Do you suppose you already know who Carly Simon was “anticipating”? Who impressed “Expensive Prudence”? How concerning the tales behind such classics as “Layla,” “Philadelphia Freedom” and “Killing Me Softly With His Tune”? Whereas some stars need their songs to be universally relatable and keep away from leaving clues a couple of tune’s origins, others are much less refined. We placed on our Sherlock Holmes hats to determine the folks and tales behind a few of pop’s greatest hits.
Carly Simon’s “Anticipation”
Within the early ‘70s, Simon was set to share a invoice at Carnegie Corridor with Cat Stevens. With the intention to get to know him higher, she invited the man hitmaker to her residence for dinner. He by no means confirmed. “I didn’t know again then that he was a flake,” she instructed an viewers years later. In her frustration, Simon picked up a guitar and usual a tune within the model of a Cat Stevens hit, which turned her 1972 monitor “Anticipation,” about somebody who was “making me wait.”
Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”
Stephen Stills first met folks singer Judy Collins at a nightclub, after which he was employed to do session guitar work for her 1968 album Who Is aware of The place the Time Goes. “I used to be smitten,” Collins says. “He was awfully handsome.” They started a torrid affair. However when she broke it off, to focus on her profession, a pining Stills wrote his basic “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” for her. Earlier than its launch in 1969, Stills invited his ex-lover to his lodge room to listen to it. Afterward, Collins mentioned, each she and Stills cried. Then she delivered a devastating line: “Oh, Stephen,” she instructed him, “it’s such a good looking tune. Nevertheless it’s not profitable me again.”
The keyboardist of Toto, David Paich, wrote the Grammy-winning tune in 1982, when his bandmate Steve Porcaro was relationship the actress Rosanna Arquette. Paich selected the title as a result of it match so properly along with his melody. 4 years later, Peter Gabriel wrote his hit “In Your Eyes” for Arquette, whom he was then relationship. And she or he satisfied Gabriel to permit director Cameron Crowe to make use of the tune in his movie Say Something…, within the “boombox” scene with actor John Cusack, which turned iconic.
Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe”
Dylan forged his then-girlfriend of the early ’60s, Suze Rotolo, as his co-star on the duvet of his 1963 album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. The 2 are seen there snuggling on a wintery New York morning. The following yr, when issues unraveled between them, Dylan penned this basic tune about diverging paths for the lady he known as, in his memoir, “essentially the most erotic factor I’d ever seen.”
Joan Baez’s “Diamonds and Rust”
Each unhappy and scathing, this 1975 ballad captures in verse Baez’s advanced relationship with former lover Bob Dylan. There’s honest longing, but in addition jealousy, bewilderment, bitterness and no scarcity of admiration.
The Beatles’ “And I Love Her,” “Yesterday” & “I’m Trying By means of You”
All three have been penned by Paul McCartney for mannequin Jane Asher, whom he dated within the mid-’60s.
The Beatles’ “Hey Jude”
Feeling paternal, McCartney wrote this tune of consolation for John Lennon’s son Julian, who was then simply 5, after his father divorced his mom, Cynthia. The tune, launched as a “non-album single” in 1968, was the primary launch on the Beatles’ new Apple label.
The Beatles’ “Expensive Prudence”
The “Expensive Prudence, received’t you come out to play. Expensive Prudence, greet the brand-new day…” of the tune is Prudence Farrow (now Bruns), the daughter of movie director John Farrow and actress Maureen O’Sullivan, and youthful sister of actress Mia Farrow. It was at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s retreat in 1968, the place Prudence’s fellow college students included all 4 members of the Beatles, that her habits led John Lennon to write down the tune, which appeared on the Beatles’ White Album. “Folks over time would have these the explanation why I used to be ‘Expensive Prudence’ that have been utterly off the wall and nearly disturbing, like I used to be a heroin addict or I misplaced my thoughts or all these loopy the explanation why John wrote the tune,” Bruns instructed Parade. “It bothered me. No person believed that I didn’t have an affair with him.” Learn the complete Parade interview with Prudence Bruns and get her ideas on the tune, the Beatles, world peace and extra!
