These People Inspired Some of History's Most Famous Songs
1. ‘Sweet Caroline’ by Neil Diamond (1969)
It was believed that Neil Diamond drew his inspiration from the cover of the September 7, 1962 issue of Life Magazine. However, Neil later confirmed that it was actually written about his ex-wife Marsha. The thing was that he needed a woman’s name with three syllables to fit the melody.
2. ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ by Paul McCartney (1970)
When The Beatles split up, Linda, wife of McCartney, served as a strong pillar of support to him. So, McCartney decided to write this song to express gratitude to Linda.
3. ‘Oh Sherrie’ by Steve Perry (1984)
Steve Perry wrote this song to the woman who he loved at the time, Sherrie Swafford, who even appeared in the music video. Unfortunately, their relationship didn’t last very long and as it turned out, Perry never married.
4. ‘She’s Always a Woman’ by Billy Joel (1977)
Billy Joel is adept at interweaving his music with meaningful words and melodies, and ‘she’s always a woman’ tells the tale of a modern woman whom Joel loved for all her flaws and foibles. The woman he talks of is his ex-wife Elizabeth Weber Small, whom he married in 1973.
5. ‘Woman’ by John Lennon (1981)
John Lennon was shot to death on December 8, 1980. This ‘Woman’ serving as an ode to his wife, was released as a posthumous single from the Double Fantasy album. Lennon stated that the song was a "grown-up version" of his song ‘Girl’.
6. ‘Brown Sugar’ by The Rolling Stones (1971)
Mick Jagger and model-singer Marsha Hunt conducted a brief and secret relationship, and have a daughter together, Karis Jagger. It is believed that ‘Brown Sugar’ was inspired by her. Singer Claudia Lennear claimed it was in fact written about her (as they were dating at the time). However, that hasn’t stopped people believing that the song was more than likely written about Hunt.
7. ‘It Ain’t Me, Babe’ by Bob Dylan (1964)
Bob Dylan’s biographers all agree that ‘It Ain’t Me, Babe’ was inspired by Suze Rotolo, his former girlfriend. That’s despite the fact that the song was originally recorded by another of Dylan’s girlfriends, folk singer Joan Baez. Her version of the song appeared on her 1964 album Joan Baez/5. The two became an item when Dylan was still a nobody.
8. ‘And I Love Her’ by The Beatles (1964)
The inspiration behind this song was Jane Asher, the English actress Paul McCartney was engaged to at the time. Jane Asher was an iconic figure for her influence in arts and culture, so the two seemed like the perfect pair. Unfortunately, only a year after the song was released, they separated.
9. ‘Crazy Love’ by Van Morrison (1970)
Janet “Planet” Rigsbee inspired Van Morrison’s ‘Crazy Love’ and his song ‘Tupelo Honey’. Rigsbee described the time she and Morrison first met as “alchemical whammo,” but the pair split up in 1973. They had a daughter named Shana who was born just after the release of his album Moondance in 1970.
10. ‘You’re So Vain’ by Carly Simon (1972)
The song is about a self-absorbed lover. Carly Simon created and performed ‘You’re So Vain’ in 1972. She told People magazine that the second verse was inspired by the American actor Warren Beatty, while it remains unclear whether he was the inspiration for the other verses in the song.
11. ‘True Blue’ by Madonna (1986)
‘True Blue’ was released in 1986 and describes the feelings she felt for Sean Penn, her husband at the time. In the liner notes of the album, Madonna described Penn as the "coolest guy in the universe."
12. ‘Day Dreaming’ by Aretha Franklin (1972)
The "Queen of Soul" wrote a song about a man to express her true passion and love for him. It is believed that singer Dennis Edwards of the band The Temptations inspired this song, as Franklin was engaged to him at the time. Edwards admitted that he should have married Franklin, but he was so scared of marrying this superstar.
13. ‘Carey’ by Joni Mitchell (1971)
After Joni Mitchell called it quits with Graham Nash, she decided to travel to the Greek island of Crete, where she met a man named Cary Raditz. He was an American cook who lived in a cave and worked at a local café on the island. She wrote ‘Carey’ as a birthday gift to Raditz, and misspelled his name on purpose.
14. ‘I Will Always Love You’ by Dolly Parton (1973)
At 21-years-old, Dolly Parton was discovered by country singer Porter Wagoner and was offered a spot on his TV show in 1967. This helped Parton’s burgeoning career, and they then forged a strong working relationship. After seven years, Parton decided to embark her solo career, but Wagoner was against it. To get him to understand, Parton dedicated a song to him expressing her unwavering appreciation and spiritual love.
15. ‘Girl from the North Country’ by Bob Dylan (1963)
The inspiration behind ‘Girl from the North Country’ is up for debate. Some insist the song pays tribute to his first girlfriend, Echo Helstrom, while others say he wrote it about the actress Bonnie Beecher, his former college girlfriend. There is even a third version that points to his girlfriend Suze Rotolo as she is shown on the album cover walking hand in hand with Dylan down Jones Street in New York.
16. ‘You Oughta Know’ by Alanis Morissette (1995)
Alanis Morissette’s lyrics never lack for inspiration and meaning, but she doesn't like to talk about it. The actor and comedian Dave Coulier claimed that this song might be about him. Besides, several other celebrities are also rumored to be the muse behind the song, including Mike Peluso, the ice hockey player and the actor Matt LeBlanc.
17. ‘The Hurricane’ by Bob Dylan (1975)
Bob Dylan co-wrote ‘The Hurricane’ with Jacques Levy in protest against the imprisonment of the middleweight boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. Dylan firmly believed that the boxer was arrested as an act of racism, which subsequently led to the trial and wrongful imprisonment.
18. ‘American Pie’ by Don McLean (1971)
The hugely-popular song refers to the plane crash that killed rock and roll performers Jiles Perry Richardson Jr. (The Big Bopper), Buddy Holly, and Ritchie Valens in 1959. The verse “The day the music died” features throughout the song as a tribute to the impact those artists had on the music scene. However, McLean never revealed the meaning behind this song.
19. ‘Tears in Heaven’ by Eric Clapton (1991)
Eric Clapton experienced a number of turbulent years in the early '90s. In 1990, a helicopter accident killed his friend and fellow musician Stevie Ray Vaughan; then several months later in 1991, his four-year-old son died after falling from the 53rd-floor apartment. He found solace in music, so many assume the song was born out of the grief he felt from all these losses.
20. ‘Coyote’ by Joni Mitchell (1976)
The lyrics of ‘Coyote’ lament the difficulties one encounters when connecting to people who come from different circumstances and walks of life. The song is allegedly about an affair between Mitchell and playwright Sam Shepard. This suggestion stems from Chris O’Dell’s 2009 autobiography, Miss O’Dell.