Weezer, Courtney Love, Celine Dion, Miley Cyrus, Cheap Trick, Kelly Osbourne, and Lisa Marie Presley.
Even though 4 Non Blondes only had one hit, it’s pretty clear that Perry has remained a powerful force in the music industry.