Behind the Music

The following article is for entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as scholarly research or as a final authority on the topic.

Wild-Card Wednesday is upon us again.  You know what that means.  Anything can happen.  Music’s the name of the game today.  Let’s talk about songs that were inspired by famous people.

iTunes has a built-in playlist for the songs you play most.  It comes programmed to pick out the twenty-five most played songs.  I reprogrammed mine to include the top fifty most played songs.

“Edie (Ciao Baby)” by The Cult stays on my top fifty.  It’s a power ballad from the 80s complete with wailing guitars and and violins.


Click here to listen to the acoustic version, which is interesting but not as sweeping as the original.

Edith Minturn “Edie” Sedgewick lived 1943-1971.  She is best known for being one of Andy Warhol’s Superstars and starring in his underground films.    Some of the films Edie appeared in were Vinyl, Poor Little Rich Girl, and Ciao! Manhattan.

In addition to being an actress and model, Edie was also a socialite and heiress.  Her family was from Santa Barbara, California and was involved in philanthropy, ranching and art.  The family’s roots date back to Manhattan’s colonial days.  A triple-great grandfather, William Ellery, signed the Declaration of Independence.

Despite the impressive pedigree, Edie had a troubled life.  She struggled with anorexia, drug abuse, and a lot of broken heartedness.  Her death was the result of mixing alcohol and barbiturates.  Whether or not she committed suicide is up for debate.

George Harrison (of The Beatles fame) wrote “Something” about his then-wife Pattie Boyd.  The two met in 1964 on the set of A Hard Day’s Night and married in 1965.  They divorced in 1974.  Pattie claims George was the one true love of her life, and she wishes she’d tried harder to work things out.

This is the most beautiful version of “Something” I’ve ever heard.


Pattie also inspired “Layla,” “Wonderful Tonight,” and “Bell Bottom Blues” by Eric Clapton.  Boyd and Clapton married in 1979 and divorced in 1989.  Apparently, their struggles as a couple had to do with Clapton’s infidelity and addiction.

Can you imagine having that many men that in love with you?

Marilyn Monroe has inspired lust in the hearts of men for more than fifty years.  It’s no surprise Joe Elliot of Def Leppard is known to say, ‘I want more than her picure” when he sings “Photograph” at concerts.

Marilyn Monroe was born in 1926.  She spent the majority of her childhood in orphanages and foster care.  Modeling led to her first acting contract in 1946.  She used her “dumb blonde” persona in films for comedic affect.  Her dramatic performance in Bus Stop (1956) was critically acclaimed, though.

Marilyn was married to baseball legend Joe Maggio, to playwright Arthur Miller,
and was linked romantically President John F. Kennedy.  She died in 1962 of acute barbiturate poisoning.   Whether Marilyn’s death was suicide or murder has been the subject of many debates.

Walter Egan was smitten with Stevie Nicks.  After she recorded backup vocals for his song “Tunnel o’Love,” he wrote “Magnet and Steel” with Stevie in mind.  In a great twist, Stevie Nicks sings backup on “Magnet and Steel.”


This song always reminds me of that scene in Boogie Nights where Dirk Diggler pitches Brock Landers and Chest Rockwell to Jack Horner.  Listen real close, and you’ll hear it playing in the background.


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31 thoughts on “Behind the Music

  1. on ,
    amber said:

    Enjoyed your post – I particularly love the musical ones.

    So…when these sort of questions come up, I try to run with the very first answer to come to mind.

    “John Wayne Gacy Jr” by Sufjan Stevens. The song is about the infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy. It is beautifully haunting, and very creepy considering the subject matter. (I won’t go into detail here, because his horrific life is worthy of a blog post)

    I know, odd choice.

    • on ,
      amber said:

      Also…I thought it would just insert the link, not embed the video! Sorry about that.

      • It’s cool. I know there has to be a setting somewhere I can tweak so it won’t do that, but I can’t find it. I fixed it by making the name of the song a link to the You Tube video.

