Many will agree that musicians have a particular image in mind when playing their music, explaining why some of the most beautiful songs were inspired by real people. So let’s discover the backstories of those of these love songs and discover who inspired them. In most cases, the individuals who inspired the music was a person the singer loved.
However, in other cases, the songs are inspired by persons who the musicians adored. Though many of these musicians were brave enough to title the name of the song after their muse, some were subtle about the name. So are you ready to discover some of the women and men who inspired some of the most beautiful songs of all time? If yes, then read on.
“The Girl from Ipanema” by Musicians Astrud Gilberto, João Gilberto, and Stan Getz (1964)
It began in a neighborhood of the seaside of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil 1962. The writers noticed a beautiful 17-year-old girl called Helo Pinheiro on her daily routine through the beach where she used to pass the Veloso Café and sometimes get in the café to purchase cigarettes for her mother. Her beautiful features used to capture the heart of every man who would get a glimpse of her.
Initially named “Menina que passa” (The Girl Who Passes By), this song was about the beauty of the youth and the pang of melancholy because of the thought of youth fading. This tune made Pinheiro famous and she went on to become a model and a bikini store owner in Sao Paulo. She even appeared on the cover Brazilian Playboy in the year 1987 and again in 2003 at the age of 59 years.
“Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond (1969)
Neil Diamond’s inspiration for the song Sweet Caroline was Caroline Kennedy. He saw her from the cover of the 1962 issue of Life Magazine. It was an image of Caroline Kennedy riding a horse when she was young similar to the one above.
This image remained at the back of him so much so that five years later, Sweet Caroline hit song was born. It is after 42 years that the composer did reveal the inspired him to write the song in an interview with CBS’s The Early Show. Funny enough, he performed the song in 2007 at Caroline’s 50th birthday.
“Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly (1957)
Buddy Holly helped out his drummer friend Jerry Allison and called the new hit song Peggy Sue, after the name of the woman that Jerry was swooning over at the time.
The song did win the heart of Peggy Sue, since Allison indeed tied the knot with her. There was a sequel song Peggy Sue Got Married which failed to hit the charts.
“Donna” by Ritchie Valens (1958)
Ritchie Valen was popular with his song La Bamba, but Donna was his highest charting song. This hit was inspired by his high school sweetheart Donna Ludwig.
This hit was number two in the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the year 1959. He stayed in contact with her until February 3, 1959, when he was tragically killed in a plane crash.
“She’s Always a Woman” by Billy Joel (1977)
Billy Joel released this hit in 1977, about a modern woman whom Joel adored. It was inspired by his ex-wife Elizabeth Weber Small. She managed his career and even secured him a successful future at the time when Billy was signing bad deals.
In the hit, Billy talks how some said he had tough negotiating skills that many saw as masculine, but not our Billy! It was those skills were making her even more of a woman. Unfortunately, they divorced in 1982.
“Wild World” by Cat Stevens (1970)
This song was a hit in 1970. Just like Patti D’Arbanville, this song was inspired by Patti D’Arbanville whom Stevens was dating at the time.
She was a model and an actress and even appeared in Andy Warhol’s Flesh when she was just 16 years old.
“Photograph” by Def Leppard (1983)
This hit was inspired by the timeless beauty of Marilyn Monroe. When she died, Joe Elliot of the rock band Def Leppard was just three years old. However, Monroe’s beauty captivated him when he was growing up that he composed the song Photograph.
He decided to put the photo of her on the cover of the single and recruited Monroe’s lookalikes for the music video. Quite the obsession…
“Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses (1987)
This song was composed by Axl Rose who heard Hollywood stars Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan adding up bass lines and chords. He was inspired, and started to and compose some lyrics.
Though the music which was playing downstairs was the one that inspired Rose, the true inspiration was his girlfriend of the time, model Erin Everly.
“Jennifer Juniper” by Donavan (1968)
The Boyd sisters must have been very pretty; Jenny Boyd inspired the hit Jennifer Juniper. This was two years before Layla became a hit. Jenny was very popular at the time as a fashion model.
Donovan never had a relationship with Jenny but has a crush on her, inspiring the song.
“My Sharona” by The Knack (1979)
This hit was inspired by Sharona Alperin. Doug Fieger fell in love with Sharon when she was just 17 years, while he was 25 years at the time. My Sharona was one of the biggest hits of his band The Knack.
Fieger even at one time stated that falling in love with Alperin felt like he was hit in his forehead. During the four years they dated, he penned a number of songs about her.
“Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel (1983)
Initially, Billy had written a hit Uptown Girl inspired by his supermodel girlfriend Elle Macpherson who was 19 years old at the time.
After the pair broke up, Billy went on and won over the heart of another supermodel Christie Brinkley who inspired the reworked version of the song we know today. This song was originally titled Uptown Girls since he used to hang around some of the most famous women of 80’s such as Whitney Houston.
“Woman” by John Lennon (1981)
This hit was an ode to Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono. It was the main hit in the album through which Lennon and Ono collaborated.
Before his tragic death, Lennon claimed in an interview that the song was a “grown-up version” of the song Girl.
“Brown Sugar” by The Rolling Stones (1971)
Mike Jagger secretly dated model Marsha Hunt and they had a daughter together, Karis Jagger. Brown Sugar was an iconic song inspired by Hunt. Hunt was the original London poster for Hair.
Even Claudia Lennear once declared in BBC Radio 4 that the iconic song Brown Sugar was about her because she was hanging with Mike Jagger.
“Oh Sherrie” by Steve Perry (1984)
This hit was composed for the woman Steve Perry loved at the time. Sherrie Swafford was the lover of Steve Perry and she even appeared in his music video.
Even though they broke up, the legacy of the song remains, considered one of the biggest anthems of the 1980s.
“Athena” by The Who (1982)
Unrequited love has never been sweet. This is true especially when someone writes a song to a special someone and still rejected. Pete Townshend had a crush on actress Theresa Russell after meeting her at a concert of Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
He attempted to make moves on her but he was rejected. The singer originally named the song Theresa but would go ahead and change the title so that it would not appear personal when the band went to record it. Good move.
“Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney (1970)
This love song by Paul was inspired by his wife Linda McCartney. He wrote it to express gratitude to his wife, simply for being who she is.
As a beacon of support for him during the break up of The Beatles, she remained an important part of his life until her death in 1998.
“Walk Away Renee” by The Left Banke (1966)
Michael Brown admitted that during band practice he would be distracted by Renee, the girlfriend of Tom Finn when she used to sit in the studio.
Michael described how he used to feel anxious by staring the beauty, so he would come back later when she was not around to practice. The Left Banke even wrote additional songs about Fladen-Kamm, such as Pretty Ballerina, inspired by this stunning beauty.
“Candle in the Wind” by Elton John (1997)
Sir Elton had the honor of performing this song at the funeral of Princess Diana. This song was released in 1973, originally as a tribute to Marilyn Monroe.
The words of the hit were altered to fit Diana’s circumstances. This new version was very popular during the time as the world was mourning Princess Diana’s shocking death.
“Layla” by Derek and Dominos (1970)
Do you want to win the heart of your friend’s wife? If yes, then you might consider writing her a song.
Eric Clapton did so when he serenaded Pattie Boyd who at that time was married to his friend, George Harrison. This hit was expressing his obsession with Boyd. Funnily enough, they married in 1979.
“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash (1969)
This hit referred to Stills’ rocky relationship with his singer-songwriter girlfriend, Judy Collins, who was popular with her piercing blue eyes.
Stills composed this with the help of Crosby and Nash. The lyrics described Stills’ thoughts and feelings about their imminent breakup.