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25 Songs That Were Written About Famous People

11 min read
25 Songs That Were Written About Famous People

There’s a lot of speculation around lately about Beyonce’s song Lemonade and who a lass referred to as “Becky with the good hair” could be in real life.

It’s believed that whoever it is, had an affair in real life with Queen Bey’s husband, Jay Z.

That’s a whole bucket of crazy we aren’t going to delve into right now… but it did get me thinking about all the famous people who have been sung about in songs over the years. Some of them have been well and truly dissed, some reflected on more fondly.

1.  “You’re So Vain” – Carly Simon

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Who’s it about? Warren Beatty. Sort of.

For more than 40 years, it was speculated that the subject of this famous song dissing a former lover was actor Warren Beatty, which Carly always denied. Other theories were that she was singing about Mick Jagger, James Taylor or David Geffen. Carly finally came clean in 2015 and told People magazine that the second verse of the song was about Beatty, but that the first verse was about two other men.

2. “You Oughta Know” – Alanis Morissette

Alanis Morissette You Oughta Know 52125 | Stay at Home Mum.com.au
en.wikipedia.org
Who’s it about? Dave Coulier, aka “Uncle Joey from Full House

This song has seriously got to be one of the angriest post-break-up songs ever written. And supposedly it’s about Dave Coulier, who played Uncle Joey on Full House, who Alanis dated as a teenager in 1992. It’s pretty full-on when you consider who she’s singing it about, especially when she reveals she would go down on him in a theatre! This knowledge actually gives me the night terrors.

3. “Candle in the Wind” – Elton John

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Who’s it about? Marilyn Monroe (1973 version) and Princess Diana (1997 version)

Elton and his ye olde time song writing buddy, Bernie Taupin, originally penned Candle In The Wind in 1973, 11 years after Marilyn Monroe died. Taupin has said that it could have been written about any famous people who died too young – it’s about the idea of somebody being cut short in the prime of their life.

Following the death of Elton’s good friend Princess Diana in a car accident in 1997, he and Taupin revised the lyrics of the song as a tribute to her. Elton played the song publicly at her funeral, and has refused to play this version at any of his concerts ever since. It has been certified as the best-selling song of all time in the United Kingdom.

4. “Don’t” Ed Sheeran

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Who’s it about? Ellie Goulding.

This song is about two singers who have similar tour schedules and hook up for sexy times whenever they’re in the same place at the same time. Except for when she goes off and sleeps with someone else. It’s rumoured to be about a fling that Sheeran and Goulding had, that ended when she went off with another singer who is believed to be Niall Horan from One Direction.

5. “Paper Doll” – John Mayer

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Who’s it about? Taylor Swift

John Mayer and Tay Tay dated for a little while in 2009. Things didn’t really end up well, with Taylor writing a song about him in 2010 called Dear John (we’ll get to that in a minute). Meyer’s song is purportedly revenge for that effort, and the lyrics allude, albeit not very subtly, to Taylor’s song 22.

6. “Dear John” – Taylor Swift

dear john taylor swift
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Who’s it about? John Mayer

Taylor Swift is the queen of writing songs about her celebrity exes and others. I’d be here all day if I listed all of them, so I have just a selection. I saw a meme doing the rounds of Facebook the other day of Taylor holding hands with her current boyfriend and the caption said “Taylor Swift holding hands with her new album”.  But I digress. Following the aforementioned breakup with John Mayer, Taylor released a song called “Dear John” which wasn’t terribly subtle given that his name is John and everything.

7. “We Are Never, Ever, Getting Back Together” – Taylor Swift

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Who’s it about? Jake Gyllenhaal

Still on Tay Tay, the title of this song served as a memo to actor Jake Gyllenhaal that they were never, ever getting back together. Like, ever.

8. “Bad Blood” – Taylor Swift

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wikipedia.org
Who’s it about? Katy Perry.

Not about an ex-boyfriend, Bad Blood is believed to document the breakdown of the friendship between Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, although Tay Tay has denied this.

9. “Part Of Me” – Katy Perry

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Who’s it about? Russell Brand

Katy was married to the long-haired English comedian for a mere 14 months before he dumped her by text message. Understandably, she was pretty pissed off about it and wrote about it in this song.  “You chewed me up/And spit me out/Like I was poison in your mouth” she sang. “This is the part of me/That you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no.

10. “Layla” – Eric Clapton

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Who’s it about? Pattie Boyd

Layla is a love song that was written about Eric’s friend George Harrison, from The Beatles’, first wife, Pattie Boyd. Initially, it was about his unrequited love for her, but they ended up having an affair and later went on to get married.

11. “My Favorite Mistake” – Sheryl Crow

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genius.com
Who’s it about? Eric Clapton

Speaking of Eric Clapton, he’s widely believed to be the subject of Sheryl Crow’s hit My Favorite Mistake, a tale of a cheating ex-boyfriend.

12. “Uptown Girl” – Billy Joel

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Who’s it about? Christie Brinkley and/or Elle Macpherson

Joel has claimed his hit song about a posh, wealthy girl falling for a guy from a working class background was initially written about his relationship with Aussie supermodel Elle Macpherson, who was his girlfriend at the time. He said it ended up also becoming about his soon-to-be wife Christie Brinkley, who was also a famous 1980s supermodel.

