Meet The People Who Inspired The World’s Greatest Songs

A good song is the one that can not only be heard but also felt. In this sense, you can recognize a great song by its power to bring to life the people and the memories that they are based on. Having said this, many of the world’s most famous songs are actually based on real-life people, and I assure you they won’t sound the same once you find out who they’re inspired on! Music lovers, don’t miss this list about the 20 people who inspired some of the greatest songs ever made!

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#20. “Maybe I’m Amazed” By Paul McCartney

Maybe I’m Amazed was written by Paul McCartney and was first released in his 1970 solo album McCartney. In 2011, the Rolling Stone ranked it number 347 on the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. Can you guess who he wrote it for?

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It appears to be that Paul dedicated this song to his dear wife, Linda Louise McCartney. She was very supportive of Paul once The Beatles split, so this song is meant to thank her for sticking up for him throughout his solo career.

#19. “Walk Away Renée” By The Left Banke

Walk Away Renée is a beautiful heartfelt song created by the famous pop band The Left Banke. Fans loved it as it spent 3 whole months on the US charts, reaching #5. Due to its massive success, it received several cover versions, the first one by The Four Tops in 1967.

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The song was inspired by Tom Finn’s girlfriend, Renée Fladen-Kamm. But crazily enough, Tom, the band’s bass player, wasn’t the one who wrote the lyrics! It turns out that Michael Brown is the one who wrote the lyrics, as he was allegedly in love with the same woman.

#18. “Candle In The Wind” By Elton John

Candle in the Wind is one of Elton John’s most famous songs, but most people don’t know who it’s about. Most fans believe that its lyrics have been written in honor of the recently late Princess Diana, but here’s the truth.

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Written in 1973, this song was meant as a tribute to the Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe. The thing is that nearly two decades later, Elton John and Bernie Taupin released a rewritten version in honor of Princess Diana a few months after the infamous car crash, hence the confusion.

#17. “Sweet Caroline” By Neil Diamond

Sweet Caroline was written by the rock legend Neil Diamond in June 1969. In a matter of weeks, it reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and by August, the single had sold over 1 million copies. But in spite of its success, many people don’t know what (or who) the lyrics are about.

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As a matter of fact, for nearly 45 years, most of the world believed that the song was about Caroline Kennedy, the president’s daughter. Nevertheless, this song was actually dedicated to Diamond’s ex-wife, Marsha. The problem was that her name didn’t quite fit the melody!

#16. “Hey There Delilah” By Plain White T’s

Released in 2006, Hey There Delilah is one of the most famous songs by rock band Plain White T’s. It has appeared in many films and TV shows – such as Family Guy and Orange Is the New Black – and it reached first place on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

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It’s pretty obvious that the lyrics revolve around someone’s former lover, but what many people don’t know is that it was written after lead singer Tom Higgenson’s ex-girlfriend, the distance runner Delilah DiCrescenzo. Apparently, Tom still wasn’t over her and wrote this song to impress her.

#15. “Killing Me Softly” By Lori Lieberman

Without a doubt, Killing Me Softly with His Song is one of the most famous and touching songs of all time. First released in 1971, it was written by film composer Charles Fox together with pop singer Lori Lieberman.

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Even though it sounds like just another heartfelt drama song, it’s actually based on a poem that the singer wrote about Don Mclean’s song Empty Chairs. Of course, McLean was truly flattered when he found out about this and he publicly thanked Lieberman.

#14. “Isn’t She Lovely” By Stevie Wonder

Isn’t She Lovely is one of Stevie Wonder’s most famous songs, written for his 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life. Did you know that Wonder performed this song for Queen Elizabeth II in 2012? Fancy!

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As you may have guessed from the lyrics (“isn’t she lovely, made from love“), Wonder wrote this song after his daughter, Aisha Morris. In fact, the song’s extended version starts with a recording of the baby’s cries. Isn’t that sweet?

#13. “My Sharona” By The Knack

My Sharona is the debut single by the legendary rock band The Knack. Released in 1979, it led the Billboard Hot 100 chart for over 6 weeks and it sold over half a million copies. Not bad for a debut, huh?

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The song was written by the band’s lead singer Doug Fieger, and he drew inspiration from his 17-year-old ex-girlfriend, Sharona Alperin. In his words, getting over her ex was like getting hit in the head with a baseball bat.

#12. “Jersey Girl” By Tom Waits

Jersey Girl was written and composed by singer and songwriter Tom Waits and belongs to his 1980 album Heartattack and Vine. 4 years later, Bruce Springsteen performed a cover version of this song, which was released as the B-side of his famous single Cover Me.

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He dedicated this song to his girlfriend at the time, Kathleen Brennan, a jersey girl who he met while working for the soundtrack of the drama film One from the Heart. They got married only one year later. Isn’t that sweet?

#11. “You’re So Vain” By Carly Simon

Written in 1971, You’re So Vain is possibly the most famous song ever written by Carly Simon. It is currently ranked as #92 on Billboard’s Greatest Songs of All Time and it topped the charts for a few weeks. Not only did Simon write the lyrics, but she arranged the strings too.

