The Muse and the Music: Amazing People That Inspired 50 Beautiful Songs

Some beautiful songs were inspired by real-life events that took place in the artist’s life. Won’t you like to know the backstory to your favorite song, or the frame of mind that the artist was in when they wrote/composed/performed it? Of course, you would. Sometimes, the inspiration was a former lover, while other times, a simple magazine cover was enough to pull a song from a creative genius’ mind. Read on as we shed light on the elaborate backstories of some of your favorite songs:

1. Billy Joel – She’s Always a Woman

“She’s Always a Woman” is the finest work Billy Joel has produced throughout his illustrious career.

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The 1977 song presents the story of a woman who Billy is genuinely in love with, despite her flaws and shortcomings. The woman he is referring to here is Elizabeth Weber Small, his ex-wife.

2. Cat Stevens – Wild World

Cat Stevens went out with Patti D’Arbanville for around two years, and many of his songs during this time were written about her.

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“Wild World” is one of those songs. A lot of the critics thought that the song showed Cat being a bit too overprotective of someone who had left him. Another little piece of trivia: Patti left Cat for Mick Jagger.

3. Guns N’ Roses – Sweet Child o’ Mine

“Sweet Child o’ Mine” might have been released over 3 decades ago, but it’s still one of the greatest songs of all time. An unbelievable fact about the song is that it was composed unrehearsed.

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Steven Adler and Slash were jamming, when Izzy Stradlin liked what they were doing and joined in, right before Duff McKagan gave the song its bass line. Axl Rose, who wasn’t even present on the same floor, liked the music so much he instantly got his writing pad out. However, Axl had the true inspiration for the song which was his then-girlfriend, Erin Everly.

4. Steve Perry- Oh Sherrie

Even if you never heard “Oh, Sherrie” before you might be able to guess what the song could be about, and you won’t be wrong. The song was about Steve Perry’s then-lover, Sherrie Swafford.

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Steve was apart of a band called Journey at that point in time. Sherrie even made an appearance in their music video. However, as sweet as it may seem, the relationship didn’t last a long time, and the couple never got married.

5. Def Leppard – Photograph

The awe-inspiring beauty of Marilyn Monroe dazzled many musicians to the extent that they wrote songs about her, but none of them are as memorable as the English rock band, Def Leppard’s “Photograph”.

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The band didn’t have a specific inspiration for the lyrics but they wanted to express their young lust in an anthemic song. The band would sometimes dedicate this specific song to Marilyn Monroe while performing it live, and the video featured a Monroe look-a-like.

6. Neil Diamond – Sweet Caroline

The iconic song “Sweet Caroline” started playing on the radios in 1969, and for 42 years after its release, people kept believing that Neil Diamond wrote it after getting inspired from a Life Magazine cover.

Neil Diamond and Marcia

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However, in an interview in 2014, Neil revealed that he wrote the song for his ex-wife Marcia, but had to go with Caroline because it was more in tune with the melody. “The song was about my wife at the time — her name was Marsha — and I couldn’t get a ‘Marsha’ rhyme.”

7. Paul McCartney – Maybe I’m Amazed

Paul McCartney has written some of the greatest love songs of all time, but perhaps, nothing was more important to him than “Maybe I’m Amazed” on his solo, 1970’s album.

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In this song, he thanks Linda McCartney, his wife, for always being by her side. His wife sadly died in 1998 after losing a battle to breast cancer.

8. Donovan – Jennifer Juniper

Donovan wrote the song for Jennifer Boyd, his sister-in-law at the time. Jennifer was a famous model before she decided to quit her job and travel to India with her sister and Donovan.

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There, they planned to do some heart-opening meditation. Even though Jennifer and Donovan never really dated, he had a serious crush on her.

9. Billy Joel – Uptown Girl

“Uptown Girl” was initially written for Elle MacPherson, Billy Joel’s girlfriend, but before the song was ever released, the pair broke up.

Source: People Magazine

However, Billy soon found another lover in Christie Brinkley, whom he claims to have written the song for, but we believe both the women inspired him. The song talks about an ordinary man like Joel falling for sophisticated, independent uptown women.

