These People Influenced the World’s Most Famous Songs

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Musicians are influenced by the world around them when it comes to creating music. They may be influenced by nature, situations, or people in general. Many artists have a muse that inspires them to create their art. These are the people and muses who inspired your favorite songs. 

“The Girl from Ipanema” by Astrud Gilberto

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A teenager, Heloisa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto, inspired this song as she strolled along the beaches of Rio de Janeiro in 1962. The composers saw her every day buying cigarettes for her mother and were inspired to write the song.

“Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond

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It was the cover of LIFE magazine that inspired Neil Diamond’s most famous song. The cover had a four year old girl riding a horse. However, in 2014 Diamond admitted the song was about his ex-wife.

“Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly

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The song was inspired by Peggy Sue Gerron, a girl who Buddy Holly’s friend, Jerry Allison, had a crush on. Thanks to the song, Peggy and Jerry married shortly after and the song, “Peggy Sue Got Married” was released.

“Donna” by Ritchie Valens

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Ritchie Valens wrote the song about his high school sweetheart, Donna.

“She’s Always a Woman” by Billy Joel

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Billy Joel wrote this song for his now ex-wife, Elizabeth Weber Small. The song is about the modern woman and how he loves even her flaws.

“Wild World” by Cat Stevens

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This song, along with many others, is about Patti D’Arbanville, Cat Stevens’s girlfriend for a period of time.

“Photograph” by Def Leppard

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Def Leppard claims this song was inspired by Marilyn Monroe and her timeless beauty. Even though she was long gone by the time the song was written, her presence is still felt throughout Hollywood today.

“Candle in the Wind” by Elton John

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When Princess Diana died in a terrible car accident, Sir Elton John tweaked the lyrics to his “Candle in the Wind” to pay tribute to the late princess. The song was originally written as a tribute to Marilyn Monroe.

“Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses

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This famous song was written and completed in a single afternoon when Axl Rose heard his band jamming out. He based the lyrics off of his inspiration from his girlfriend, Erin Everly.

“Layla” by Derek and the Dominos

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This song was Eric Clapton’s attempt to seduce his friend’s wife, Pattie Boyd. Eric worked hard to get Pattie, in fact he even moved in with her sister to get closer to her. Pattie and Eric married in 1979.

“Jennifer Juniper” by Donavan

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Pattie Boyd’s sister, Jenny, inspired his song. Jenny was a model and traveled alongside Donovan to India. While the two never had a relationship, there was definitely some chemistry there.

“My Sharona” by The Knack

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There was instant love between Doug Fieger and Sharona Alperin. They met when she was just 17 and he was 25. She’s the influence for many songs, but “My Sherona” is the most famous.

“Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel

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Two supermodels inspired Billy Joel to write this song. The first was Elle MacPherson, a previous girlfriend. The second was his wife, Christie Brinkley.

“Oh Sherrie” by Steve Perry

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Steve Perry wrote this song for his then love, Sherrie Swafford. She even appeared in the music video for the song.

“Woman” by John Lennon

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John Lennon wrote this song about his wife, Yoko Ono. It was featured on the album that the two released together just before he was killed.

“Brown Sugar” by The Rolling Stones

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It was the model Marsha Hunt that inspired this song. Mick Jagger and Marsha were dating in secret until she had their daughter, Karis.

“Athena” by The Who

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Actress Theresa Russel inspired Pete Townshend to write this song when they went to see Pink Floyd together. However, she was already engaged to someone else when they spent this time together.

“Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney

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Paul McCartney wrote this song about his wife, Linda McCartney. It is probably the most beautiful love song he has ever written.

“Walk Away Renee” by The Left Banke

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Michael Brown was so distracted by Tom Finn’s girlfriend, Renne Fladen-Kamm, that he just had to write a song about her. Brown was just sixteen years old at the time he wrote the song.

“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” by Crosby, Stills and Nash

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The ode was written about Still’s girlfriend, Judy Collins, and their rocky relationship. The song was performed at Woodstock.

“Suzanne” by Leonard Cohen

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This song was actually a poem when Leonard Cohen first wrote it. It was inspired by Suzanne Verdal. “Everyone was in love with Suzanne,” Cohen said.

“Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus” by Serge Gainsbourg

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It was Brigitte Bardot who asked Serge Gainsbourg to write a song about her. It was originally going to be a duet, until Brigitte’s husband caught wind about the recording. So, Jane Birkin sang it instead.

“Always” by Irving Berlin

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It was Ellin MacKay, a Western Union heiress, that inspired Irving Berlin’s song. The two were a strange match considering he was 16 years older than she was and she was Catholic and he was Jewish.

“Jersey Girl” by Tom Waits

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Tom Waits wrote this love song about Kathleen Brennan, a fellow musician who he fell in love with, got married to, and had three children with.

“Lady in Red” by Chris de Burgh

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Diane Davidson inspired Chris de Burgh to write this song about remembering what the woman he loved was wearing when they first met.

“In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel

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Rosanna Arquette inspired this song as well as “Rosanna” by Toto. She must be a pretty amazing person to inspire two songs by two different people.

“It Aint Me, Babe” by Bob Dylan

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Everyone theorizes that this song is about Suze Rotolo, one of Bob Dylan’s girlfriends. The song was written in 1963 when they were both in Italy.

“And I Love Her” by The Beatles

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Jane Asher inspired Paul McCartney to write one of his most famous love songs. They were engaged when he wrote the song about her. Unfortunately, a year later they broke off their engagement.

“50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon

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Peggy Harper probably didn’t appreciate this song written about her. Paul Simon wrote the song after divorcing Peggy and starting a relationship with Carrie Fisher.

“Our House” by Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

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This song is about living with Joni Mitchell and building a home together in Los Angeles.

“Lola” by The Kinks

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Candy Darling inspired this song. She was known for hanging around Andy Warhol and dating Ray Davies.

“Something” by The Beatles

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Pattie Boyd was married to George Harrison before running of with Eric Clapton. The song, “Something” was about her.

“Oh! Carol” by Neil Sedaka

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This song was written for Carole King, a previous girlfriend of Neil’s while they were in high school. She hit back with her song, “Oh! Neil.”

“Crazy Love” by Van Morrison

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This song was inspired by Janet “Planet” Rigsbee. She inspired multiple songs and even gave birth to Van Morrison’s daughter.

“Philadelphia Freedom” by Elton John

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It was Billie Jean King who inspired Elton John’s song, “Philadelphia Freedom.” The song is named after the team that she played tennis for.

“You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon

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Carly Simon revealed that the song was about her ex-boyfriend, Warren Beatty. Before she confirmed this, people thought it could be about Mick Jagger, David Bowie, or David Cassidy.

“True Blue” by Madonna

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Madonna wrote the song, “True Blue” for her then husband, Sean Penn. She was enamored by him and referred to him as “the coolest guy in the world.”

“Day Dreaming” by Aretha Franklin

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Aretha Franklin wrote this song about Dennis Edwards when they were engaged. However, they never tied to knot because he was “scared of marrying this superstar.”

“Carey” by Joni Mitchell

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After things didn’t work out between Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash, she decided to travel to Greece where she met a man named Cary Raditz. She wrote this song about him.

“I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton

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Dolly Parton wrote this song to show how she felt about Porter Wagoner when she decided to leave his show in 1967.

“Girl From the North Country” by Bob Dylan

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There are a few women this song could be about. Some thing it’s about his first girlfriend who looked like Brigitte Bardot, others believe it’s about Echo Helstrom, or it may be about Bonnie Beecher, his college girlfriend.

“867-5309/Jenny” by Tommy Tutone

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Some people believed that “Jenny” was a prostitute who inspired the song. Tommy Tutone spoke up and said, “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 with her since the song became a hit, but I hear she thinks I’m a real jerk for writing it.”

“Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder

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Stevie Wonder wrote this song about his daughter, Aisha Morris.

“You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette

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While Alanis Morisette never talks about who her songs are written about, people speculate that this song was written about Dave Coulier.

“The Ballad of Jayne” by L.A. Guns

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The actress Jayne Mansfield inspired this song. She was a major sex symbol in Hollywood during the 1950’s and 1960’s. She died at the age of 34 in a car accident.