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For many years, to whom the song was dedicated to was a matter of controversy. However, Simon has admitted that its second verse is about actor and filmmaker Warren Beatty. Some people claim that the other verses are about James Taylor and Mick Jagger, but those are just rumors.

#10. “The Hurricane” By Bob Dylan

Hurricane is a protest song written by Bob Dylan in collaboration with Jacques Levy. Released in 1975, it speaks against the imprisonment of the professional boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who underwent a false trial and conviction for a triple murder he never committed.

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Dylan was firmly convinced that racism was the sole cause that had led to the boxer’s arrest. It appears to be that Columbia Records made him change the initial lyrics because, in the original version, he accused the false witnesses Alfredo Bello and Arthur Bradley of having “robbed the bodies” of the victims. Obviously, the lawyers from the record company feared a possible lawsuit, so Dylan had to dial it down.

#9. “American Pie” By Don McLean

American Pie was written by singer and songwriter Don McLean. Released in 1971, it topped the charts not only in the US but also in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Three decades later, a cover version by Madonna topped the charts too, but many critics didn’t quite like it.

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The song was written in honor of Jiles Perry Richardson Jr.Buddy Holly, and Ritchie Valens, who died in a tragic plane crash in 1959. Thus, its lyrics are meant to acknowledge one of the greatest losses in rock history.

#8. “I Will Always Love You” By Dolly Parton

I Will Always Love You was written in 1971 by singer and songwriter Dolly Parton, although it was immortalized by Whitney Houston‘s 1994 version for the film The Bodyguard. But let’s give Parton some credit, cause even before Houston’s version was released, the song topped the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart twice.

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But do any of you know who the song is about? Well, Parton had achieved her big break with country singer Porter Wagoner, so once she launched her solo career, she wrote this song to express her love for him. Such a nice gesture!

#7. “Brown Sugar” By The Rolling Stones

Written by The Rolling Stones, Brown Sugar is the lead single from their 1971 album Sticky Fingers. It topped the charts for several weeks and it is #5 on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time.

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Apparently, the song was written by Mick Jagger in dedication to his former girlfriend and mother of his child Marsha Hunt. However, singer Claudia Lennear claims the song was actually written about her. Which version should we believe?

#6. “Time After Time” By Cyndi Lauper

Time After Time is Cyndi Lauper’s second single and it belongs to her 1983 debut studio album, She’s So Unusual. It was co-written by Rob Hyman, the founding member of the Hooters, and it was Lauper’s first #1 hit.

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When the song was first released, fans were dying to know who the lyrics were about, so a few months later, the singer confessed it had been dedicated to his boyfriend and manager, David Wolff. In fact, did you know Wolff also appeared in the music video?

#5. “Uptown Girl” By Billy Joel

Uptown Girl was written by songwriter and pianist Billy Joel and included on his 1983 album, An Innocent Man. Featured in many movies, the song is about a working-class man who attempts to seduce a wealthy “uptown” girl. But who’s it about?

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While the melody was inspired by the rock and pop band Franki Valli and the Four Seasons, the lyrics drew inspiration from two of Joel’s girlfriends, super-models Elle MacPherson and Christie Brinkley.

#4. “Lady In Red” By Chris De Burgh

Lady in Red was written by Irish singer and songwriter Chris de Burgh, and released in 1986 as part of his album Into the Light. Many people believe that this song rose him to stardom and introduced him to a mainstream public.

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Burgh wrote this song for his wife, Diane Davison, and it specifically refers to the day they met. The song was a major hit and it became Burgh’s best-selling single ever, reaching #1 in countries like Canada, Ireland, Norway, and the UK.

#3. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” By Guns N’ Roses

Sweet Child O’ Mine is rock band Guns N’ Roses’ signature song and one of the most famous songs ever made. It was first released in 1988 on their debut album Appetite for Destruction, and it became the band’s only #1 single.

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Rumor has it that Axl Rose was inspired by Steven Adler and Slash since he started to write the lyrics while hearing them rehearse. However, the lyrics actually refer to Rose’s ex-girlfriend, Erin Everly, and her gorgeous hair.

#2. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” By Pink Floyd

Shine on You Crazy Diamond is one of Pink Floyd‘s greatest masterpieces, and it appeared on their 1975 album Wish You Were Here. But even though you’ve all heard it, do any of you know what it’s about?

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The song was written in honor of former band member Syd Barret. Even though he had left Pink Floyd the year before, he had an enormous influence on David Gilmour, Roger Waters, and Richard Wright, who dedicated this song to him.

#1. “Hey Jude” By The Beatles

Created by the English rock band The Beatles, Hey Jude is one of the most legendary songs of all time. To be more precise, it was written by band member Paul McCartney and broke a record after topping the Billboard Hot 100 for 9 weeks in a row.

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Paul wrote this song in honor of Julian Lennon, John’s son, but when, exactly? Well, a few months after John Lennon and Cynthia Lillian got divorced, Paul visited her and her son one day, and he wrote the lyrics during the ride there.

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    Hernán Tamargo

    Teacher. Political Scientist. Writer. Feminist... and much more!

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