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The Stories Behind Famous Songs

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

While we all love music, sometimes we get so caught up in the rhythm and beat, we forget that the lyrics to our favorite songs might have a story that isn’t necessarily based in fiction. Instead, many of these songs are often based on life and experiences of the very artists we adore so much.

Here’s a quick collection of some interesting back stories to some pretty famous songs.


Hey Jude by The Beatles

Julian was just a little boy when his dad, John Lennon, was getting a divorce from his mother. Paul Mcartney wrote the song to help Julian get over the trauma of having a slightly broken family. It originally was penned as “Hey Jules”, but they later changed it to Jude.

Image source - Ultimate Classic Rock

Image source – Ultimate Classic Rock


Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana

Kathleen Hanna, punk singer and friend of Kurt Cobain, actually wrote the words “Kurt smells like teen spirit” on his bedroom wall after one drunken afternoon. ‘Teen spirit’ was actually the name of a perfume that Kurt’s ex-girlfriend used to wear, and Kathleen’s words were meant as a diss. One woman’s diss turned into a classic song title.

Image source - 8Tracks

Image source – 8Tracks


Smoke On The Water by Deep Purple

Deep Purple were in Switzerland to record their album ‘Machinehead’. Frank Zappa’s concert at nearby Montreux Casino ended in a massive fire accident that burnt the casino to the ground. The fire also lent the entire of Lake Geneva a massive hazy covering, which the band could see from their hotel room, hence the name Smoke on the Water.

Image source - Ultimate Classic Rock

Image source – Ultimate Classic Rock


Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton

Many may not know that this popular song was inspired by real, devastating events in Eric Clapton’s life. The song was a tribute to his son Conor, who fell to his death from a 53rd-floor New York City apartment window in 1991. Eric had just arrived at the hotel and moved straight past the crowd gathered at the bottom, with no idea that they were investigating the incident. 

Image source - YouTube

Image source – YouTube


Jeremy by Pearl Jam

“Jeremy spoke in class today” is the continuous hook in this cult classic, but the story behind it will leave you shook. The line is actually a metaphor for a boy taking his own life in front of his class at school, and is actually based on a real shooting. Inspired by a 15-year-old boy named Jeremy Delle who shot himself in front of his classmates at school in January 1991. 

Image source - You just made my list

Image source – You just made my list


Mean by Taylor Swift

This song was penned by Swift as a direct response to a reporter who criticized her quite rudely after a shaky live performance by her. Though she initially defended with a statement on how every single person, including musicians, has an off day every now and again, it didn’t seem to take the sting away, and eventually led to the song.

Image source - Wikipedia

Image source – Wikipedia


And now you know. You now have special knowledge and behind the scenes info on not only your favorite bands and singers, you also know the special meaning behind the lyrics of some great songs. What should you do with this knowledge? Isn’t it obvious? It’s now the perfect time to listen to these songs again, but from a brand new and more informed perspective. Happy Listening!