In the way that painters use images and colors to express their feelings and thoughts, so do musicians with their lyrics. Many famous songs have had such an influence through their expression that they have become iconic and unforgettable.
Each and every one of these masterpieces has a story behind its creation, and some really are quite interesting. Here’s a list of 6 intriguing stories behind some iconic songs:
1. “I Shot the Sheriff” by Bob Marley
The iconic reggae anthem was released in 1973 by Bob Marley and the Wailers. In the song, Bob Marley sings about his conflict with his girlfriend over birth control pills.
Bob refers to the doctor that prescribed the pills as the sheriff. The song became famous when Eric Clapton made his own version in 1974, which became a number one hit in the United States, boosting Marley’s popularity in the process. The sheriff’s name in the song is John Brown, a name later used by Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen in their own songs.
2. “Le Freak” by Chic
On New Year’s Eve 1977, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, members of Chic, were both denied entrance in the cult club Studio 54, in New York.
Being previously invited by Grace Jones who forgot to notify the club’s doormen, the famous musicians were ruthlessly forbidden to enter the club.
This event inspired them to write “Le Freak” which became an instant hit right after its release in 1978.
3. “Yesterday” by The Beatles
Released in 1965, as a part of the album Help!, Yesterday is an evergreen loved by everyone, and it was composed in a dream.
Paul McCartney dreamt the melody while sleeping in his house and ran to the piano as soon as he woke up. Playing the tune, he was afraid that he had actually plagiarized someone else’s work. A month after asking people and fellow musicians if they had heard the melody before, he got a negative answer and began to work on the lyrics together with John Lennon.
4. “Layla” by Eric Clapton
Clapton wrote “Layla” in 1970 when he was given the book “The Story of Layla and Manjun”, a tragic love story that took place in the 7th century.
The book was not the only inspiration Eric Clapton had however. The famous musician had an unrequited love towards Pattie Boyd, the wife of his friend George Harrison. Clapton eventually confessed his feelings to Pattie and George, and they remained friends. Years later, Boyd and Harrison divorced and 5 years later, Clapton married Pattie.
5. “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson
The famous “Billie Jean” was written by Michael Jackson while he was driving along the highway and his car had caught on fire. Jackson was so focused on ‘writing’ the lyrics, he didn’t even realize he and his car could have turned into a fire ball at any moment. Fortunately, a motorcyclist passing by saw the fire and warned him about it.
As for the song itself, Jackson said it was inspired by the groupies he and his brothers encountered during their singing careers.
There is a second story stating that the song is dedicated to a woman who claimed that Michael was the father of one of her babies. The woman sent Jackson letters and threatened him, and eventually ended up in a psychiatric hospital. “Billie Jean” was released in 1983.
6. “White Room” by Cream
Cream were a famous British rock superband, consisting of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker. The band released one of their greatest hits, “White Room” in 1968.
The mysterious lyrics were written by the poet Pete Brown and people have been trying to find a hidden meaning within the song ever since its release.
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Pete Brown himself, however, explained that it was no more than a monologue about his new flat and was amazed that the song had even become a hit.