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19 Songs Written For Other People: Bet You Think This Song Is About You!

To my knowledge there are two songs that have been written about me. One was by a Rockabilly I dated in the ’90s, and the other was by my four-year-old son. In both cases the experience was thrilling.

In 2009 Lee Siegel asked in an article for the Wall Street Journal, “Where have all the muses gone?” Lee believes the creative world is suffering from a lack of muses.

“Artists may still have a muse, but the once-standard and then legendary relationship is no longer part of our common vocabulary. These days a muse’s role as equal partner and/or equal talent now outweighs her or his function as inspiration. Who, in our proudly individualistic culture wants to feel like a valet to someone else’s imagination?”

If only Lee had turned on the radio! The airwaves are crowded with songs about people. Sure most of the songs are about ex boyfriends or ex girlfriends, but who are we to question where the river of inspiration begins? Many of our favorite songs are not just about people, but about other famous people.

One of the most famous songs about another person is Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.” Carly has never publicly revealed who she wrote the song about, although she is said to have recently privately shared the information with Taylor Swift. On Carly’s website she has an entire page dedicated to keeping track of just how much information she has revealed about the song.

I may not ever inspire another song, but I will continue to encourage my son’s interest in the drums and kazoo in the hopes that he will one day surprise me again!

19 Songs Written For People: The Gift That Keeps on Giving!

  • Do you know who your favorite songs are about? 1 of 20
    Songs About People: I bet you think this song is about you

    Who inspired the song you are humming right now? Do you know? Let's find out!

     

    Image Credit: Vincent Lock

     

  • In Your Eyes 2 of 20
    gabriel-and-arquette

    If I had inspired "In Your Eyes," I would just drive around with the windows down and blast the song on repeat. At every red light I would try to make contact with the people in the next lane. I would yell over the chorus, "THIS SONG IS ABOUT ME!" I am guessing Rosanna Arquette is a bit more low key. 

     

    Written by Peter Gabriel, inspired by Rosanna Arquette

     

    Image Credit: PR Photos

  • Just Like Anyone 3 of 20
    aimee-mann-and-jeff

    One of the most tragic music stories of our generation is the accidental drowning death of singer Jeff Buckley. Aimee Mann wrote "Just Like Anyone" as a tribute to one night with Jeff. She says, "One night we met for a drink at a pub in NYC, and started writing messages to each other on a paper placemat that was there, instead of talking, because the music in the bar was really loud or something. An interesting effect of that was that we found ourselves writing things that we would never dare to say to each other out loud."

     

    Written by Aimee Mann, inspired by Jeff Buckley

     

    Image Credit: PR Photos, Wikimedia

  • Paper Doll 4 of 20
    john-and-taylor

    John Mayer fought song with song with "Paper Doll." Apparently irked to be yet another subject for a Taylor Swift break up song, Mayer told Rolling Stone, "["Dear John" is] cheap songwriting. It's abusing your talent to rub your hands together and go, 'Wait til he gets a load of this!' That's bulls--t... It really humiliated me at a time when I'd already been dressed down."

     

    Written by John Mayer, Inspired by Taylor Swift

     

    Image Credit: PR Photos

  • Candle in the Wind 5 of 20
    elton-and-marilyn

    Elton John's writing partner, Bernie Taupin, wrote "Candle in the Wind" as a commentary on celebrity. The song has been dedicated to Ryan White, and in 1997 a reworded version was performed in honor of Princess Diana. Bernie Taupin says, "I think the biggest misconception about 'Candle In The Wind' is that I was this rabid Marilyn Monroe fanatic, which really couldn't be further from the truth. It's not that I didn't have a respect for her. It's just that the song could just as easily have been about James Dean or Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain. I mean, it could have been about Sylvia Plath or Virginia Woolf. I mean, basically, anybody, any writer, actor, actress, or musician who died young and sort of became this iconic picture of Dorian Gray, that thing where they simply stopped aging. It's a beauty frozen in time."

     

    Lyrics by Bernie Taupin, Music by Elton John, Inspired by: Marilyn Monroe (and many more!)

