Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Thursday Thirteen # 23 - Women Behind the Songs

The subject of this week’s Thursday Thirteen is the women behind the songs. I could think of more songs named after women, like Enchantment’s “Gloria” or Wilson Pickett's "Mustang Sally", for instance, but I could not find information about who inspired the song. These are listed in chronological order. What are some of your favorite women inspired songs?

1. Peggy Sue Gerron
From Buddy Holly's 'Peggy Sue' (1957) Holly wrote some lovely songs for his wife, Maria Elena, but his best-known hit was actually inspired by the woman who would later become his drummer's wife. Peggy Sue was a classmate of Holly's at Texas' Lubbock High when the song -- which the singer flirted with re-titling 'Cindy Lou' -- topped the charts. She's currently working on an autobiography titled 'Whatever Happened to Peggy Sue?'

2. Donna Ludwig
From Ritchie Valen's ‘Oh Donna’ (1958) Valens wrote this song for his high school sweetheart, Donna Ludwig. Their relationship was included in the 1987 biographical film “La Bamba”.
Donna Ludwig is now Donna Fox. She remains active in events having to do with her childhood boyfriend Ritchie Valens.

3. Carole King
From Neil Sedaka's 'Oh Carol' (1962) Impressing a love interest with a song gets a lot more difficult when said subject is just as capable of writing a smash hit herself -- but this bouncy tune helped Sedaka score points with high school sweetie Carol Klein. The song went on to become one of Sedaka's biggest hits, and inspired Klein -- who had by then adopted the nom de disque Carole King -- to record the answer tune "Oh Neil." Not even Neil Armstrong's moon landing some years later could make that one a hit.

4.Jenny Boyd
From Donovan’s 'Jennifer Juniper' (1968) Fashion models often captivate rock stars, but even by the standards of that profession, Jenny Boyd had a special magic. The teenage waif proved equally enraptured with folkie Donovan, who serenaded her with this guileless song. Their romance would prove short-lived, and Jenny went on to marry and divorce Mick Fleetwood -- twice! -- before earning her psychology degree. Coincidentally, Jenny's older sister Patti -- married to George Harrison but in love with Eric Clapton -- was the inspiration for 'Layla'.

5. Caroline Kennedy
From Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’ (1969)
Diamond said he was a "young, broke songwriter" in the '60s when he saw a cute photo of Caroline Kennedy in a magazine. “It was a picture of a little girl dressed to the nines in her riding gear, next to her pony," he recalled. "It was such an innocent, wonderful picture; I immediately felt there was a song in there."

6. Candy Darling From the Velvet Underground's 'Candy Says' (1969) Lou Reed wrote this as an homage to Warhol "superstar" Candy Darling, who came to New York a shy young man and emerged as a glamorous blond woman. Reed channeled both Candy's delicacy and steeliness in lines like "I've come to hate my body/And all that it requires in this world" -- a reference to the female hormones that enabled her gender change but ultimately took her life. He also name-checked her in 'Walk on the Wild Side,' recalling, "In the back room, she was everybody's darling."

7. Judy Collins
From Crosby Stills and Nash's 'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes' (1969) Written by a man on the verge of a catastrophic breakup, this Stephen Stills composition chronicles his love for his longtime girlfriend, folk singer Judy Collins, and the differences that were driving them apart. The last verse of 'Judy Blue Eyes,' sung in Spanish, has absolutely nothing to do with Collins and instead focuses on an unfulfilled desire to take a trip to Cuba. We're presuming there's a veiled reference to Gloria Estefan in there someplace, but our language skills are a little rusty.

8. Patti D’Arbanville
From Cat Steven’s ‘My Lady Darbanville’ (1971) Cat Steven’s was inspired to write this song while in a relationship with actress Patti D’Arbanville, who would later become the girlfriend of Don Johnson and the mother of his son Jessie. I remember her best from the 90’s television show “New York Undercover”.

9. Sara Allen
From Hall and Oates ‘Sara Smile' (1976) Sara Allen was the love interest of Darryl Hall and a songwriter in her own right. Not only was she the inspiration for the 1976 hit Sara Smile. She was also inspired the song “Rich Girl” in a roundabout way, it was about a rich former boyfriend of Sara’s; however rich boy did not sound right.

