The real stories behind popular songs

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Esthersmayspross // Ever wonder about the inspiration for your favorite tune? Keep reading to learn more about the events that helped create some of music's biggest hits.

We all have that one song that we hope will come on every time we turn on the radio; the one song that we sing in the shower with embarrassing enthusiasm. But how well do we know our song’s true story? Almost all of the most epic hits have equally epic stories. Here are five of my favorites:

Hey There Delilah by Plain White T’s

This sweet love song about a long-distance relationship was an instant success when it was released in 2006. The lead singer of the Plain White T’s, Tom Higgenson, was introduced to the real Delilah by friends. She was a track star whom he immediately fell for, but she was already in a relationship. He told her that he would write her a song and take her to the Grammys one day, which she dismissed as idle flirting. Their relationship remained platonic until Tom finally fulfilled his promise by taking “Hey There Delilah” to #1 on the charts. When it was nominated for Best Song of the Year, Delilah agreed to be Tom’s date to the Grammys. You go, Tom!

2. Every Breath Your Take by The Police

This classic rock song is construed by most people as a love song, but it is anything but. The front man of The Police, famous guitarist Sting, actually wrote it in the wake of his nasty separation from his first wife. He became obsessed with her, and their relationship was ultimately destructive. He wanted the song to be a warning about how letting relationships consume you is something to avoid.

3. Blank Space by Taylor Swift

Swift said in an interview that the song “Blank Space” started as a joke. She was frustrated, but also intrigued by the media’s false portrayal of her love life, so she decided to give the public what they wanted rather than deny it. Blank Space is about what life would be like if she really was the needy, emotional heart-breaker everyone believes her to be (“Got a long list of ex-lovers/ they’ll tell you I’m insane”). However, she managed to let the truth shine through in subtle ways. In the lyric notes of the album, she intentionally capitalized certain words. They create the sentence, “There once was a girl known by everyone and no one.” She certainly knows how to get her point across!

4. Yesterday by The Beatles

The greatest rock band of all time is known for writing prolific lyrics, but Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday” wasn’t always the groundbreaking hit that it is today. He claims that he heard the melody in a dream one night in 1963. That morning, he needed a way to remember the melody, so he chose a series of nonsense words that went “Scrambled eggs/ Oh you’ve got such lovely legs/ Scrambled eggs/ Oh, my baby, how I love your legs.” After writing the accompanying guitar chords, he eventually decided to change the lyrics to “Yesterday/ all my troubles seemed so far away/ now it looks as though they’re here to stay.” Personally, I’m a fan of the original lyrics!

5. Rolling in the Deep by Adele

When she started writing her second album, Adele was in her “first real relationship” with an older man. They were very unhappy together, and her career as a musician was at a virtual stand-still. When the two eventually broke up, she was utterly heart-broken. She immediately went to the studio to talk to her songwriting partner, Paul Epworth. Not long afterwards, “Rolling in the Deep” was born from her anger. It launched her career as an international star. She showed him.


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