     

    Image Credit: PR Photos, Wikimedia

  • Hey Jude 6 of 20
    McCartney-and-Lennon

    What started as a simple song to comfort a child as his parents were splitting up, became a rock icon celebrated for generations. "Hey Jude" was originally "Hey Julian," as this is how Paul McCartney began his song of comfort to the young boy. Paul explains, "I'd known Cynthia for a long time, she was a good friend. When people like that are getting divorced you can't just blank the wife. I'd got this little (tune) of ‘Hey Jules.' I was thinking of a nickname for Julian. ‘Hey Jules, don't make it bad, take a sad song and make it better.' You know? Don't be too brought down by this divorce, lad, it'll be all right, kind of style."

     

    Written by Paul McCartney, Inspired by Julian Lennon

     

    Image Credit: PR Photo

  • Hearts and Bones 7 of 20
    Simon-and-Fisher

    "Hearts and Bones" is one of my all time favorite Paul Simon albums. The title song is also one of the sweetest and most complicated love songs. It is both tribute and testimony to the marriage of Paul Simon and Carrie Fisher

    "You take two bodies and you twirl them into one 
    Their hearts and their bones"

     

    Written by Paul Simon, Inspired by Carrie Fisher

     

    Image Credit: PR Photo

  • Midnight in Montgomery 8 of 20
    alan-and-hank

    When Alan Jackson visited the grave of Hank Williams he had an unusual experience. He used that experience to write the song "Midnight in Montgomery." In the song, Alan describes meeting and talking with the ghost of  Hank Williams. 

    "I stopped for just a minute to see a friend outside of town
    Put my collar up, I found his name, and felt the wind die down

    Then a drunk man in a cowboy hat took me by surprise
    Wearing shiny boots, a Nudi suit and haunting haunted eyes"

     

    Written by Alan Jackson, Inspired by: Hank Williams

     

    Image Credit: PR Photos, Wikimedia

  • Man on the Moon 9 of 20
    REM-and-andy

    I never understood Andy Kaufman until R.E.M. wrote a song about him. "Man on the Moon" is whimsical, it is biographical, and it is one of my favorite R.E.M. songs to sing along to. It's hard to say why Michael Stipe felt inspired to pen a song about such an unusual character like Andy, but the result is amazing. A review from ALL Music says, "truly lovely, near-perfect song, one of R.E.M.'s most enduring achievements."

     

     

    Written by R.E.M., Inspired by Andy Kaufman

     

     

    Image Credit:  PR Photos, Andy Kaufman online

  • Your Body is a Wonderland 10 of 20
    john-and-jennifer

    Rumors have always flown about the inspiration for John Mayer's "Your Body is a Wonderland." Many believe one of John's earlier celeb girlfriends, Jennifer Love Hewitt, was the inspiration behind the "bubblegum tongue" love song, but she always denies it was her. (The song was also included on an album that came out before the pair dated.)

     

    Written by John Mayer, (maybe) Inspired by Jennifer Love Hewitt

     

     

    Image Credit: PR Photos

  • You’re So Vain 11 of 20
    carly-and-warren

    Considered one of the ultimate break-up songs of all time, Carly Simon has managed to keep her inspiration for the song to herself for over thirty years. This summer she revealed the secret to a woman who knows a thing or two about penning break-up anthems: Taylor Swift. During a stop on Swift's "Red" Tour, Carly Simon surprised audiences by joining Taylor on stage and they sang a duet of "You're So Vain." Most believe the song to be about Warren Beatty, but others speculate it could easily be about James Taylor, Mick Jagger, or Cat Stevens.

     

    Written by Carly Simon, (maybe) Inspired by Warren Beatty

     

    Image Credit: PR Photos

  • Sweet Caroline 12 of 20
    neil-and-caroline

    We all love to sing it, but did you ever wonder who Neil Diamond was singing about when he wrote "Sweet Caroline?" Neil kept the details about his inspiration to himself for decades before finally revealing in 2007 that a photograph of Caroline Kennedy was the spark for the song. He told Caroline about her part in the hit song when he sang the song to her, via satellite, on her 50th birthday. Neil says, "It was a No. 1 record and probably is the biggest, most important song of my career, and I have to thank her for the inspiration. I'm happy to have gotten it off my chest and to have expressed it to Caroline. I thought she might be embarrassed, but she seemed to be struck by it and really, really happy."

