The Hidden Meaning Behind the Lyrics of Well-known Songs Part 12
Introduction to Part 12
Usually it is simple to interpret the lyrics of some great songs. Most have no profound meaning and just happen to have an appealing chorus, memorable riff, or easy to learn rhyming verses. However, many familiar songs with distinctive music have hidden meanings, which you may not be aware of, or over the years have misinterpreted. How many songs have you listened to and thought, “What is that song actually about?” Known the meaning of classic or popular song can give it a new sense of understanding and therefore a deeper appreciation. With the following interpretations, the aim is to give the reader a better insight into the true intentions of the artist(s) who wrote and recorded the song.
Bachmann Turner Overdrive You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet
Bowie, David Ziggy Stardust
Franklin, Aretha You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman
Simon, Carly You’re So Vain
Stewart, Rod You Wear It Well
Twain, Shania Twain You’re Still the One
White, Barry You’re the First, the Last, My Everything
Williams, Hank Your Cheatin’ Heart
Composed by | Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion, and Chris Martin
Performed by | Coldplay
Chris Martin stated that the lyrics are about being devoted to someone and wanting to do anything for them, such as writing a song, or swimming the sea. He added that it is not necessarily about romantic devotion but about anyone you look up to and would do anything for.
Regarding the title ‘Yellow’ Martin said that was the only colour that sounded right.
You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet
Composed by | Randy Bachman
Performed by | Bachman Turner Overdrive
Randy Bachmann said that the lyrics were improvised as he was just using them to test sound levels in the studio and didn’t think it was going to be released. His inspiration for the intro/verse melody was the song ‘Only You Know and I Know’ released in 1970 by Dave Mason.
Stephen King said that he was a big fan of the band and made reference to the song in his short story ‘Full Dark, No Stars’. He also used the pen name Richard Bachmann for some of his early novels, which was inspired by the Richard Stark novel he was reading, and the BTO album he was listening to at the time.
You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman
Composed by | Gerry Goffin, Carole King, and Jerry Wexler
Performed by | Aretha Franklin
Jerry Wexler (Atlantic Records music producer) said that the song originated when Gerry Goffin and Carole King were coming out of an Oyster House in New York and he pulled up in his car and said ‘I’m looking for a really big hit for Aretha Franklin. How about writing a song about a natural woman?’ Goffin and King then went home and wrote the song giving Wexler a co-writing credit for coming up with the idea.
You Wear It Well
Composed by | Martin Quittenton and Rod Stewart
Recorded by | Rod Stewart
The lyrics are about a man writing a letter to an ex girlfriend and letting her know that he still cares and thinks about her and is imagining how she is doing in her current life.
You’re Still the One
Composed by | Robert John Lang and Shania Twain
Performed by | Shania Twain
The lyrics describe the feelings a man has with a woman whom he has a long-term relationship.
You’re the First, the Last, My Everything
Composed by | Peter ‘Sterling’ Radcliffe, Tony Sepe, and Barry White
Performed by | Barry White
This song is about someone who has found the perfect partner of their dreams and knows that they are the only one they want to be with for the rest of their life.
The song was initially written as a country song by Peter Radcliffe in 1956 and was called ‘You’re My First, You’re My Last, My In-between’ but Radcliffe couldn’t get anyone to record it.
When Barry White was a struggling singer, his friend Peter Radcliffe used to buy toys for White’s children and when he became famous White never forgot his kindness, so when Radcliffe offered him the song he had written 21 years earlier White didn’t hesitate to listen to it.
Another songwriter Tony Sepe was in the room when Radcliffe was playing the song and laughed when he heard the clip-clop of horses’ hooves keeping the rhythm. White loved the song and said to Sepe ‘that song is a smash. I want you to stay out of my face for the next two or three weeks. When you come back you’re going to be part of a smash’.
White changed the genre from country to disco while keeping the chord changes and part of Radcliffe’s melody then adding his own melody and new lyrics.
You’re So Vain
Composed by | Carly Simon
Performed by | Carly Simon
After much speculation, Carly Simon finally revealed that the second verse of this song was about Warren Beatty. As to the first and third verses, she said that they are about two other men she had relationships with but refused to name them.
Composed by | David Bowie
Performed by | David Bowie
David Bowie said that the song is about the ultimate rock superstar who is destroyed by the fanaticism he created.
The lyrics tells the story of Ziggy Stardust becoming too conceited and his band planning to get their revenge on the egotistical lead singer.
Influences for the song are said to have come from Iggy Pop (Z-iggy), Lou Reed, Gene Vincent, Marc Bolan, and Jimi Hendrix (who was left-handed) although the only direct influence Bowie would admit to was the leather clad rock and roll singer Vince Taylor whom Bowie had met in France in 1966. Taylor had taken the ‘I’m a star’ persona to extremes during his popularity but eventually faded into obscurity after battling drug abuse and personal problems.
Your Cheatin’ Heart
Composed by | Hank Williams
Performed by | Hank Williams
Hank Williams got the inspiration for the song after describing to his soon to be second wife, Billie Jean Jones Eshlimar, his first wife as ‘a cheatin’ heart’. He apparently threatened Eshlimar’s then boyfriend with a gun to ensure he had no competition.
His life at the time was chaotic and apart from a drinking problem, he was in relationships with at least three other women. He found it easy to write the song as he understood what guilt and cheating on others was like.
Resources and Comment
Apart from an individual artist or group, radio stations, newspapers, and magazines own websites, there are also many specialised websites that offer explanations as to the background and meaning of songs and their lyrics.
If you have a favourite song that you would like to know the meaning of the lyrics please let me know.
This is the last in the series, time to move on to subjects new.
© 2020 Brian OldWolf