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The Girls Who Inspired the Songs

Updated on September 15, 2017
Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

I'm a writer, a poet, a dreamer. Born and raised in New York City. I live in the suburbs of Riga, Latvia. I have a wonderful cat named Sid.

There are many popular songs that have been inspired by girls. Even though they may or may not be titled by her name, she is the inspiration behind the words and music.

  • · In 1957 Buddy Holly wrote “Peggy Sue” a song that quickly rose up the Billboard charts and is still popular today. In the beginning this song was going to be called “Cindy Lou” however at this time Holly’s drummer Jerry Allison was having a romance with a girl called Peggy Sue Gerron. So Peggy Sue got her song and later on she and Jerry got married.·
  • Ritchie Valens wrote a song for his high school sweetheart titled “Donna” in 1958. It is possible that this girl might have gone on to marry the popular rock singer if only he hadn’t died so young and so tragically.

  • “The Girl from Ipanema” was inspired by a lovely girl, who enjoyed strolling about the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Her name was Heloisa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto and that could have never been the name of the song. The song went on to become one of the great elevator music classics and has had many covers. The best version of this song is sung by Astrud Gilberto, Joao Gilberto and StanGetz. It won the Grammy for Record of the Year in 1965.

  • Jenny Boyd inspired singer Donavan to write “Jennifer Juniper” in 1968. The song rose up to number five on the U.K. charts. The girl didn’t marry the singer but went on to marry Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac fame and later Ian Wallace of King Crimson.

  • Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young wrote the song “Judy Blue Eyes” in 1969 for Judy Collins. Unfortunately their romance broke up since the girl had fallen in love with Stacy Keach, with whom she was starring in “PeerGynt” at the New York Shakespeare Festival. Another interesting thing is that this band was formed for the purpose of recording this song and fate did the rest since the band went on to record many other hits.

  • In 1969 Neil Diamond wrote “Sweet Caroline” and all the time I was wondering who that special girl was that he wrote the song for. The song went on to become very popular and finally in an interview in 2007 Diamond told everyone that the inspiration for this song was John F. Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline. He had seen a picture, set as a cover photo on Life magazine, of the then eleven year old girl sitting upon her horse. It created an image in his mind and he completed the song five years later. That same year he sang the song to Caroline Kennedy at her 50th birthday celebration. The song is still very popular today and has sold more than two million digital downloads in the U.S.

  • In 1970 the popular song “Layla” came out by Derek and the Dominos. The story behind this song is a love lost, love won kind of situation. This song was doubly inspired, first by a Persian love story titled “The Story of Layla and Majnun” and later on further inspired by Pattie Boyd, who Eric Clapton was seeing stars over. The problem was that she was married to his friend George Harrison. When Harrison and Boyd split up Clapton was there to pick up the pieces and married her in 1979. In 1993 the acoustic version of the song won the 1993 Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.
  • Cat Steven’s 1970 song “Wild World” was inspired by a model and member of Andy Warhol’s Factory scene, Patti D’Arbanville. He wrote the song at the time when their relationship was breaking up after a two year romance.
  • Mick Jagger fell in love with a model and singer named Marsha. She was featured on the original London poster for the rock musical “Hair”. She and Jagger had a romance for less than a year but two things happened as a result. He wrote the song “Brown Sugar” for her and she gave birth to Karis Jagger Hunt, the first of Jagger’s seven children.
  • In 1986 singer Chris de Burgh wrote the song “The Lady in Red”. It was inspired by the memory he had of when he first saw his future wife Diane. It became his signature song.
  • In 1975 Elton John asked his lyricist Bernie Taupin to write tribute to his friend tennis star Billie Jean King. The result was the song “Philadelphia Freedom”. At this time King was a member of the Philadelphia Freedom, a World Team Tennis squad. The song caught on and topped the charts and it became an alternate theme song for the impending American bicentennial.
  • In the period after leaving his wife Peggy Harper and starting a relationship with Carrie Fisher, Paul Simon wrote the song “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”. The song came out in 1975 and Simon and Fisher got married in 1983 and stayed together for seven years.
  • The Knack had a hit with the song “My Sharona” in 1979. The song was inspired by a girl named Sharona Alperin with who Doug Fieger fell in love with at first sight. Their relationship lasted for four years. Today Sharona is a realtor in Los Angeles and her official site is
  • A song associated with much sadness is the 1981 song “Woman” written by John Lennon. The song was inspired by and written as an ode to his beloved wife Yoko Ono. Tragically he was murdered in 1980 and the single to this song was released posthumously.
  • Billy Joel’s 1983 song “Uptown Girl” was first inspired by the Australian model he was dating Ellie MacPherson. Once their relationship ended Joel fell for model Christie Brinkley, who further inspired the song and it was finally completed.
  • There is an interesting story behind The Who song “Athena” from 1982. Peter Townsend of the Who fell for Theresa Russell, the girlfriend of Nicholas Roeg. Roeg was going to direct Townsend’s rock opera “Lifehouse”. The title of this song was originally going to be “Theresa”.