10. The Knack – My Sharona

Doug Fieger fell for Sharona Alperin the moment he laid eyes on her. Even though she was only 17 at the time, her beauty and brilliance inspired him to write multiple songs. However, the pair weren’t actually a pair, ever.

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“My Sharona” stood out, however, becoming one of the best songs the band ever produced. Doug claims that he only wrote the song in 15 minutes.

11. Astrud Gilberto, João Gilberto, and Stan Getz – The Girl from Ipanema

In a neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, during 1962, the song’s composers saw the gorgeous Heloisa Eneida Pinto, whom they absolutely had to make a song about.

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The song originally had the title “The girl who passes by.” The song garnered a lot of fame for Pinheiro, and she ended up modeling for some brands.

12. Derek and the Dominos – Layla

What’s the best (and probably the only) way to win the heart of your best friend’s wife? Easy, write a song about her. That’s precisely what Eric Clapton did, during his effort to impress Pattie Boyd.

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Even though Eric didn’t quite gain her trust when the song aired in 1970, but nine years later, his obsession finally won over Boyd, and the couple married in 1979.

13. The Who – Athena

It breaks your heart when someone doesn’t love you back the way you do, but it hurts even more if you write a song about them, but it doesn’t change anything.

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Pete Townsend, a member from the rock band met Theresa Russel during a Pink Floyd concert. He tried his best to win her over with his charm, but she blatantly rejected him. The song was initially supposed to be called, “Theresa.”

14. Buddy Holly – Peggy Sue

Buddy Holly was a true buddy. Do you have any friends who would write songs about a girl that you are infatuated with? Well, Jerry Allison did.

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Buddy wrote “Peggy Sue” about Peggy Sue Gerron, the woman Jerry wanted to court. However, the song ended up becoming Buddy Holly’s greatest contribution to rock and roll. What’s even better was that Jerry and Peggy did eventually get together.

15. Ritchie Valens – Donna

Ritchie Valens had already released some cracking folk songs when he released “Donna,” a beautiful song dedicated to Donna Ludwig, his high-school crush.

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The song reached the number 2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The two stayed in touch until Ritchie died tragically in a plane crash.

16. John Lennon – Woman

There are so many songs John Lennon and the Beatles are remembered by, but to him, one of his greatest ever work was “Woman”; the song he wrote about his wife, Yoko Ono.

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Yoko was a true feminist and Lennon loved that about her. In an interview just days before his death, John Lennon said that this song is basically a more mature version of “Girl.”

17. The Rolling Stones – Brown Sugar

Mick Jagger and Marsha Hunt dated secretively for a short period, but they did make a baby daughter together.

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The song was written about Hunt, who, despite not staying in Mick’s life for long, left a lasting impression. However, other women have also claimed to be the source of inspiration for the song; including Claudia Lennear.

18. The Left Banke – Walk Away Renee

During band practice, Michael Brown was blown away by the beauty of Renne Fladen-Kamm. She was the bassist’s girlfriend at the time who used to visit the studio from time to time.

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“Walk Away Renee” actually elucidates how the 16-year-old Brown felt every time Renne came to visit: He would leave the studio (because his hands would start to shake by her very sight) and come back after she was gone.

19. Elton John – Candle in the Wind

After Princess Diana sadly died in a car crash, on a dark day in August of 1997, the whole world cried. At the time, Elton John was given the honor to perform a song at her funeral.

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Candle in the Wind was originally written for Marilyn Monroe, but Sir John thought that it would be a fitting tribute to Diana as well.

20. Serge Gainsbourg – Je T’aime … Moi Non-Plus

Unlike all the previous songs on this list, this one was written as per the request of the person who the song is based on. “Je T’aime … Moi Non-Plus.” Was written by Serge Gainsbourg after Brigitte Bardot asked him to write something about her, that would sweep her off her feet.

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However, when Brigitte’s husband, Gunter Sachs, found about their little project, Serge actually re-recorded it with Jane Birkin, his new girlfriend. The Birkin version hit the stores in 1969, and that’s when the song became a worldwide hit.

