When Carly Simon wrote her hit song, “You’re So Vain” which touted the lyrics “you’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you,” the whole world wanted to know who it was written about. Simon, however, stayed mute on the issue. Over forty years later, she’s still not budging and the vain target of her angst remains a mystery.
But since then, plenty of artists have written songs that were about or influenced by other people. Here are 10 songs written for other famous people and the lyrics that will make you see the correlation.
10. Peter Gabriel – In Your Eyes
Peter Gabriel has never come right out and said exactly who his massive hit, “In Your Eyes” was written about. But, a little deduction can bring you to a pretty good guess, as the song was written about a year after his relationship with live-in girlfriend Rosanna Arquette, ended.
There are no lyrics that are particularly revealing that it’s Arquette, but the line “I get so tired, working so hard for our survival / I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive” suggests trouble in paradise.
9. John Mayer – Paper Doll
John Mayer has said that he is sick of looking like the bad guy in all of his public breakups. The song, “Paper Doll” is rumored to have been written about his ex-girlfriend Taylor Swift. When Mayer was asked if the rumor was true, he answered, “Yeah, songwriters write songs because of people, about people.”
Giveaway line: “You’re like 22 girls in one/ And none of them know what they’re running from/ Was it just too far to fall for a little paper doll?”
8. Taylor Swift – Dear John
It’s no secret that Taylor Swift has had quite a few public relationships, all which didn’t end on the best terms. It’s also no secret that Swift likes to air out her dirty relationship laundry in her songs. So, this definitely won’t be a list of Taylor Swift’s letters to her exes, promise. But this one is notable, mainly because it was said to be about her relationship with John Mayer, who wrote the previously mentioned song about her, Paper Doll.
Giveaway line: “Dear John, I see it all now that you’re gone / Don’t you think I was too young / To be messed with? “
7. Coldplay – Fix You
Many people think that Coldplay’s front man, Chris Martin wrote the band’s hit song “Fix You” for his daughter Apple. But, in fact, Martin has said that he wrote the song for his then-wife, Gwyneth Paltrow to give her comfort after her father died.
Giveaway line: “Lights will guide you home / And ignite your bones / And I will try to fix you.”
6. Bob Dylan – Like A Rolling Stone
Bet you didn’t know that legendary songwriter Bob Dylan wrote his classic, “Like A Rolling Stone” about Andy Warhol, did you? Apparently, he wrote it about the pitfalls of falling from the grace of fame, the people that you meet on the way down, and how your life can go from universal to a burnt out star in no time flat, as he felt happened to Warhol. Pretty deep if you ask me.
Giveaway line: “People’d call, say, “Beware doll, you’re bound to fall” / You thought they were all kiddin’ you / You used to laugh about / Everybody that was hangin’ out / Now you don’t talk so loud / Now you don’t seem so proud / About having to be scrounging for your next meal… / How does it feel?”
5. Alanis Morissette – You Oughta Know
When Alanis Morissette broke out on the scene in the mid 90s with her angst-ridden smash hit, “You Oughta Know”, everybody was dying to know who was the unlucky soul having Alanis’ nails prophetically scratched down his back, but Alanis said she wouldn’t tell. Then rumors began to swirl that it was about fellow Canadian and Full House star Dave Coulier, who even admitted in an interview that he was sure the song was about him, movie theater and all. Alanis has neither confirmed or denied that it is about Coulier, but it should be noted that Coulier has recently stated that he was just kidding when he admitted it was about him.
While there are no direct lines that could lead anybody to Coulier directly, there are quite a few perfect angry break up one-liners.
4. Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl
You don’t generally read about Gwen Stefani getting into fights in the headlines. But you definitely do hear about Courtney Love plenty. So, when Courtney Love called Gwen Stefani a cheerleader in an interview, Gwen decided to write a song as her response, rather than confront the Hole singer directly. Now, that is truly bananas.
Giveaway line: “I heard that you’ve been talking s#@! and you didn’t think that I would hear it…”
3. Nirvana – Heart Shaped Box
If you’re guessing that the Nirvana song, “Heart Shaped Box” written by Kurt Cobain is about Courtney Love, then you would be correct. However, you might not know that the song is actually written about her… ummm, how to put this gently? Well, her heart-shaped box, if you catch the drift. Courtney Love recently backed up that claim when Lana Del Ray covered the hit song. Love sent a Tweet to Del Ray saying, “You know that song is about my vagina, right?”
Giveaway line: “Throw down your umbilical noose so I can climb right back.”
2. R.E.M. – Man On The Moon
R.E.M. front man, Michael Stipe has been forthcoming about his admiration for Andy Kaufman. That’s why it came as no surprise when he wrote the song, “Man on the Moon” about the funny man.
Giveaway line: Andy did you hear about this one / Andy are you locked in the punch? / Tell me are you goofing on Elvis?
1. U2 – Pride
U2 singer Bono has never been silent about the fact that the band’s hit song, “Pride (In the Name of Love)” was written proudly about the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. It is probably also not surprising, since the band is involved in a variety of charities and campaigns for human rights.
Giveaway line: “Early morning, April 4 / Shot rings out in the Memphis sky / Free at last, they took your life, / They could not take your pride.”