Name Dropping: Celebrity References In Songs Part 1
There are plenty of songs that we can only assume have been written about celebrities (see: every Taylor Swift song ever), but what about the songs that clearly reference them? There is just as much mystery surrounding these tracks, where at times, we can't be certain if the song is literally about the celebrity in question, or whether it was just inspired by them. Take a look at part 1 of our list of songs that reference celebrities and see what you think.
‘Andy Warhol’ by David Bowie
This tune about the biggest pop art icon ever was written by Bowie for his 1971 album Hunky Dory . Speaking to Rolling Stone about his meeting with Warhol, the singer said “I left knowing as little about him as a person as when I went in." Apparently Warhol wasn't too keen on shaking Bowie's hand as the singer described the Campbell Soup artist and his skin as “reptilian”. Bowie went on to portray Warhol in the 1996 film Basquiat .
‘Bette Davis Eyes’ by Kim Carnes
Though it topped the charts in 1981, the song was in fact written and recorded in the early 70s, the actress loved the song enough not only to meet with Carnes, but to frame and hang the single sleeve on her wall. The chorus is often misinterpreted as “better days aside” rather “Bette Davis eyes”.
‘Down With Prince’ by Hot Chip
The British electronic act wrote this song, not so much about Prince himself, but about his fans. This sentiment is clearly expressed in the line “motherfuckers trying to tell me that they're down with Prince”. Clearly more than a few fans of the Purple One have got in Hot Chip's way of enjoying the pop icon. Jealous much?
‘James Dean’ by Eagles
From their 1974 album On the Border, the American rock band typify in this song what many have come to think of James Dean's legacy. “Too fast to live, too young to die” just about says it all in relation to the Rebel Without a Cause actor's lifestyle which led to his death in 1955.
‘Buddy Holly’ by Weezer
The second single from The Blue Album was released on what would have been Holly's 58th birthday. The song is often misinterpreted as being romantic, but frontman Rivers Cuomo has stated that it is about defending a platonic female friend. Cuomo also wrote in a Myspace blog in 2006 that he initially questioned whether or not to include the song on their debut.
‘Just Like Jesse James’ by Cher
With reference to one of Wild West's most notorious figures this song comes from Cher's 20th album, Heart of Stone . The song sees Cher strut her stuff with a fair amount of girl power tactics employed as she warns that things will end in flames as they did when James, an American outlaw, was assassinated. Cher has often cited that because of the songs lengthy lyrics, she has never enjoyed performing it live.
‘Abraham, Martin, & John’ by Dion
While this 1968 song was recorded by Dion, it was written by Dick Holler in memory of four American icons (Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy) that had been assassinated. However the song was written directly in response to the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy who were killed in April and June of the year this song was released.
‘Clint Eastwood’ by Goriilaz
In 2001 the first single from this virtual band reached #4 on the UK charts. Damon Albarn sings the chorus which references the 1966 film The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, where Eastwood stars as the lead actor. Although there is no direct reference to the actor and director in the song, apart from the title. Gorilaz have also drawn inspiration from another film that Eastwood acted in, with one of their tracks being names after 1971’s Dirty Harry.
‘When Tom Cruise Cries’ by The Rakes
While it was never released as a single from their sophomore release, Ten New Messages, this hilariously titled track, isn't as funny as you might think. The song is about not being able to get in touch with someone, however it is home to the particularly ace line “like when Tom Cruise cries, it's all lies”.
‘Rufus Is A Titman’ by Loudon Wainright
The father of well-known musicians Rufus and Martha Wainright and Lucy Wainwright Roche obviously wrote this song about his son. Referring to Rufus during breastfeeding he sings“so put Rufus on the left one, and put me right on the right”. Wainwright Sr. also wrote about Rufus in his song 'A Father And A Son'.
‘I'll Never Smoke Weed With Willie Again’ by Toby Keith
That's what they all say, right? Taken from Keith's Shock'n Y'all album, the 2003 song refers to the country singer’s less than ideal experience with weed and Willie Nelson, where the“parties all over before it begins”. Keith's advice didn't quite reach Snoop Dog though, with the rapper and Nelson well acquainted when it comes to smoking weed together.
‘Robert De Niro's Waiting’ by Bananarama
One of the biggest songs to come from this English girl Group, the 1984 hit sees the creation of a fantasy world in which a female character pretends that the actor is her boyfriend .Originally the pop song was meant to be much more intense though, with the story to be set around a girl who gets raped and uses her imagination of her relationship with De Niro to escape the pain. But the lyrics were changed because it was essential that the single achieve airplay.
‘I Just Shot John Lennon’ by The Cranberries
While the title of this song might come across as a touch controversial it is actually a tribute to Lennon and the events that lead up to the singers murder. The song is a narrative, with it's title coming from shooter Mark Chapman's answer to the question “do you know what you've done?”. The song leads into commentary with the Irish band lamenting “what a sad, and sorry and sickening sight”.
‘Brian Eno’ by MGMT
The duo's psychedelic leap away from the mainstream with their second long player Congratulations includes this master and apprentice story with the producer (Eno) eventually turning on his students (MGMT). The song ends rather fittingly with Andrew Van Wyndgarden singing “I'm always one step behind him cause I don't know Brian Eno”.
‘Alex Chilton’ by The Replacements
This song pays tribute to the lead singer of The Box Trops and Big Star. It comes from The Replacements' fifth studio album Pleased to Meet Me. Chilton was also a guest musician on the record, with the singer playing guitar on the song 'Can't Hardly Wait'.
‘Ghandi Mate, Ghandi’ by Enter Shikari
The British rave-core band's third album A Flash Flood of Colour, released earlier this year, makes its fair share of political statements on the state of society. While the song begins with a rant that attempts to sum up the state of the world, the latter part of the song reflects the singer’s frustration with mankind possessing the resources and intelligence to protect the planet, yet none of it is being utilised. The band implores their listeners to just “remember Ghandi,” the Indian pacifist of the British revolution.
‘Rasputin’ by Boney M
This Euro-disco hit by this German outfit is a semi-biographical song about Grigori Rasputin and his alleged healing powers. Rasputin was a friend and advisor to Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family during the early 20th century.
‘Bob Dylan Blues’ by Syd Barrett
This song has never actually been released on any of Barrett's albums but it is available on compilation CDs and bootlegs. It's not entirely known whether the song is actually about Dylan or Barrett's take on fame or popular music. While the early parts of the song make reference to Dylan's character, much of the track also makes a statement on money made from music and how music affects people. This is demonstrated in the verse “roam from town to town, guess I get people down, but I don't care too much about that cause my gut and my wallet are fat”. The song was written in 1965, but was lost until 2001 when it was released on a compilation.
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