21. Crosby, Stills, and Nash – Suite: Judy Blue Eyes

Stephen Stills, the guitarist of the band Crosby, Stills, and Nash, wrote a multi-part song for her girlfriend, Judy Collins, who was also a musician.

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As beautiful as it may sound, the song actually talked about a relationship that was very close to falling apart. It ended 2 years after it started when Judy fell for Stacy Keach.

22. Leonard Cohen – Suzanne

Leonard Cohen found Suzanne Verdal breathtakingly beautiful. Suzanne was initially a poem written by Leonard Cohen, which was later given a melodious identity by Judy Collins.

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The poem talks about the pair’s friendship, which was platonic in nature. He mentions how he used to visit her apartment and how she used to serve him tea, before their pleasant walks by the church.

23. Peter Gabriel – In Your Eyes

Peter Gabriel from the rock band, Genisis, hasn’t confirmed this. However, the famously romantic track “In Your Eyes” is believed to have been written about the actress called Rosanna Arquette, with whom Gabriel lived for numerous years. Arquette was also the inspiration behind Toto’s hit “Rosanna.”

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The relationship ended in 1992, and Arquette has since then made a name for herself in Hollywood, by appearing in movies like Pulp Fiction.

24. Irving Berlin – Always

Ellin Mackay was 16 years younger than Irving Berlin when he tried to court her, but her beauty was so soul-shaking for him that he wrote many songs about her.

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Always, that was released in 1992, stood out. The affection wasn’t one-sided; despite MacKay’s father’s attempts to make her change her mind, Mackay couldn’t deny her love for the pop star. The couple married in 1926.

25. Bob Dylan – It Ain’t Me, Babe

It ain’t me, babe was written for Suze Rotolo, Bob Dylan’s ex-girlfriend, whose importance in his heart didn’t diminish even after they broke up.

Source: npr.org

The song was initially performed by Joan Baez, who also released it as part of her album. At the time, nobody knew about Dylan, and after the pair went on a tour together, Bob started making the headlines.

26. Chris de Burgh – Lady in Red

Chris de Burgh could never forget the first time he laid eyes on his wife, and in this song, he stresses how men often can’t have a recollection of the event like he does.

Source: doyouremember.com

The song talks about the beautiful night Chris met his wife, Diane Davison. Even though there is no explicit mention of Diane on the song, he has accepted that he is indeed talking about his wife and their first ever encounter.

27. The Beatles – And I Love Her

Nobody has written as many great love songs as Elvis, but Paul McCartney does come close. “And I Love Her” is one of the most perfect love songs you can hear.

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The song was about Jane Asher, his fiancée at the time. Even though they made quite the pair, Asher and Paul broke up only a year after the song was released.

28. Tom Waits – Jersey Girl

Tom Waits’ Jersey Girl touches you on a spiritual level. Waits have so melodiously and articulately captured the essence of love, that you are bound to swoon while listening to this song.

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The song was about Kathleen Brennan, who Waits met while producing a soundtrack for a movie. Just a few months after Jersey Girl was released, Waits and Kathleen married and ended up having 3 kids together.

29. Graham Nash – Our House

Graham Nash and Joni Mitchell were kindred spirits, in the truest sense of the phrase. The song “Our House” is about the small house the pair lived in together in Los Angeles.

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The song is unique because it highlights the fact that even the simple things in life can be cherished to the fullest. He talks about a morning when the pair went out for breakfast and ended up finding a very beautiful vase for a decent price; conveying the message that when you are with that someone special, even the ordinary things yield joy.

30. Paul Simon – 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover

If you are on the verge of breaking up with your lover, do yourself a favor and listen to 50 ways to leave your lover, by Paul Simon.

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The song was written right after Paul separated from his wife Peggy Harper, and started dating Carrie Fisher. In the song, a crafty concubine gives smart advice to a husband regarding ending his marriage.

31. The Beatles – Something

Before Eric Clapton and Pattie Boyd were a thing, she and George Harrison were deeply in love, leading to their marriage in 1966. George Harrison wrote “Something” for her in 1968.

