When you’re an artist, whether you’re a painter, writer, or singer, there’s usually a human inspiration behind your greatest works. Those people that have touched you so deeply that you can’t help but personify them in song, or in a painting. Those people are your muse, your reason for creating. We’ve put together a list of people that have been the inspiration behind some of your favorite songs.The whole world became silent when Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in 1997. When Sir Elton John was chosen to perform a song at her funeral, he chose the iconic “Candle in the Wind,” that was written about Marilyn Monroe in 1973.
Songwriter Bernie Taupin re-wrote the lyrics in order to sound right for Princess Diana’s funeral. While the entire world was mourning the death of Princess Diana, the song became incredibly popular. The song did so well that it was more popular than the original version.
The talented Cyndi Lauper hit the scene with her album She’s So Unusual. One of the top hits on that album was the love ballad “Time After Time.” It was obviously a song of love, but who was it about?
At the beginning of her career, Cyndi was dating her manager, David Wolff. Not only does David appear in the music video of “Time After Time,” the line in the song about the ticking clock is about him, too! Apparently, he once gave her an extremely loud clock as a present.
In 1988, U2 released the album Rattle and Hum, along with their hit song “Angel of Harlem.” For years, many fans wondered whether or not that song was written about a particular person.
Bono apparently wrote the song for the amazing jazz singer, Billie Holiday. After moving to Harlem, New York when she was a teenager, Billie quickly found herself elbows deep in the jazz circuit.
There has been quite a bit of controversy about this song, and who Jenny actually is. The lead guitarist of Tommy Tutone, Jim Keller, told People Magazine the truth in 1982. “Jenny is a regular girl, not a hooker. Friends of mine wrote her name and number on a men’s room wall at a bar. I called her on a dare, and we dated for a while. I haven’t talked to her since the song became a hit, but I hear she thinks I’m a real jerk for writing it.”
Members of the band all have a different story. Lead singer, Tommy Heath, told WGN Morning News in 2008 that he was responsible for writing the name and number of one of his friends on the bathroom wall. He claimed that he and the girl thought it was a really funny joke. But in 2009, songwriter Alex Call claimed it wasn’t real, and he just came up with it.
When Doug Fieger first saw Sharona Alperin, he immediately fell in love with her. Despite their age difference, he was 25 and she was 17, the love they shared inspired him to write many songs about her. But only one of those songs became a household name. Thanks to the song, The Knack had a huge hit on their hands.
Fieger said that when he fell in love with Sharona, it was like getting hit on the head with a baseball bat. During their four-year-long relationship, he wrote many songs about her. It only took him about 15 minutes to write “My Sharona.” After their break-up, Sharona became a realtor in LA and still is today. Check out her website, Mysharona.com so you can listen to the song again.
In 1992, REM released their song “Man on the Moon.” What many people didn’t realize was that there were many references in the song to comedian, and cast member of Saturday Night Live, Andy Kauffman. Andy died of lung cancer in 1984 and rumors circulated that he faked his own death.
Mike Mills explained why they wrote the song for Andy.“He’s the perfect ghost to lead you through this tour of questioning things. Did the moon landing really happen? Is Elvis really dead? …he was the perfect guy to tie all this stuff together as you journey through childhood and touchstones of life.”
It’s pretty obvious what this song is about. Steve Perry wrote this song about his love, Sherrie Swafford. Sherrie was even featured in the music video! Unfortunately, the couple’s relationship didn’t last long, at all.
Even though they didn’t last, the song sure did! It remains to be on of the best anthems of the 1980s. The song made it to number three on the pop chart and number one on the rock chart. The music video was pretty popular on MTV too.
Some of the best songs are those that come out of nowhere. Slash and Steven Adler were getting ready to jam at their condo on Sunset Strip in Hollywood, when they were joined by Izzy Stradlin’s chords and some base-line from Duff McKagan. While Axl Rose was upstairs, he heard them jamming, and was inspired to write some lyrics.
