This Song was inspired by …
“Everyday I Write the Book“, the words to this song according to Elvis Costello were written in 10 minutes. So I might guess there was about zero inspiration and about the same ‘perspiration’ that went into this song which somewhat ironically parallels writing and romance. Many great song writers have similar experiences where a song just ‘came to them’ but for the most part I think songs have some traceable origin, some spark or idea that triggered the imagination of the songwriter(s).
If you check Wikipedia for “songs by source” there are hundreds of links, there’s one about real life events, it has 184 pages (songs) alone. As to how many songs were written with a particular person in mind that’s a more difficult number to arrive at as many songwriters don’t divulge their ‘source’. I suspect if we knew, that number would make the 184 pages look like your average shopping list compared to say the ‘Lord of the Rings‘. Songs also get triggered by other songs, this in particular shows up in the music composition rather than the lyrics themselves, however many times in both and as I’ve blogged previously, this sometimes also ends in lawsuits.
The need to know the origin of songs and their meaning is a great pastime for many and obsession for some. People have speculated on the muse for many songs, “You’re so Vain” written and performed by Carly Simon comes to mind, “who is she writing about?” and “is it really about Warren Beatty?” Also “American Pie” by Don McLean which might actually have books written about it, google “the meaning of American Pie” and you get 207 million results!
In 2015 Simon revealed that yes, at least parts of the song refer to Beatty, so much for that sort of non-mystery, McLean who sold the manuscript for 1.2 million thinks most of the speculation is just plain stupid. At the other end you have songs like “Brian Wilson” (1992) written by Steven Page and performed by ‘The Barenaked Ladies’ or once again Don McLean, being quite unambiguous this time with “Vincent” (1972). For my first attempt at this I’ll wander a bit on the origins of a few songs and will revisit this topic as I could blog this alone and never even scratch the surface. Whatever the motivation is; a date, time, place, catharsis, heartbreak, rage, love, lust, hate, tragedy, tribute, autobiographical, intentional, inadvertent or a subconscious thought, these songs and others are either quite obviously or maybe even just passively connected to one source or another. Analyzing the lyrics certainly gives the most tangible ‘food for thought’ when it comes to pondering most songs.
This example provides a bit of a segue into the topic, “The Jean Genie” written and performed by David Bowie (1972) was musically influenced by this song “La fille du père Noël” by Jacques Dutronc (1966). The name possibly from French writer Jean Genet, and the lyrics contain obtuse references to the life of singer Vince Taylor (who wrote the song he’s singing in the clip). So influences do not have to be singular.
“True” by Spandau Ballet was apparently inspired by a crush Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp had on ‘Altered Images’ singer and ‘Gregory’s Girl’ star Clare Grogan. Here is a cover by Will.I.Am & Fergie from the movie “50 First Dates” soundtrack.
“Girl From The North Country” written by Bob Dylan was partly based on “Scarborough Fair” written by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.
LCD Soundsystem’s “All I Want” is a tribute to Bowie’s ‘Heroes‘ album/song with some reminiscences of John Cale.
“Our House” written by Graham Nash (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) about a moment in time during his relationship with Joni Mitchell.
“Candle in the Wind” written by Elton John with lyrics by Bernie Taupin. Most will know this 1973 song was about Marilyn Monroe, and was re-written in 1997 as a tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, Candle in the Wind (Goodbye England’s Rose).
“I Don’t Like Mondays” written by Bob Geldof and performed by the Boomtown Rats, written about the 1979 San Diego school shooting by sixteen year old Barbara Ann Spencer.
“Maybe I’m Amazed” written by Paul McCartney about his wife Linda. One of McCartneys finest love songs which means by default; it’s one of the best songs ever written.
“Back in the U.S.S.R.” written by Paul McCartney and performed by the Beatles (1968) from the “White Album”. With influences from Chuck Berry’s “Back in USA“, the Beach Boys sound and the original concept from the I’m Backing Britain patriotic campaign, somehow McCartney comes up with a tribute to the women in the Soviet Union.
“Someone like You” written by Adele Adkins and Dan Wilson is based on Adele’s first serious relationship break-up and his subsequent marriage to someone else. BTW I just listened to “Rolling in the Deep” check out the view count, approaching 1.5 billion omg, then someone noticed my blog was slightly smaller than a speck!
“The Edge Of Glory” written by Stefani Germanotta (Lady Gaga), Fernando Garibay and Paul Blair. The original inspiration for this song came from the death of Lady Gaga’s grandfather, apparently she felt the look on her grandmothers face was a reflection of a of glorious and well lived life. While as with many songs the origins may not always be played out in the song, it is interesting to see the thought process at work. Of note Clarence Clemons was flown in at the last minute to record a late night and early morning saxophone session. A great country cover from Amanda Hagel.
A playlist of all the videos.
References: https://secondhandsongs.com/, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page, https://pitchfork.com/reviews/tracks/11881-lcd-soundsystem-all-i-want/
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