There are songs about anything you can put your mind on. It can be an emotion, a moment in life, a period of history or even a tale totally made up.
Songs tell us stories that we can sing and that’s great. Sometimes songwriters are inspired by other people; people that they love, people that they admire, or even people that they hate; in this case, songs serve almost as photographs of what that person, in particular, is like for the one who writes it. Here are 10 songs that were inspired by real people.
Shine On You Crazy Diamond – Pink Floyd
In 1975, Pink Floyd wrote “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” as a homage to Syd Barret (band’s founder and main creative force in the early years) and his struggle with drugs and mental illness. Legend has it that when they were recording the song, Syd himself showed up in the studio unannounced, after 5 years without seeing his friends.
Brianstorm – Arctic Monkeys
After a show in Tokyo, Arctic Monkeys were visited backstage by a guy named Brian. After he left, the band was in awe of his presence, “so we did a brainstorm for what he was like”, says vocalist Alex Turner. They drew a sketch of that Brian guy and wrote what would be the first song on their 2006 album “Favourite Worst Nightmare”.
Hey Jude – The Beatles
In 1968, John Lennon divorced Cynthia Powell. Paul McCartney went out to see if Cynthia and her son Julian were doing ok with the breakup. On the road, McCartney wrote a song to uplift the young boy, the song said “Hey Jules, don’t make it bad, take a sad song and make it better”. McCarney changed Jules for Jude because it sounded better and recorded the song.
John Legend – All Of Me
One of the most known ballads of recent times, “All Of Me” was written by John Legend for his then-girlfriend Chrissy Teigen. It went on to become one of Legend’s biggest successes, staying at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks.
My Sharona – The Knack
Doug Fieger, lead singer, and guitarist for The Knack was shopping with his girlfriend when he saw this young clerk at the store and he was hypnotized by her looks. The name of the girl: Sharona Alperin. Fieger was obsessed with Alperin to the point that he left his girlfriend for her. Later he wrote the catchy song thinking about what he felt about Sharona.
Tears Of A Clown – Iron Maiden
When lead singer Bruce Dickinson asked his bandmate, bassist Steve Harris, about the song he was singing, Harris’s answer was “it’s obvious; it’s about Robin Williams”. The 2015 song speaks about the burden of trying to entertain the whole world despite battling with depression.
Don’t Speak – No Doubt
Don’t Speak is considered No Doubt’s biggest hit but is also the epitaph of the relationship between bandmates Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal. After being in a relationship for seven years, sharing also a band, the couple broke up and Stefani wrote this song dedicated to Kanal describing the last phase of their relationship.
Thank You Next – Ariana Grande
Not only inspired by one person, but by 4 people. In this song, Ariana Grande speaks about her past relationships and describes them one by one. She wrote that song while engaged with Pete Davidson, and recorded different versions as the relationship went through different stages until it ended.
Hurricane – Bob Dylan
This 1976 song is based on the life of boxer Rubin Carter, wrongfully accused of a triple murder. It helped to draw attention to Carter’s case and is even said that the song and its popularity helped to push justice toward finally freeing him 20 years after his conviction.
Death On Two Legs – Queen
This song is considered a “hate letter” from Freddie Mercury to Norman Sheffield, who was the first manager for Queen. The relationship between Sheffield and the band was pretty bad at the end and Mercury in particular was furious with their former manager. The lyrics are so hateful that guitarist Brian May felt bad singing in the choruses.