10. Sara Recor
From Fleetwood Mac’s 'Sara' (1979) Anyone who thinks Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is a tough game should try a round of with Sara Recor -- the subject of this airily pretty radio staple. Sara, a good pal of Stevie Nicks, actually helped write her own serenade -- a pretty gutsy move since she was on the verge of stealing Nicks' boyfriend, Mick Fleetwood. Recor and the drummer later married and divorced, but her relationship with Nicks survived -- long enough, at least, for Stevie to "borrow" Recor's first name for this song about Nicks' stint in rehab.

11. Sharona Alperin
From the Knack’s 'My Sharona' (1979) Knack frontman Doug Fieger was a twentysomething rock journeyman with a dirty-old-man streak when he met 16-year-old Sharona, who would give him his place in rock history. Fieger threw caution -- and age-of-consent laws -- to the wind and wooed Sharona, who inspired the song that bears her name, and she ended up posing for the single's picture sleeve. They remained a couple for four years, leaving Fieger as one of rock's great one-hit wonders and Sharona one of L.A.'s more successful real estate agents.

2. Rosanna Arquette
From Toto’s ‘Rosanna’ (1982) Ah, Hollywood. The Rosanna in question is surnamed Arquette -- yes, of 'Desperately Seeking Susan' fame -- and she happened to be the muse/lover of Toto keyboardist Steve Porcaro. Ironically, Porcaro neither sang the song -- that would be frontman Bobby Kimball -- nor wrote it. The author was David Paich, who -- in a rare example of rock brotherhood -- penned the song to celebrate the love between his bandmate and Arquette, not to try to win her away from Porcaro.

3. Delilah DiCrescenzo
From Plain White Ts' 'Hey There Delilah' (2006) Plain White T's frontman Tom Higginson wrote this ode to Columbia University steeplechase runner Delilah DiCrescenzo. He fell for Delilah and told her he'd written a tune about her, then quickly backed off when she asked to hear the song, which didn't exist yet. By the time he got around to penning the ditty, Delilah was long gone. She has since weighed in, saying, "Part of me wants to scream at the top of my lungs that it's about me. Another part of me wants to cower and say it's not.

Enjoy Hall & Oates performing "Sara Smile" Live.

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Editor said...


I've always heard that Patti Boyd was the inspiration for "Layla." And I also heard that she was the inspiration for "Something." She must have been SOME woman!


Hootin' Anni said...

WOW!!!! This is so impressive!! A lot of work went into this. Excellent job for your T-13! Excellent.

[I'm a happy camper...your previous blog post...Go Obama.]

pjazzypar said...


I had forgotten that George Harrison had written "Something" for her. She must have been something else!

Anonymous said...

Now I feel like I have secret information! I loved this post. I knew about Rosanna, and Donna. But the rest were news to me! La Bamba was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid. Sara Smile is a great song!!

Sue said...

I am embarrassed to admit I knew none of this before reading your AWESOME list!! Very interesting!

Happy TT!!! My list is up here:

My Life In The Urban Zoo

Tink said...

Impressive and very very interesting! Thanks for sharing, awesome TT! Mine is about goddess astrology.

Chelle Y. said...

Those are cool! The only one I have heard of though is "Sweet Caroline."

Michelle said...

Gosh, I had no idea that these women were connected to these songs. Great TT. Loved it!!

Malcolm said...

This was a superb and informative T13. Nice crack about the unlikelihood of "Oh Neil" ever becoming a hit.

A couple of my favorite women inspired songs are:

Jennie Lee by Jan and Arnie (about a stripper)

Runaround Sue by Dion (according to Dion, the song was actually written about a girl named Roberta)

Cheerio said...

That was a great search.

Lori said...

Hey, Great job PJ! Lots of good music history here. Off the top of my head, I can't think of anything to add.

Buck Naked Politics said...

What neat stories! Thanks for sharing.

On a limb with Claudia said...

I ALWAYS wonder about this - thanks for doing all the research - and how fascinating. Really. Of course, middle child me wants to know how it all turned out... guess I need to do my own research?

Happy TT!

SJ Reidhead said...

I was going to mention "You're So Vain" but then I remembered that was a man based inspiration.

The Pink Flamingo

SandyCarlson said...

That was fun! I always loved "Sweet Caroline," so now I'm glad to have the story.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but who inspired "Fat Bottom Girls"?

Adelle said...

Very kewl post. Happy T13!

Anonymous said...

Wow, what an awesome list! Number 10 I never knew about (the Fleetwood Mac son). I'm a huge fan, so you'd think I would have had some idea! What great information to have. I feel like I know "special" things now :)

Good work on this.