Even though the music being played downstairs was definitely inspiring, Rose was feeling the inspiration from another source, his girlfriend at the time, model Erin Everly. It came to him so quickly, that he finished all of the lyrics by the next day.
When you think about the music of the 1970s, Fleetwood Mac is one of the first bands that come to mind. When they released their song “Go Your Own Way” in 1976, fans had a feeling it had to do with a break-up, but no one knew for sure.
It surprised people when they realized the song was about the band’s lead guitarist, Lindsey Buckingham, and lead singer, Stevie Nicks, breaking up. Apparently, Stevie hated the line in the song that said: “Packing up, shacking up is all you wanna do,” but Lindsey wouldn’t remove it from the song.
In 1986, Madonna released the album “True Blue.” The album described her feelings for her husband at the time, Sean Penn. Madonna was absolutely head over heels in love with him.
Their marriage ended after four years but they still remained friends. Penn wrote a letter to Madonna explaining how much he admired her as an artist.
Even the most diehard U2 fans probably don’t know this song was written about Bono’s wife, Ali Hewson, because of all the time that he was gone recording the album, The Joshua Tree.
Bono even missed her birthday, but he made up for that when he wrote the song “Sweetest Thing” for her, and donated all of the profits to her charity of her choice, Chernobyl Children’s Project International.
Toto released the hit “Rosanna” in 1982. The song talks about finding that great love but losing it, too. The song was a BIllboard hit, peaking at the number 2 spot for five consecutive weeks.
While the band was recording the song, they joked about who it was about. They said that “Rosanna” was about Rosanna Arquette, an actress who was in a relationship with the keyboardist, Steve Porcaro. Even though band member David Paich, who wrote the song, denied that it was about Arquette, he eventually admitted to it in 2016 when he said, “She was cuter than ever and I had a crush on her, and as she walked out I just finished the line with ‘Rosanna.’”
Paul McCartney adapted the song “Hey Jules” into the song we know today as “Hey Jude.” After John Lennon divorced Cynthia Lillian Lennon, McCartney dedicated the song to Lennon’s son, Julian, to comfort him.
McCartney missed Cynthia and Julian after the divorce, so he went to visit them in Weybridge Surrey, England. While on the way to their house, he wrote “Hey Jude.” Cynthia had known McCartney since before the Beatles got big, so she was very grateful for his concern for her.
The early 1990s was a really rough time for the singer, Eric Clapton. In 1990, his manager, friend and musician Stevie Ray Vaughan, and two of his roadies were killed in a helicopter accident. Only a few months later, his four-year-old son died after falling out of New York City apartment building, 53 floors up.
After spending some time alone, Clapton wrote the song, “Tears in Heaven,” with Will Jennings. He reportedly said that the music was healing him because he got so much enjoyment from it. Because Clapton made public statements about childproofing windows and staircases, fans assumed the song was about the grief he experienced.
There’s no doubt that Alanis Morissette puts a lot of meaning and feeling in her music, but like so many artists, she doesn’t like to talk about the inspiration behind them. Alanis told a Canwest News Service journalist in 2008 that she doesn’t say who the songs are about because it’s a part of her personal process of expression.
Dave Coulier, an actor who played Joey Gladstone on the ABC sitcom Full House, claimed that the song might be about him. Coulier told the Boston Herald that the lyrics hit close to home for him because Alanis actually did call him once during dinner. He also said the song reminds him of himself when he was younger. But he wasn’t the only one claiming to be her muse, though. The hockey player for the New Jersey Devils, Mike Peluso, actor Matt LeBlanc, and even musician Leslie Howe, all claim to be the inspiration for Alanis.
Stevie Wonder released the album Songs in the Key of Life, in 1976. On the album was hit single “Isn’t She Lovely,” a song about the birth of his daughter Aisha Morris.
