Most great songs tell a story, but sometimes the true story behind the song – the circumstances or experiences that inspired it – are even more fascinating than the lyrics themselves. In honor of the untold true stories behind popular songs, Art City Records has compiled the following list:
5 Songs With Surprising Stories:
1. “Save The Last Dance For Me” by The Drifters
You probably know this song as one of Michael Buble’s biggest singles, but in fact it was originally written by Doc Pomus from the 1960’s doo-wop and R&B band “The Drifters”. Doc Pomus wrote the song after watching his bride dance with everybody else at their wedding. You see, his wife Willi Burke was a Broadway actress and dancer, and Pomus was wheelchair-bound thanks to Polio. He could get around on crutches from time to time, but could hardly keep up with the lovely and talented Burke. So in the lyrics he tells his wife to enjoy herself, but remember “in whose arms you’re gonna be”.
2. “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon
There’s not really a story behind Carly Simon’s biggest hit as much as an age-old mystery. Who is the narcissistic gentleman who inspired the lyrics “you’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you”?
For a long time Simon insisted the song was actually a pastiche of several men she had dated, but that’s not nearly as interesting or as likely as the idea that she had one specific egotist in mind. Warren Beatty was the prime candidate for most people (including himself). Simon’s hints that her muse’s name includes the letters “A, E, and R” fanned the flames of Beatty-theorists. However, there is an alternate theory: Simon’s ex-husband says the song is not about anyone famous, and when Simon wrote the song, she had just ended a two-year relationship with a guitarist named Daniel Armstrong. Daniel was not particularly famous, and apparently he was far from modest about his musical skills. Really, only two people know for sure: Carly Simon, and Dick Ebersol, who won the rights to know the mystery man’s name at a 2003 charity auction.
3. “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” by BTO
“You Ain’t Seen Nothin Yet” was one of those songs that barely made it onto an album, only to become the biggest hit the band ever saw. In fact, the refrain of “b-b-b-baby you just ain’t seen na-na-nothing yet” was actually written as a joke. Randy Bachman’s brother Gary had a stutter, and the song was meant to pay homage to him, or perhaps poke fun in typical jerk-brother fashion. It was producer Charlie Fach who pressured the band to include the song on their album, and obviously he was right because it became the only #1 single BTO ever had.
4. The “American Idiot” Album by Greenday
In 2003 Greenday was hard at work on their follow-up to 2000’s “Warning”. The new album was tentatively titled “Cigarettes and Valentines”, but when it was nearly finished, somebody stole it right out of the studio. Instead of re-recording all the songs, Greenday decided to scrap the whole thing and write something new. The result was “American Idiot”, the album that skyrocketed Greenday’s popularity and profitability, proving once and for all they were more than juvenile punk rockers. As for the stolen “Cigarettes and Valentines”, some fans believe that the album “Money Money 2020” is not actually by Network, but instead is Greenday’s stolen album recorded under a pseudonym.
5. “Never Learn Not To Love” by The Beach Boys
From the inception of their career, The Beach Boys have been accused of plagiarism (“Surfin’ U.S.A.” was deemed so similar to Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” that a court ordered The Beach Boys to give Berry writing credit and royalties). But when “writing” the single “Never Learn Not To Love”, The Beach Boys ripped off one of the most unlikely people imaginable: serial killer Charles Manson. Drummer Dennis Wilson met Manson in 1968 before the Manson family had graduated from cultish to full-out murderous. Manson had honed his guitar skills in prison, and impressed Wilson with his original material. Wilson promised Manson a recording contract, but when Charles Manson was locked up for good, Wilson decided to steal his song “Cease to Exist” and record it as “Never Learn Not To Love”. This whole story seems about as likely as Raffi ripping off Hitler, but that’s why truth is stranger than fiction, in songwriting as well as novels.