Paul McCartney’s “Too Many Folks” & John Lennon’s “How Do You Sleep?”
On his second post-Beatles album, Ram, McCartney takes a swipe at Lennon, alluding to him busting up the band. “You took your fortunate break and broke it in two,” he sings. That very same yr, 1971, John shot again with “How Do You Sleep?” on his Think about album. Referencing the previous “Paul Is Lifeless” rumors, Lennon seethes “these freaks was proper once they mentioned you was useless.”
John Lennon’s “Lady” & “Lovely Boy”
On his ultimate album, 1980’s Double Fantasy with Yoko Ono, Lennon includes a swoon for his spouse, and for all ladies, in “Lady,” calling them “the opposite half of the sky,” a reference to a Chinese language proverb. “Lovely Boy” was written for Lennon’s solely youngster with Ono, Sean Ono Lennon.
Paul Simon’s “50 Methods to Depart Your Lover”
Following his divorce from his first spouse, Peggy Harper, within the mid-’70s, Rhymin’ Simon particulars alternative ways to ditch a relationship. In 1976, it turned Simon’s sole No. 1 solo hit, after years of chart-topping success within the duo Simon & Garfunkel.
Dolly Parton’s “I Will All the time Love You”
Many assume that one in all Dolly Parton’s best-known songs, initially written and recorded in 1973, refers to a romantic goodbye. In actual fact, it was an expert one. Her farewell was to the nation star Porter Wagoner, who had given Dolly her break with a daily gig on his common TV present. When she left him and his program to fly solo, she provided this expression of loyalty, thanks and remorse.
The Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar”
A extremely objectifying—and a few would say racist—salivation over the sexual powers of black ladies, this rocking 1971 hit from the album Sticky Fingers has drawn a lot criticism over time. The lyrics have been written by Mick Jagger in erotic honor of his secret girlfriend on the time, the mannequin Marsha Hunt, however might also be about backing singer Claudia Lennear. Hunt was additionally the mom of his first youngster, Karis, who wasn’t acknowledged again then. Later, Jagger mentioned that if he had it to do over, he would have chosen his phrases for the tune with a bit extra finesse.
Girl Gaga’s “Joanne”
In December 1974, Gaga’s aunt, Joanne Stefani Germanotta, died of lupus at age 19. And although the singer by no means met her, the loss significantly affected her household, in addition to Gaga’s work as an artist. Her debut album, The Fame, includes a poem written by Joanne within the album booklet. The singer has a tattoo of the date of her aunt’s loss of life on her left bicep. In 2012, her dad and mom named their New York restaurant after Joanne. 4 years later, Gaga wrote this tune and used it because the title monitor of her fifth solo album.
Taylor Swift’s “Expensive John”
Man, how a lot did Taylor Swift hate John Mayer when she wrote this 2010 tune about him? In a single verse, she refers to “all the women that you just’ve run dry/have drained, lifeless eyes/’trigger you burned them out.” Mayer retaliated by telling Rolling Stone, “It actually humiliated me at a time after I’d already been dressed down. I imply, how would you’re feeling if, on the lowest you’ve ever been, somebody kicked you even decrease?”
Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven,” “Fantastic Tonight” & “Layla”
After the horrific loss of life of his 4-year-old son in an accident, Clapton wrote one in all his most rewarded songs, “Tears in Heaven.” (It took 4 high Grammys in 1992.) In a much more optimistic second, he honored the great thing about his then-lover, the mannequin Pattie Boyd, with the 1977 tune “Fantastic Tonight.” Remarkably, an irritation had impressed it: She was taking perpetually to resolve on her outfit earlier than going out for the night, leaving Clapton sufficient time to write down a tune—one which expressed his emotions that, no matter she picked out, she’d look “great tonight.” Seven years earlier, Clapton had penned an much more well-known piece for Pattie. On the time, in 1970, she was married to one in all his closest mates, George Harrison. Clapton’s wild want for his good friend’s spouse birthed one of many best pining songs (and best guitar solos) of all time, “Layla.” (Clearly, Boyd had one thing particular, as a result of two years earlier, Harrison had written one other basic tune, “One thing,” for her, which turned one of the vital recorded love songs ever.)