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The song elucidates the mysterious allure of Pattie wonderfully. George Harrison admitted that the song had other sources of inspirations, like Krishna, the Hindu deity. George claims to always write about God, whenever he writes about women.

32. The Kinks – Lola

The Rolling Stone magazine believes that the song Lola had Candy Darling as an inspirational source. It makes sense because Darling and Ray Davies dated for a while.

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However, in The Kinks’ official biography, the lead vocalist Ray Davies shares a different story. He said that they never really dated, and only went on a dinner, but the song which talks about a man getting intimate with what appears to be a transvestite, wasn’t about her.

33. Van Morrison – Crazy Love

Two of Van Morrison’s songs, namely Tupelo Honey and Crazy Love were inspired by Janet Rigsbee. The pair really had a connection in the years they were together, but eventually broke up in 1973.

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Many people also believe that even Brown Eyed Girl was about Janet because she and Van were together at the time the song was released, but we are not really sure.

34. Blue October – Hate Me

Blue October first rose to global fame when people started relating heavily to their song Hate Me. The song was actually about Justin Furstenfeld’s mother.

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Justin believed that despite his mother’s unconditional love, he was never able to love her back with the same intensity or repay her for all the sacrifices she made. The song gets very emotional very quickly and is considered one of the most lyrically vehement songs of all time.

35. Stevie Wonder – Isn’t She Lovely

Songs in the Key of Life, Stevie Wonder’s 18th studio album, featured the song, “Isn’t she lovely,” which was about his newly born daughter, Aisha Morris.

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The three verses of the song ended with isn’t she lovely, made from love, and so very lovely, respectively. The album version also includes the timid little voice of Aisha crying at the beginning of the outro.

36. Elton John – Philadelphia Freedom

Billie Jean King, the tennis star, and Elton John had a profound friendship; so deep that the latter asked his writer Bernie Taupin to write a song as an homage to him.

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Bernie was perplexed because he wasn’t much of a tennis guy. However, he wrote a fitting tribute. The song was titled Philadelphia Freedom because, at the time, Billie was part of a squad of the same name. However, the song isn’t about the squad or tennis in general.

37. Bob Dylan – Girl from the North Country

Bob Dylan had so many muses throughout his illustrious career that you can’t really be sure who the inspiration for Girl from the North Country was.

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Some believe that it was Echo Helstrom, his first girlfriend; while others insist that the song was about Bonnie Beecher, his college girlfriend. A few others also believe that it could be Suze Rotolo, and that also seems plausible, because she was on the album’s cover, and used to work closely with Dylan at the time.

38. Madonna – True Blue

True Blue was the title track of the 1986 Madonna album. The song talks about Madonna’s feelings for Sean Penn, the man she was married to at the time.

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In the album’s liner notes, Madonna has referred to Sean as the coolest guy in the universe. However, after failing to keep the marriage together, the pair divorced just 4 years after the song was released.

39. Carly Simon – You’re So Vain

The song is exactly what you think it’s; a hit at a conceited lover who doesn’t seem to care as genuinely about Carly Simon, as she does about him.

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In 1973, during an interview, Carly revealed that the song wasn’t about James Taylor or Mick Jagger, against popular belief. Her publicist revealed in 2009 that the song was in fact about a person named David; no more details were shared.

40. Joni Mitchell – Carey

Once Joni Mitchell had left her life with Graham Nash behind, she decided to go to Crete. There, she met a man named Cary Raditz, who became the inspiration for her song “Carey.”

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Mitchell deliberately misspelled the name of the song because she thought Raditz was a holier-than-thou kind of guy. Even though she spent a lot of time with him while she was still heartbroken and recovering from the troubles in paradise.

41. Aretha Franklin – Day Dreaming

If the Queen of Soul writes an ode about a man, it’s bound to be something special. Aretha and Dennis Edwards (from The Temptations) were engaged at the time, so everybody naturally believed the song Day Dreaming was about him.