    • Amber, I enjoy writing the music ones quite a bit. What a haunting, weird song. I was totally unaware of it. Thanks so much for introducing me to new music.

      What John Wayne Gacy did was…very weird. Can you imagine the smell he lived with every day? And they were just kids. Gives me chills.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. The only ones I know of you’ve already mentioned. I’m sure there are songs I like that I don’t know were written for famous people- I was going to say The Rose sung by Bette Midler- but I looked it up and while it was used in a film about Janis Joplin the song was written before that.

    • Interesting factoid about The Rose (the movie): The producers of the movie wanted to make the movie a Janis Joplin biopic, but her family wouldn’t sign over the rights. They’d already decided to sell the biography rights to someone else.

      There is a song about Janis Joplin, though. It’s called “Janis” and it’s by County Joe McDonald and the Fish. Some folks also think Kris Kristofferson wrote “Me and Bobby McGee” about Janis Joplin. I don’t know about that. It is a great song, though.

      Thanks so much for stopping by.

  3. I knew all of these songs, but Something was the only I knew was written for someone. I love that song. Listening to it as I comment. I always think of Candle In The Wind. Elton John wrote that for Marilyn Monroe (I don’t think she committed suicide). And then of course the ‘England’s Rose’ version for Princess Diana.

    Ooh! What about Sweet Caroline! Didn’t Neil Diamond write that about Caroline Kennedy when she was a child?

    • I started to do “Candle in the Wind.” I think it is the best song ever written about Marilyn Monroe. However, it is so commonly known, I decided to “Photograph” instead. I loved Def Leppard in the 80s. And, for the record, I don’t think Marilyn committed suicide. I do know she was very ill and that something was wrong with her health, though. It’s an interesting debate. LOL

      You’re right about “Sweet Caroline.” Neil Diamond did write it about Caroline Kennedy after seeing a picture of her as a little girl. Apparently, she had all her riding gear on, and he thought the picture was very cute and touching.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      • I didn’t know “Photograph” was about her. I’m so bad about that sort of thing. I loved Def Leppard, too. See, I didn’t know Marilyn was ill. You’ll have to tell me more about that sometime.

        Really? Neil Diamond’s story makes sense, but some of the lyrics sound more like they’re written for an adult than a child.

        • Click here to read more about “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond.

          Yeah, something was bad wrong with Marilyn in the last months of her life. During the filming of The Misfits, someone commented she acted as though she was mortally ill. She’d been having trouble with insomnia, I know, and had gotten an array of prescriptions (back then you could get a script for things that are illegal now). Whatever happened to Marilyn will always be a mystery.

  4. Presumably, Peter Gabriel wrote “In Your Eyes” for his then-girlfriend Rosanna Arquette. I love that song (especially when John Cusack holds up the boombox in Say Anything to play it for his object of affection). And I still believe that John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” – written for his first wife – is one of the most beautiful love songs. I did not know that “Photograph” was about Marilyn Monroe! Thanks for the post. Very interesting stuff.

    • Julie, to the best of my knowledge Peter Gabriel did write “In Your Eyes” about Rosanna Arquette. Interesting factoid I learned while I was researching this post: It is commonly believed that “Rosanna” by Toto was written about Rosanna Arquette. Around the time of the song’s popularity, she was dating on of the members of Toto. However, “Toto” is not about Rosanna Arquette.

      Thanks so much for stopping by. 😀

  5. I never knew any of this incredible information about these songs. And I loved Magnet and Steel. I was sitting here singing along with it. Cool trip down memory lane! Always enjoyable, Catie. Thanks.

    • I’m thrilled you enjoyed it. Music is one of my favorite things, and I love to learn little factoids about the songs I like. “Magnet and Steel” is a favorite of mine–even though I do giggle about Dirk Diggler everytime I hear it.

      Thanks so much for stopping by.

    • I love “Abraham, Martin, and John.” I’ve also thought it was such a departure for Dion. He did all those silly doo-wop songs, and, then, came out with such a profound and touching song. It really showed his talent.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

  6. on ,
    Dusty said:

    Drat. Another embed.