Neil Sedaka’s “Oh! Carol”
When he was a rising star of the Brill Constructing tune manufacturing unit scene within the late ’50s, Neil Sedaka wrote a tune a couple of lady he had dated in highschool, one Carol Klein. By then, Carol had modified her title—to Carole King! She had her lyricist writing companion (and husband) Gerry Goffin pen a cheeky reply tune, titled “Oh, Neil!” However Neil had the final chuckle. In 1959, his single turned his first High 10 hit, whereas the Goffin/King tune stiffed.
Elton John’s “Philadelphia Freedom”
In 1975, Elton John requested his lyric-writing companion, Bernie Taupin, to salute his good friend, the tennis celebrity Billie Jean King. Collectively, John and King went on to boost thousands and thousands for LGBTQ-related causes, although on the time the tune was launched neither one was publicly out.
Madonna’s “True Blue”
A High 10 smash in 1986, this bubbly dance-pop hit captures the giddy excessive of Madonna’s marriage on the time to actor Sean Penn. It additionally served because the title monitor to her third studio album.
Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s “Loopy in Love,” “Maintain Up,” “Drunk in Love,” “4:44” & Every thing Is Love album
The king and queen of hip-hop share a favourite theme—their affection for one another. In “Loopy in Love,” from their freshly relationship days of 2003, she sings about how nuts she was for Jay. Whereas her 2013 songs, like “Drunk in Love,” revel within the couple’s erotic connection, in “Mine” she admits, “I’m not feeling like myself for the reason that child/Are we even gonna make it?” It will get worse in “Maintain Up” from 2016, by which Bay smacks Jay for his wandering eye, leaving him to beg for forgiveness in his tune “4:44.” All of it got here full circle with the songs on their joint Every thing Is Love album final yr. In tune after tune, the couple claims to have weathered their storms.
Nick Cannon’s “I’m a Slick Rick”
In “Bagpipes From Baghdad,” Eminem pines for his alleged previous flame Mariah Carey. However after she, and then-husband Nick Cannon, insisted that the 2 had by no means been a pair, Em hit again with “The Warning,” by which he places down each Mariah and Nick. Cannon answered with this uncooked tune in 2010 by which he calls Em a “clown,” and impotent in addition.
Weapons N’ Roses’ “Candy Baby o’ Mine”
Weapons N’ Roses modeled the music for the band’s solely No. 1 hit on Lynyrd Skynyrd. However when it got here time for the lyrics for this 1988 head-banger, frontman Axl Rose appeared no additional for inspiration than his then-girlfriend, the mannequin Erin Everly, the daughter of Don Everly of one of many world’s best concord duos, the Everly Brothers.
Billy Joel’s “She’s All the time a Lady,” “Simply the Approach You Are” & “Uptown Woman”
“She’s All the time a Lady” and “Simply the Approach You Are” have been every written in 1977 for Joel’s first spouse, Elizabeth Weber, who was additionally his tough-minded supervisor. As a result of Weber’s exhausting model brought on some sexists to label her unfeminine, Joel asserted that “She’s All the time a Lady” to him. Six years later, after the couple had divorced, Joel penned “Uptown Woman” for mannequin Elle Macpherson, whom he was relationship on the time. Earlier than the tune got here out, nevertheless, he obtained concerned with one other mannequin, Christie Brinkley, who seems within the tune’s video, and whom Joel married two years later.
Ed Sheeran’s “Grocery store Flowers”
Although Ed wrote this 2017 tune to grieve, and honor, his grandmother who had simply died, he penned it from the perspective of his mom for the lady who had given her life.
Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Personal Approach”
Fleetwood Mac’s greatest album, 1977’s Rumours, was fueled by anger, jealousy and frustration. A few of its most potent songs mirrored the breakup of two of its key singer-songwriters, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. In “Go Your Personal Approach,” Buckingham lashes out at Nicks, who had dumped him. Within the tune, he claims that “packing up, shacking up’s all you need to do.” Stevie demanded he take away the lyric. He refused. “It was like, I’ll make you endure for leaving me. And I did [suffer),” Nicks told Rolling Stone. She retaliated with “Silver Springs,” a gorgeous ballad in which she declares, “I know I could have loved you/But you would not let me.” “Springs” was left off the original album, which incensed Nicks. The song did, however, become the B-side of “Go Your Own Way” when it was released as a single, which became a Top 10 hit. Even so, each artist remained bitter over the other’s song for years.