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However, it’s not entirely sure. In 1995, Aretha revealed to the Ebony Magazine that once Dennis came around to the realization that he wanted to marry Aretha, she had already moved on, because she didn’t want to be kept on the hook.

42. Dolly Parton – I Will Always Love You

Dolly Parton was only 21 years old when Porter Wagoner, the country singer discovered her and offered to join him on his TV show.

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Parton accepted the offer, and it turned out to be a great move for her career. After seven years of appearing on the show and performing duets with Wagoner, Parton decided to go her own way and pursue a solo career, even though Wagoner disapproved. This is when and why Parton decided to write “I Will Always Love You” to express her gratitude and make Wagoner understand her decision.

43. Coldplay – Fix You

Even though Chris Martin has never revealed the true inspiration behind Fix You, many believe that it was directed as an ode of sympathy and love, towards Gwyneth Partlow.

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The pair were married at the time, and Partlow was grieving the death of her father. The song highlights a person trying to console his lover, who has just lost something she can’t replace. In an interview with USA Today, Chris Martin admitted that he wrote the song on a keyboard his father-in-law had brought.

44. Alanis Morissette – You Oughta Know

Alanis Morissette rarely talks about the inspirations behind her significant songs, because her songs are actually something she wants to feel on a personal level.

Source: eonline.com

However, Dave Coulier, the actor, and comedian believed that the song could be about him. He believed so because Alanis did call him once during dinner. Many other famous people, including Matt LeBlanc, Leslie Howe, and the ice hockey player, Mike Peluso, claim to be the muse behind this song.

45. Don McLean – American Pie

American Pie was part of the eponymous album that was released in 1971. The globally-famed song talks about the plane crash that tragically killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and Jiles Perry Richardson.

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The line, “The day the music died,” is scattered throughout the song, to emphasize the level of impact the artists above had on the music industry.

46. L.A. Guns – The Ballad of Jayne

Cocked & Loaded was released during the early ‘90s, and The Ballad of Jayne was also featured in it. The Jayne of the song is Jayne Mansfield, the biggest rival Marilyn Monroe had.

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At the time, Jayne was a huge sex symbol in Hollywood and ended up being one of the inaugural Playboy Playmates. She was notorious for her publicity stunts and wardrobe malfunctions. The beauty queen tragically died in a car accident. She was 34.

47. Bob Dylan – The Hurricane

The last Bob Dylan song on the list was intended to be a protest against the imprisonment of Robin Hurricane Carter, the boxer.

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Dylan was of the viewpoint that Robin’s arrestment was an act of racial profiling, which led to an inaccurate trial and wrong sentencing. The original song even alluded to Alfred Bello and Arthur Bradley, the two star-witnesses of the murder; however, Bob had to rework the song to remove the lyrics that made said allusions.

48. Pink Floyd – Vera

Vera Lynn was the inspiration behind the song Vera, by Pink Floyd. The pop singer was famous for singing the song We’ll Meet Again to the British Army, and that’s why the band established the connection.

Source: yours.co.uk

The song is actually ironic because, in the lyrics, the character “Pink” never gets to meet his father who died in service. “Vera, what has become of you” is implying that Vera’s promise wasn’t really true.

49. Eric Clapton – Tears in Heaven

Eric Clapton went through some rough years during the early 1990s. Firstly, a helicopter crash resulted in his longtime friend Stevie Ray Vaughan dying. Then, a few months later, his 5-year-old son also died after falling off the 53rd floor of an apartment in New York City.

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After a period of grievance, Eric started working on the soundtrack for the movie Rush, and co-wrote the song Tears in Heaven, with Will Jennings. He has always maintained that the song is a source of solace and happiness for him, and at the time, it helped his healing heart a lot.

50. The Sex Pistols – God Save The Queen

It was still the early days for punk music when The Sex Pistols released “God Save the Queen.” Even though you might think that the song was a tribute to the queen or the country, it was anything but.

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Even though they were talking about Queen Elizabeth II; in the song, they don’t appreciate her in any way. Instead they criticize her poor treatment of the working class. The Sex Pistols never released an album after their first. Coincidence?