People Who Became the Inspiration Behind Famous Songs
Throughout history, some of the greatest stars and most enigmatic personalities have served as the basis for many of our best-loved and most popular songs. Whether in the form of a willing muse or object of admiration, something about the lives loves, attitudes and actions of these people ended up causing them to serve as the source of inspiration behind these classic tunes.
Come Together — The Beatles
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Inspiration: Timothy Leary
The 1960s was a time of unprecedented change in many areas of culture and society. Out of this ferment of activity, a host of iconic personalities emerged that has since become emblematic of that decade. One such person was Timothy Leary, the former Harvard psychology professor who grew in infamy for popularizing the use of the psychedelic compound LSD-25. His call to “Turn on, tune in, drop out” became a rallying cry for a generation of disaffected people eager to break out of the rigidly enforced norms of their post-war environment. In 1969, Leary launched an ultimately unsuccessful bid to run for the office of Governor of California. Seeking support, he made a request of friend John Lennon to pen a song for the campaign. The result was “Come Together”, which would become the opening track of The Beatles’ 11th studio album, Abbey Road.
The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo — Fred Gilbert
Inspiration: Charles Wells
In 1891, Charles Wells utilized a roulette strategy developed by British casino owner John Henry Martindale, now known as the Martingale system, to sweep the Casino de Monte-Carlo over three nights. Starting with just 4000 francs, his unprecedented run led to him walking away with 1 million, a sum approximate to over $5 million in modern currency. This led to him becoming immortalized in the song “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo”, a music hall classic written by Fred Gilbert and popularized by singer and comedian Charles Coborn. The song has experienced enduring popularity, with various versions and covers rising to prominence throughout much of the 20th century. The tune has even made numerous appearances on the silver screen, including in both Lawrence of Arabia and Alien: Covenant.
Happy Birthday — Stevie Wonder
Inspiration: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister and political activist remembered for his pivotal and influential role in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. His most famous speech, commonly referred to by its repeating expression “I Have a Dream” was given before the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC in August 1963 and is recognized as one of the greatest and most impactful examples of oration and speechwriting in history. King’s commitment to non-violent civil disobedience to achieve the movement’s aims has served as an inspiration to those engaged in compassionate resistance around the world. In 1980, RnB singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder composed the song “Happy Birthday”, in which he commemorates King’s life and work, and calls on the activist’s birthday to become a national holiday. As of 1986, MLK day indeed became a national holiday celebrated every January in the United States.
True Blue — Madonna
Inspiration: Sean Penn
Love has often been a decisive factor behind why songs are written, and this next one is no exception. Madonna composed “True Blue”, the title track of her third studio album, at the height of her fame in 1986. It was based upon, and dedicated to, her husband at the time, Sean Penn. The two met several years before on the set of the video for “Material Girl” and hit it off. Six months later the two were married and began a highly publicized on-again-off-again relationship that resulted in Madonna filing for divorce from Penn multiple times before their final separation was ratified in 1989. In the album’s notes Madonna stated that Penn was the “coolest guy in the universe”, but sadly no amount of style was able to overcome the challenges faced by their relationship.
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