  • In 1983 the inspiration for Def Leppard’s song “Photograph” was Marilyn Monroe. Joe Elliot of Def Leppard was only three years old when Monroe died in 1962. The video of the song features a Monroe lookalike but the single’s cover art includes an actual picture of Monroe.
  • The 1984 song by Steve Perry “Oh Sherrie” became one of the the group Journey’s best hits. It was inspired by Perry’s girlfriend Sherrie Swafford.
  • Actress Rosanna Arquette inspired Peter Gabriel to write “In Your Eyes” in 1986. At the time the song was written Gabriel and Arquette were living together.
  • In 1988 Guns n’ Roses came out with “Sweet Child O Mine”. This song was written for Erin Everly who was mesmerizing band member Axl Rose. They married but later on also divorced.
  • Most everyone knows that Elton John wrote the song “Candle in the Wind” with sweet memories of Marilyn Monroe in 1973. He then released this song with a different version in 1997 as a tribute to Princess Diana. He played it at her funeral on September 6, 1997. Today “Candle in the Wind” 1997 version remains one of the two best-selling singles of all time.
  • British band LFO member Rich Cronin was asked by his girlfriend Jennifer Hewitt to write her a song. The result was “Girl on TV” in 1999 since she had a TV career. The romance didn’t last even if the song did.
  • After a particularly brutal phone call with Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake was inspired to write “Cry Me a River” in 2002. The song won the Grammy for Best Male Vocal Performance.
  • American singer Usher has a two-year relationship with singer Rozonda Ocelean Thomas known as Chilli. As the relationship was coming to an end Usher was told to let it “burnout”. The result was the song “Burn” released in 2004.
  • Plain White T’s mega-hit “Hey There Delilah” in 2005 was inspired by Delilah De Crescenzo, who was a runner for Columbia University.

© 2015 Gypsy Rose Lee


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    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 2 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Yes, Shauna the singers did do justice to their women. I think that Neil Diamond did a wonderful thing on her 50th. You can take a look on YouTube the version where Elton John sings at Princess Diana's funeral is especially touching.

      Thank you bearnmom.

      Glad this brought you some nice memories MsDora.

      That red dress really made me smile Manatita. Hope your weekend was a good one and your week a productive one.

      You could say the songs take on a different meaning when you know the background Ann.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Wow! So much research has gone into this. I knew a couple of these but they're all a fascinating background to so many songs. It makes the songs themselves even better.


    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 2 years ago from london

      Wow! Gypsy, where do you get all this info from? The Diana one I remember, and speaking of inspirations, she was a real inspiration for me.

      Heloisa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto. Maybe the song would have worked also with this name.(Chuckle)

      Great Hub and very detailed look at some of the women who influenced music. Truly great catalysts indeed!

      Don't tell anyone, but I'm reminded of a red dress I got yesterday. pretty hot indeed! I went to the Postman for my parcel and came home with two!! I still have the red dress (a secret), but now I believe I know to whom it belongs.

      Have a great weekend, and I hope you smiled. This is in fact a true story.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      “The Girl from Ipanema” was popular with my senior year group. Also heard a few of the others. Thanks for the memories. Very interesting!

    • bearnmom profile image

      Laura L Scotty 2 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

      Nice background searching into song writer's inspirations.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      I love this, Rasma. I think the one that touches (and surprises) me the most is the story behind Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline". How wonderful that he performed it for her for her 50th birthday!

      I've never heard the Princess Diana version of "Candle in the Wind". Elton did her memory justice with this tribute.