The Hidden Meaning Behind the Lyrics of Well-known Songs Part 8
Introduction to Part 8
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.
Black Sabbath Paranoid
Doors (The) People Are Strange
Guns N’ Roses November Rain
Metallica Nothing Else Matters
Moody Blues (The) Question
Moore, Garry Parisienne Walkways
Muse | Resistance
O’Connor, Sinead Nothing Compares 2 U
Orbison, Roy Oh, Pretty Woman
Shannon, Del Runaway
Winehouse, Amy Rehab
Wishbone Ash Persephone
Nothing Compares 2 U
Composed by | Prince (Prince Rogers Nelson)
Performed by | Sinead O’Connor
Although Prince never confirmed it, the song was said to have been inspired by his housekeeper whom he adored, Sandy Scipioni, who left him to be with her own family after her father died. She was the person who had made sure that he always had his favourite beverage, which was Five Alive fruit juice, kept the house clean, provided fresh flowers on his piano, and washed his clothes.
Nothing Else Matters
Composed by | Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield, and Lars Ulrich
Performed by | Metallica
James Hetfield said that the lyrics are about a girlfriend he was once with. Whereas the rest of Metallica consider it to be a song about nothing else mattering but their fans.
Composed by | Axl Rose and Slash (Saul Hudson)
Performed by | Guns N’ Roses
The lyrics (and the video) are inspired by the short story ‘Without You’ written by Del James. The tale is about a blues musician who tries to cope after his girlfriend commits suicide.
Axl Rose said that the lyrics are about never wanting to be in a situation where you have to deal with unreciprocated love.
Oh, Pretty Woman
Composed by | Bill Dees and Roy Orbison
Performed by | Roy Orbison
Roy Orbison said that the song was inspired following his wife Claudette interrupting a conversation he was having with his co-writer Bill Dees to announce that she was going into town. Orbison asked her if she needed any money and Dees quipped, ‘A pretty woman never needs any money’.
Composed by | Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, and Bill Ward
Performed by | Black Sabbath
The song came about because the band needed a three-minute filler to complete the album ‘Paranoid’ and Geezer Butler obliged by writing some lyrics. He said that the song is basically about a man who is depressed and becomes increasingly paranoid about the people around him.
Composed by | Phil Lynott and Gary Moore
Performed by | Garry Moore
Gary Moore said that he played the melody and guitar sequences to Phil Lynott on the way back to the UK from Belgium and Lynott said that it sounded French to him and he then wrote the lyrics on their return. The line the song starts with ‘I remember Paris in 49’ is Lynott’s birth year.
People Are Strange
Composed by | John Densmore, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek, and Jim Morrison
Performed by | The Doors
During his depression, Jim Morrison went to LaurelCanyon in the Hollywood Hills to watch the sunset with Robby Krieger. As he sat on a ridge looking out over the city of Los Angeles Morrison realised that he was depressed because ‘if you’re strange, people are strange’ he then wrote the remaining lyrics, which are about feeling marginalised and misunderstood.
Composed by | Martin Turner
Performed by | Wishbone Ash
Andy Powell said that the song is about Ted Turner, the group’s original guitar player, and no relation to Martin Turner, who left the band. It was named ‘Persephone’ to associate Turner with the Greek goddess who was married to Hades.
The line ‘In your time you could outshine everybody else around, But your off stage ways might be a bore’ is perhaps a not very subtle swipe at Turner.
Composed by | Justin Hayward
Performed by | The Moody Blues
Justin Hayward wrote the lyrics to reflect the way that many young people were questioning America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. He had discovered, while touring the colleges in the USA, that the majority of students were concerned for their own future and that they may be conscripted to fight in a war they did not understand or believe in.
Composed by | Amy Winehouse
Performed by | Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse’s father Mitch said that she had been having a conversation with producer Mark Ronson about the fact that everyone had been going on at her about her drinking and during the conversation she said to him ‘You know they made me try to go to rehab and I told them no, no, no’. Ronson remarked to her that what she just said was quite ‘gimmicky’ and that it sounded ‘hooky’ adding that they should go back to the studio and turn it into a song.
Composed by | Matt Bellamy
Performed by | Muse
Matt Bellamy said that the song is a retelling of the relationship between the two main characters in George Orwell’s book ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, Winston Smith and Julia O’Brien. He added that the lyrics are also about any love that crosses boundaries such as political beliefs or religion and the resulting realisation of the unimportance and contention of such beliefs.
Composed by | Max Crook and Del Shannon
Performed by | Del Shannon
The lyrics are about someone whose relationship breaks down and he then separates from his partner leaving him to question what went wrong.
Del Shannon said that he wrote the song about himself because he was constantly running away from relationships.
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.
© 2020 Brian OldWolf