13. “Dude Looks Like A Lady” – Aerosmith

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wikipedia
Who’s it about? Vince Neil from Motley Crue

Oh Steven Tyler, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Back when hair bands were all the rage, this song was written following an encounter between Aerosmith and Mötley Crüe where the latter band said “dude” a lot.

14. “I’ll Stick Around” – Foo Fighters

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Who’s it about? Courtney Love

Who can hate Dave Grohl?? The widow of his ex Nirvana bandmate, Kurt Cobain, that’s who. Courtney Love and Dave are rumoured to have had a mutual hatred of one another all the way back to the Nirvana days. On the Foo Fighters’ 1995 song I’ll Stick Around, Dave takes a swipe at Courtney with the lines “I’m the only one who sees/your rehearsed insanity”. He has confirmed that the song is about Courtney.

15. “Heart Shaped Box” – Nirvana

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Who’s it about? Courtney Love’s vagina

In 2012, singer Lana Del Rey performed a cover of Nirvana’s 1993 hit Heart Shaped Box in Sydney. Afterwards, Courtney Love reached out to her on Twitter to advise “You do know the song is about my vagina right?” Classy AF.

16. “Hollaback Girl” – Gwen Stefani

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genius.com
Who’s it about? Courtney Love

Courtney is said to have referred to Gwen as a “cheerleader” in a snippy manner during an interview with Seventeen magazine. Which got Gwen fired up, and she wrote this song in response. Courtney kept it classy as always and fired back by publicly bagging out Gwen’s L.A.M.B clothing line and claiming she slept with Gwen’s then-husband Gavin Rossdale. This shit is bananas! B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

17. “Cool” Gwen Stefani

Gwen-Stefani-Cool-Front-2-2

Who’s it about? Tony Kanal

Gwen and her former No Doubt bandmate, bassist Tony Kanal, used to be an item, and then they weren’t. Their relationship breakdown was previously the subject of the No Doubt song Don’t Speak, which was a song about hurt and no resolution. Cool sees them many years down the track where they have been able to become and remain really good friends. “After all that we’ve been through, I know we’re cool,” Gwen sings.

18. “29 Palms” – Robert Plant

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www.discogs.com
Who’s it about? Alannah Myles

The former Led Zeppelin frontman released this song in the early 1990s, believed to be about Canadian singer Alannah Myles who he was an item with for a while. The song is an ode to 29 Palms, a tiny Californian desert town, which is said to be one of Alannah’s favourite places. The chorus also contains the lines “It comes kind of hard/when I hear your voice on the radio.” This song was released in the era where Alannah enjoyed a lot of airplay, so it was probably a bit rough on him hearing her all the time.

19. “Sweet Caroline” – Neil Diamond

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Who’s it about? Caroline Kennedy

Because my name is in this song, it has caused me great angst like you wouldn’t believe my entire life, so I admit I am biased about this. BUT the story behind the song is actually ultra creepy. Neil said he was inspired to write the song after seeing a photo of John F. Kennedy’s daughter Caroline as a child riding a horse. She was only 12 when the song came out. So… ewwwww.

20. “Cry Me A River” – Justin Timberlake

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Who’s it about? Britney Spears

It took about 10 years for JT to admit this song was about Britney, but Blind Freddy already knew that. The two young lovers were one of the most famous music couples at the turn of the century, but split after Brit was rumoured to have cheated on Justin. (WHO WOULD CHEAT ON JUSTIN?!?!) The song chronicled a breakup not dissimilar to theirs, and the video even featured a woman who kinda looked like Britney.

21. “What Goes Around…Comes Around” – Justin Timberlake

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Who’s it about? Elisha Cuthbert

Originally thought by many to be Cry Me A River Part 2 because, well, it sounded like more of the same thing. It actually turns out that JT wrote it about his best friend Trace Ayala’s breakup with 24 star Elisha Cuthbert.

22. “Suicide Blonde” – INXS

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Who’s it about? Kylie Minogue

Back in the late 1980s, Kylie Minogue and Michael Hutchence, the INXS lead singer, dated for a brief time. At the time, Kylie starred in the 1989 movie The Delinquents and had to dye her hair platinum blonde for the role. In an interview, Michael quoted her as saying “I’m going suicide blonde today”.

23. “Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” – U2

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en.wikipedia.org
Who’s it about? Michael Hutchence

Michael Hutchence committed suicide in 1997, leaving behind a shocked wife, family, band, friends and fans. Bono wrote this song in response to his friend’s death, in the form of an imaginary argument he would have liked to have had with Michael about ending his life, convincing him that it was a foolish act.

24. “So What?” – Pink

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en.wikipedia.org
Who’s it about? Carey Hart

Pink wrote this song about the breakdown of her marriage to motocross racer Carey Hart. The couple were separated and heading to divorce at the time. However, he agreed to appear in her video for the song… and they eventually got back together and have since had an adorable daughter.

25. “Fuck You” – Lily Allen

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en.wikipedia.org
Who’s it about? George W. Bush

Lily Allen took exception to comments that former US President George W. Bush made about the LGBT community in 2008 and wrote a gay anthem that also flipped him the bird at the same time.

Have you found any of your favourite artists in here? 

25 Songs That Were Written About Famous People

About Author

Caroline Duncan

Caroline Duncan is a freelance journalist and photographer with almost 20 years' media experience in radio, magazines and online. She is also a mother...Read More of three daughters, and when she's not writing or taking pictures, she's extremely busy operating a taxi service running them around to various activities. She can't sew and hates housework. Read Less

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