You’ve seen them in movies, you’ve seen them on television,
Taylor Swift has built a career around writing songs about people (mostly ex-boyfriends), and we have come to expect it from her. I mean, Taylor is collecting quite the menagerie of random, attractive male celebrities like John Mayer, Harry Styles, Taylor Lautner, Joe Jonas, and countless others. Songs about real people more traditional than Taylor’s breakup ballads. The discography of any teary-eyed teenage boy writing about crushes, home videos of young women swooning over the Backstreet Boys, and Grammy award-winning songwriters are basically doing the same thing.
“In Your Eyes” Peter Gabriel
Actress Rosanna Arquette (you know, from Pulp Fiction) is quite the muse. She first inspired the song “Roseanna” by Toto, but I’m not sure if that is an accomplishment. Being Peter Gabriel’s former lover and live-in girlfriend, Arquette must have quite the pair of eyes to inspire a much better song with “In Your Eyes.” Her beautiful eyes will forever be remembered in John Cusack’s Say Anything. What a legacy.
“Hey Jude” Paul McCartney
During the divorce of his parents John and Cynthia Lennon, Julian Lennon was quite the sad child, but leave it to Uncle Paul to fix things. To console the youth, Paul wrote the song “Hey Jude,” then titled “Hey Jules,” only for it to become one of The Beatles biggest hits.
“You’re So Vain” Carly Simon
This one is up for contention, but Carly Simon has admitted it was about someone. Unfortunately, that someone could be a number of people. Most likely “You’re So Vain” was about Warren Beatty, Mick Jagger, James Taylor, or Cat Stevens (all of which make for an interesting story). Beatty once said, “Let’s be honest, it is about me,” but Simon claims the popular song is about a combination of three men.
“Sweet Caroline” Neil Diamond
Perhaps the older Neil gets the more he’s concerned about his image, but the classic story of “Sweet Caroline” does not jive with his story as of 2014. The current story is that he wrote a song about his then wife, Marsha, but needed a three syllable name. The classic story is much creepier. In 2007, Diamond admitted the song is about President John F. Kennedy’s daughter Caroline. After seeing a magazine cover featuring the young Caroline Kennedy, Diamond was struck with her innocence and beauty and hoped to sing the song to her if he ever met her. See, much creepier.
“Me and Mr. Jones” Amy Winehouse
The tragic life Amy Winehouse has become the stuff of music legend. A once-in-a-generation talent, Winehouse changed the music industry in her few short years recording music. Nas, whose real name is Nasir Jones, claims that one of her biggest hits off of Back to Black, “Me and Mr. Jones” is about him. Good friends who recorded together, Nas and Winehouse must have had a much closer relationship given the song’s lyrics.
“Dude Looks Like a Lady” Steven Tyler
I love Mrs. Doubtfire, and I was introduced to Aerosmith very young because of the song “Dude Looks Like a Lady” featured in the film. The not-so-politically correct song was used for laughs in the movie, but there were probably few laughs from the “dude” the song is about. In an interview, songwriter Desmond Childs said that Tyler got the idea after approaching a gorgeous girl with long blonde hair at a bar only to have Vince Neil of Motley Crue turn around.
“I’ll Stick Around” Foo Fighters
Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, formerly of Nirvana, is no stranger to Courtney Love. Love’s holding of the Kurt Cobain estate includes some of the rights to many Nirvana songs, songs that Grohl had involvement in creating. The two have been at odds for years battling over the rights, leading Grohl to write the song “I’ll Stick Around” with its repeating lyric “I don’t owe you anything.”
“Candle in the Wind” Elton John
One of Elton John’s finest songs, “Candle in the Wind” is a masterpiece of songwriting by John and Bernie Taupin. The song was originally a tribute to actress Marilyn Monroe and referenced her short, eventful life as the titled candle in the wind. Taupin rewrote the song, with John’s consent, in 1997 to honor Princess Diana with the lyrics “They made you change your name, never knowing who to cling to when the rain set in” and “even when you died, the press still hounded you.”