“Killing Me Softly” by Lori Lieberman

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Norman Gimbel originally wrote the lyrics to this song and they actually started as a poem. When Lori took over the writing, the song turned to be about Norman.

“The Hurricane” by Bob Dylan

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“The Hurricane” is about boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. Carter had been arrested and sentenced after a trial, which Dylan believed was unfair and racially motivated.

“American Pie” by Don McLean

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This song is about the three musicians, Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, and Jiles Perry Richardson Jr. who all died in a plane crash in 1959.

“Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton

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The 1990s was a hard decade for Eric Clapton. His manager, his friend, and two people who liked to tour with him all died in a plane crash and his four year old son died after falling out of a window. All of these tragedies inspired him to write this song.

“Vera” by Pink Floyd

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Actress Vera Lynn inspired this song by Pink Floyd.

“Chelsea Hotel #2” by Leonard Cohen

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This song is about the night Leonard Cohen spent with Janis Joplin in the Chelsea Hotel in New York City.

“I Love Mickey” by Teresa Brewer

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This song is about Mickey Mantle, the center fielder for the New York Yankees at the time. Teresa Brewer was very attracted to the athlete and needed to express it with a song.

“Sweetest Thing” by U2

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Bono wrote this song as an apology to his wife, Ali Hewson, because he missed her birthday and had been neglecting her.

“Hey Jude” by Paul McCartney

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The song was originally titled “Hey Jules” and was written for Julian Lennon, John Lennon’s son when John and his ex-wife Cynthia filed for divorce.

“Coyote” by Joni Mitchell

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This song was inspired by a guy named “Coyote” who Joni Mitchell had a one night stand with.

“Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper

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This song could potentially be about Cyndi Lauper’s then manager/boyfriend at the time.

“Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac

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Fleetwood Mac member, Lindsey Buckingham, wrote this song about his fellow band member and ex-girlfriend, Stevie Nicks. She hated the line “Packing up, shacking up is all you wanna do. “

“I’m Your Boogie Man” by KC & The Sunshine Band

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This song is about Robert W. Walker, a DJ in Miami who was the first person to ever play the band’s song, “Get Down Tonight” on the radio.

“Man on the Moon” by REM

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This song was about funny man Andy Kauffman who appeared in Taxi and on SNL.

“The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel

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You would think this song is about a boxer. However, it’s actually about Bob Dylan!

“A Day in the Life” by The Beatles

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John Lennon wrote this song about his friend, Tara Browne, who died in a car accident in 1966.

“Shine On You Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd

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This epic musical experience was written for Syd Barret, the band’s founding member.

“Plastesr Caster” by Kiss

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This song was about an unnamed person who supposedly liked to make plaster casts out of male musician’s genitalia.

“God Save the Queen” by The Sex Pistols

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This song, though a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, stirred up some controversy due to some of its lyrics and name of the band.

“MacArthur Park” by Richard Harris

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Richard Harris wrote this song after watching Jimmy Webbs go through a terribly difficult break up.

“The Weight” by The Band

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This song was inspired by a couple of people. One of them being Anna Lee Amsden, a friend of the band’s drummer and singer.

“You Haven’t Done Nothin” by Stevie Wonder

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Stevie Wonder wrote this song about Richard Nixon. Funny enough, Nixon resigned from the presidency just two days after the album with this song on it was released

“Angel of Harlem” by U2

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This song was inspired by the Jazz singer, Billie Holiday. Bono was the one who wrote this song.

“Hearts and Bones” by Paul Simon

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Paul Simon wrote this love song about his then girlfriend, Carrie Fisher. They were so in love, but they divorced just after a year of marriage.

“Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton

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After stealing Pattie Boyd away from George Harrison, Eric Clapton wrote multiple songs about her, including “Wonderful Tonight.”

“Happy Birthday” by Stevie Wonder

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Stevie Wonder wrote his rendition of “Happy Birthday” for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1980.

“Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan

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Bob Dylan wrote this song about model Edie Sedgewick. Edie also inspired artist, Andy Warhol.

“Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s

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The sweet song about a long-distance relationship is about Delilah DiCrescenzo who knew Tom Higgenson. “I thought she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen,” he said about her. Sadly, the two never dated.