On the album version, his daughter could be heard crying during the intro and outro, but the crying sounds were taken out for the radio version so the introduction would be shorter.
Carly Simon’s song was clearly about a self-centered lover of hers. Carly told People magazine that when she wrote the second verse, she had actor Warren Beatty in mind. But was there an inspiration behind the other verses?
Carly Simon told Rolling Stone Magazine that James Tyler thought the song was about him, but it wasn’t, he was just vain. She also said the song wasn’t about Mick Jagger, either. Carly’s publicist told CNN in 2009 that the song was about a man named David. Fans immediately assumed she was talking about David Geffen. Carly thought it was silly because she had never even met David Geffen. People also speculated that the David they were talking about was David Cassidy or David Bowie.
Shortly before his death in 1980, John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono collaborated on an album together. After his death, the song “Woman” was released. It was a song Lennon had written for Yoko Ono.
Even though Lennon wrote the song for his wife, he intended the song to represent all women. Three days before he was murdered, John Lennon said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine that the song was a “grown-up version” of his song “Girl.”
In December of 1968, singer Graham Nash moved in with Joni Mitchell and her two cats. The couple moved into an adorable house in Los Angeles. The song talks about the delightful scene that Nash remembered having with Mitchell.
While out for breakfast one morning, the couple bought a vase on Ventura Boulevard. Even though it was such a simple event, Nash wrote a song about it, describing the beauty of simple domestic life. Nash wrote the song while Mitchell was out picking flowers to put in the vase.
If you can’t figure out how to leave your significant other, Paul Simon gives great advice in his song. Simon wrote the song after he left his wife Peggy Harper and began a relationship with actress Carrie Fisher.
Simon and Fisher married in 1983 and their marriage only lasted a year. But once they divorced, the couple began dating again. Simon wrote the song as advice from a mistress to the man she’s seeing on how to leave his wife.
Marilyn Monroe was the type of beautiful that never fades. Even after her death in 1962, Monroe still inspires people. Even though Joe Elliot of Def Leppard was only three at the time of her passing, she inspired him to write the song “Photograph.” The song describes the unbearable feeling of wanting something you could never possibly have.
There was obviously no way that Elliot could ever obtain Monroe, so her picture was put on their album cover and he recruited women that looked like her for the music video.
Neil Diamond found his inspiration from the cover of Life Magazine in September of 1962. On the cover was Caroline Kennedy riding a horse when she was a little girl. Five years went by and that image was still in his head, thus the reason the world has “Sweet Caroline.”
It took 42 years for Diamond to come out with the truth of his inspiration behind the song. In 2007, he performed the song for Caroline’s 50th birthday on national television. But in 2014, Diamond said the song was actually about his wife Marsha, but he needed a woman’s name with three syllables.
Billy Joel wrote the song “Uptown Girl” for his girlfriend at the time, Australian model Elle MacPherson. It wasn’t long after the couple broke up, that Joel began dating another model, Christie Brinkley. Two years before the couple was married, the song was released. So maybe both women helped inspire the song.
At the time, Joel was hanging out with the most famous women in the 1980s, so the original title of the song was “Uptown Girls.” Joel has also said that the song’s melody was inspired by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
There’s no doubt that when Paul McCartney writes a love song, he does it right. His song is one of his most significant songs because it was written about his wife Linda McCartney.
Linda was a great source of support when the Beatles split up. For that reason, McCartney was inspired to write the song to her as a tribute. Sadly, Linda died in 1998 from breast cancer.
Elton John was really good friends with tennis star, Billie Jean King. So good of friends that Elton asked lyricist Bernie Taupin to write a song for her. Bernie was a bit lost because he had no idea to write a song about tennis.
Because Billie was a member of the world tennis team called Philadelphia Freedom, the song was aptly titled, “Philadelphia Freedom,” even though the song wasn’t about tennis or Philadelphia. The song reached the top of the charts.