How about: "It ain't me babe" by Bob Dylan--inspired by Joan Baez! That is my personal favorite :)

Happy TT!

Lori said...

That is so cool. What a great idea. How did you find all of that info?? Thank God for the Internet??? Happy TT:)

Random Ramblings said...

very informative! can't imagine how much work you put just to compile those. now i can attach faces to names i only hear and not totally care to know how they really look like.

My #8 is up too. i listed the top hits on the year i was born =) >>

Angie said...

Great list! Really interesting to read!

B Boys Mom said...

Wow! I didn't know any of these, very interesting. This is what I love about TT's, learning things I don't think I would of. Happy TT

marcia said...

Wow cool no idea on most of those

Rasmenia said...

Caroline Kennedy?!!? I had no idea.

Very cool list! :)

Clarence said...

Hey, this is a really interesting T13, i always enjoy a bit of music trivia. :)

The Flying Monkeys said...

I knoew about the Peggy Sue, and Donna one, but not the rest..... intresting, thanks!

Very nice list! I like that! Come on over and check out the 13 BOUNCE on my blog! Have a great day!

Playful Professional said...

These are awesome! Thanks for all of the information. Maybe someday someone will write a song about me :)

The Gal Herself said...

Great idea for a TT! It got me thinking: Anyone out there know if Bruce Springsteen really knew a Rosalita? (Thanks for visiting my TT)

pjazzypar said...

Thanks to all who complimented my efforts. I am glad everyone was able to pick up some trivia facts.

Malcolm, Thanks for the correction on "Oh Neil". "Runaround Sue" is one of my favorites too.

S.J. Reidhead, "You're So Vain" was supposedly written about Warren Beatty who left a many of broken hearts., I didn't know that Dylan wrote that song about Joan Baez. Cool!

The Rock Chick said...

I guess because I'm musical, I think it would be so awesome to have someone write a song about you.

Great list! It's interesting to see the pics of some of them, too. I imagined "Donna" with a ponytails and a poodle skirt and she probably did have those back then!

I knew Sharona was a real person, but had no idea what she looked like. I had recently heard that "Sweet Caroline" was indeed inspired by Caroline Kennedy. I wonder why he kept that a secret for so many decades, particularly since a lot of people had always thought so.

pjazzypar said...

Hey R. C.,

I knew about a lot of these women before putting together this TT. I had a difficult time finding the picture of Sara Allen and I did have a younger picture of Donna Fox, but it was a poor one.

Neil Diamond said he never intended to ever reveal that the song was about Caroline Kennedy, but decided that he would sing it to her at her 50th birthday party. He thought she would be embarrassed; however she was quite pleased.

Denise Patrick said...

Wow! Some great history and information there. Of course, I love music, but I didn't know any of this. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

Happy TT

X. Dell said...

I knew pretty much about all of these women, but except for the famous ones, I'd never seen pictures. The pictures are a great touch, especially the contemporary ones. Peggy Sue's photo, for instance, really reminds us of how long Buddy Holly's been gone.

X. Dell said...

BTW, Patti Boyd was also the inspiration for Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight."

pjazzypar said...

Denise Patrick,

I didn't know the stories behind some of these songs, but it was fun researching the information.

X. Dell,

Patti Boyd was just an inspiration, wasn't she? I had a teenage picture of Donna Fox, but I thought it would be fitting to show her as she is today, a real estate agent in Northern California. It does put the time frame in perspective though.

Beth said...

Now that is some homework! I definitely didn't know most of those -- Sweet Caroline, yes ... but then, I really like that song :)

pjazzypar said...


I loved Sara smile, so of course I knew it was an ode to Hall's then girlfriend. I like the song "Sweet Caroline" a little more, since learning why it was penned.

Frozen said...

The song Sara may have been inspired by Sara Fleetwood..But this song was not about her or rehab.. Stevie didn't go into rehab till 1987. The great dark wing is Mick Fleetwood..when you build your house she is referring to Don Henley. Stevie is actually singing about herself. Sara is a name that Stevie has loved since she was a young girl. She has been known to check herself in under that name at hotels and she used it when she checked into Betty Ford Clinic. She named her dog Sara Belladonna. Stevie is the poet.

Anonymous said...

The Peter Gabriel hit “In Your Eyes,” released on his 1986 album So, was written about the singer’s then-girlfriend and actress Rosanna Arquette.

The Gold Librarian said...

I wander if Paul Anka's Diana was written for anyone in particular? I love that song!