    Did you notice that Pattie Boyd and George Harrison look just like Gwyneth Paltrow and Orlando Bloom? Eerie.

    • It’s okay. I love that people are participating more than I mind fixing the embeds. Carry on!

      Pattie Boyd did look like Gweneth Paltrow! Now, I thought George Harrison looked like Ethan Hawke. And, yes, I think Ethan Hawke is hot. LOL

  7. on ,
    Huntley Fitzpatrick said:

    Joan Baez wrote several beautiful songs for Bob Dylan….

    And no, Marilyn didn’t commit suicide. I knew her agent and he said nope, it was just a mistake.

    • Thanks for the comment, Huntley. Knowing Marilyn’s agent had to be interesting. I’ve never believed she committed suicide, but can believe it was just a mistake.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  8. “I Don’t Like Mondays” by the Boomtown Rats was about another killer, Brenda Anne Spencer.
    Kate Bush wrote “Houdini” about his death. Her songs have a lot of real references but many are a bit obscure.
    Not so much about people but Tori Amos has a reference to Neil Gaiman on most of her albums.
    Molly Lewis wrote the absolutely hysterical “Open Letter to Stephen Fry”.

    • Very cool. The only one of these I knew was the Boomtown Rats song. I’m going off to You Tube to listen to the rest. I just love new information.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

  9. Great post, Katie! I love the way you bring the rich history of so many subjects to life. Keep pressing on ROW80 you are doing fantastic!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Gene. In my mind, all the stuff I talk about is just trivia. I am always grateful that other people are interested. I will keep trucking on #ROW80. Thanks for the encouragement.

  10. on ,
    EllieAnn said:

    Loved this post!! Especially “Edie” and “Something.” Really great music. Thanks for the peek behind the scenes. Lots of those poor girls died in a pretty sad way. =(

    • They did die in pretty sad ways. Tragedy, for whatever reason, is romantic. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

  11. What about “You’re So Vain” by Carol King? Although she never admitted who the “vain” person was, some suspect James Taylor, if memory serves. (My age is probably showing again there….)

    Also, Kenny Chesney’s song “you Had Me At Hello” about Renee Zwelliger (when he saw her in a movie?)

    To my knowledge, no one has written any songs about me…yet. :)

    • Ahh…the mystery of “You’re So Vain,” by Carly Simon. I read something while I was researching this post that speculated–but never revealed–who the song was about. Friends of Carly’s say the song is an amalgamation of men from Carly’s life. Click here to read Carly’s webpage about “You’re So Vain.”

      You know, I still think James Taylor is gorgeous. He’s old enough to be my dad. LOL

      Funny about that last line of yours. When I was writing this, I so wished I could say, “And Chris Cornell wrote [insert great song] about me. We had wild night on The Strand.” I just crack myself up.

  12. on ,
    Donna Coe-Velleman said:

    Hey great post Catie. Loved it. I didn’t know Country Joe wrote that song about Janis Joplin. I had to get out my “I feel like I’m fixin’ to Die Rag” cd and play that song and then of course I had to listen to the whole thing. :) It brought back memories. It was the first albumn I bought. I went from the Monkees to Country Joe – quite a jump. lol

    What about Mr. BoJangles written by Jerry Jeff Walker in ’68? I always thought it was about Bill “Bojangles’ Robinson but, from what I’ve read, it really was about a homless white man he met while incarcerated for public intoxicatioin.

    Keep up the fantastic work – love reading them.

    • Donna, I’d never heard that about Mr. BoJangles. I do like the song, though. I’ve had a few chances to see Jerry Jeff Walker in concert, but I never have. I guess I need to make the point to do it.

      I have the Country Joe album just because “Janis” was on it. I really think Janis Joplin was interesting and perhaps a precursor for performers like Madonna and Pink. I got my first tattoo because of Janis Joplin

      Thanks so much for the nice words about my blog. I’m thrilled you enjoy it. Thanks so much for stopping by.

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