     

    Written by Neil Diamond, Inspired by Caroline Kennedy

     

    Image Credit: PR Photos

  • A Friend of a Friend 13 of 20
    dave-and-kurt

    Dave Grohl wrote a song about his band-mate, Kurt Cobain, while Kurt was sitting next to him. "A Friend Of A Friend" was written months before the breakthrough Nirvana album Nevermind came out, and it gives a lot of insight into the quirk and reverence Dave felt for Kurt. 

     

    "He needs a quiet room
    With a lock to keep him in
    It's just a quiet room
    And he's there

    He plays an old guitar
    With a coin found by the phone
    It was his friends guitar
    That he played"

     

    Written by Dave Grohl, Inspired by Kurt Cobain

     

    Image Credit: PR Photos,  Rollingstone Magazine

  • Wonderful Tonight 14 of 20
    eric-and-pattie

    Without a doubt, one of the most influential people in the music is Pattie Boyd. Name doesn't ring a bell? How about these songs: "Layla," "Something," "Wonderful Tonight?" Pattie inspired all three of those songs. She wrote a memoir titled Wonderful Tonight, and in it she speaks of being the inspiration for the song of the same name. "It was such a simple song but so beautiful and for years it tore at me. To have inspired Eric, and George before him, to write such music was so flattering. Yet I came to believe that although something about me might have made them put pen to paper, it was really all about them."

     

    Written by Eric Clapton, Inspired by Pattie Boyd

     

    Image Credit: PR Photos

  • Hey Hey, My My 15 of 20
    neil-young-and-John-Lydon

    Neil Young's warning song to rockers was always obviously pointed at Johnny Rotten of The Sex Pistols. The song became infamous for other reasons when a line from the lyrics was included in the suicide note Kurt Cobain left. Neil says, "I, coincidentally, had been trying to reach him through our offices to tell him that I thought he was great and he should do exactly what he thought he should do and f___ everybody else... So when he died and left that note, it struck a deep chord inside of me. It f___ed with me."

     

    Written by Neil Young, Inspired by John Lydon

     

    Image Credit: PR Photos

  • In the Name of Love 16 of 20
    u2-and-MLK

    I recently read a review of U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)" that blew me away. Here's something that stood out: "As did MLK himself, the song accomplishes so much in such a short span of time. And in yet another parallel, rather than diminishing, the power of [U2's] 'Pride' only grows with repeated exposure."

     

    Written by U2, Inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.

     

    Image Credit: PR Photos, Wikimedia

  • Last Kiss 17 of 20
    taylor-and-joe

    Every song on Taylor Swift's album, Speak Now, is about someone in the singer/songwriter's life. Fans studied every track and most quickly surmised that "Last Kiss" just had to be about Swift's broken heart caused by Joe Jonas. Taylor has said about the album, "This album is my opportunity to do that track-by-track. Each song is a different confession to a different person."

     

    Written by Taylor Swift, Inspired by Joe Jonas

     

    Image Credit: PR Photos

  • Cry Me a River 18 of 20
    justin-and-britney

    Justin Timberlake tried to be vague for years about the inspiration behind his Grammy award winning song, "Cry Me a River," but in 2011 the producer of the song spilled the beans. Timbaland revealed in an E! True Hollywood Story the song was written after the young couple got into a heated argument on the phone.  Timberlake says, "I was on a phone call that was not the most enjoyable phone call. I walked into the studio and he (Timbaland) could tell I was visibly angry."

     

    Written by Justin Timberlake, Inspired by Britney Spears 

     

    Image Credit: PR Photos

  • You Oughta Know 19 of 20
    alannis-and-dave

    In case you worried, you should know that while "You Oughta Know" is full of hurt and rage, Alanis and the guy she wrote the song about are doing okay. In 2008 Dave Coulier finally admitted that, yes, he is the one who left a mess when he went away. Dave says, "I listened to the song over and over again, and I said, 'I think I have really hurt this person.'" The former flames met up to work things out and Dave says, "It was beautiful. We're good."

     

    Written by Alanis Morissette, Inspired by Dave Coulier

     

    Image Credit: PR Photos

  • American Pie 20 of 20
    american-pie

    Don McLean was just a kid when the airplane that carried Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper crashed. He grew up to write about the crash and the influence those three men had on him. 

    "A long, long time ago
    I can still remember how that music used to make me smile
    And I knew if I had my chance
    That I could make those people dance
    And maybe they'd be happy for a while"

     

    Written by Don McLean, Inspired by Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper

     

    Image Credit: PR Photos, LastFM Archives


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