U2’s “Angel of Harlem”
“Lady Day,” aka Billie Holiday, became the subject of this fan-letter/anthem, with lyrics by lead singer Bono, to the doomed and brilliant vocal legend. It appears on the band’s 1988 Rattle and Hum album.
Don McLean’s “American Pie” & “Vincent”
It’s hard to think of a hit that was inspired by a greater number of real life people than the 1971 blockbuster “American Pie.” It was as much a name-that-star quiz as a song. “Pie” used as its central image “the day the music died,” referencing the deaths of early rockers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper in a 1959 plane crash. The highly encoded words also feature allusions to Elvis Presley (“the king”), Bob Dylan (“the jester”), the Byrds (“eight miles high”), the Beatles (“Sergeants played a marching tune”), the Rolling Stones (“Jack Flash sat on a candlestick”) and Janis Joplin (“a girl who sang the blues”).
The next year, McLean scored another hit with one of the most sensitive songs ever written about an artist. His “Vincent” presented an empathic view of the troubled Vincent van Gogh, using as its subtitle “Starry Starry Night,” which alluded to an iconic 1889 painting by the artist.
Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly With His Song”
Given how many stars he alluded to in his songs, it’s only fitting that Don McLean should have inspired a hit by someone else. Singer-songwriter Lori Leiberman was so besotted by his song “Empty Chairs” that she and co-writers Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox created “Killing Me Softly With His Song.” She released her version in 1972, but it was Roberta Flack’s take, the next year, that went No. 1.
R.E.M.’s “Man on the Moon”
R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe penned the lyrics to this 1992 single about the performance artist/comedian Andy Kaufman. In it, he alluded to the star’s consciously bad Elvis impersonation, as well as the rumors that he had faked his death in 1984. Later, film director Milos Forman used the song’s name as the title of a movie based on Kaufman’s life.
David Bowie’s “The Jean Genie”
Smitten with the wild moves, and slinky figure of proto-punk rocker Iggy Pop, Bowie penned this tart piece, a hit in 1972. For another reference, the title is a pun on the name of the transgressive French novelist Jean Genet.
Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue”
Holly named his 1957 hit for Peggy Sue Gerron, girlfriend to the drummer in his band, the Crickets, during a period when the couple had broken up.
Ritchie Valens’ “Donna”
Seminal Latin rocker Ritchie Valens scored the biggest hit of his career with this 1958 song of devotion to his high school sweetheart, Donna Ludwig. Believe it or not, “La Bamba” was that song’s B-side!
Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River”
After a contentious breakup with his girlfriend of the early aughts, Britney Spears, Justin wrote this song, which appeared on his 2002 debut album, about the pain of his rejection. “Your bridges were burned/Now it’s your turn to cry,” he sang. Though Spears never admitted it, her co-writer on her song “Everytime” later revealed that the song served as her apologetic, and regretful, response.
Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”
The trippy 1975 masterwork from the album Wish You Were Here was conceived and written by the band as a tribute to their former member Syd Barrett, a founding member of Pink Floyd, who had been ousted by his colleagues due to his drug use and his mental health issues. Having removed and replaced him, however, the band felt guilty and still much admired his brilliance—as this song notes: “You shone like the sun: Shine on, you crazy diamond.”
Hall and Oates’ “Sara Smile”
Daryl Hall penned the lyrics to his group’s breakthrough 1976 hit in honor of his longtime girlfriend, Sara Allen. She went on to earn co-writing credits on four big H&O hits, including “Maneater.” The couple stayed together for nearly 30 years before breaking up in 2001.
Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”
The greatest sing-along chorus in the Neil Diamond catalog found inspiration in tragedy. Diamond began writing this piece after seeing a picture of young Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy. He completed the song in 1969, six years after the president’s assassination, when Caroline was 11. It is an eighth-inning staple at Boston Red Sox games.