Gina Vivinetto’s Greatest Hits

I bet you think this song is about you

I’ve got a blog post at Afterellen.com today concerning famous songs about famous people. It’s inspired by Full House‘s Dave Coulier recently admitting the song “You Oughtta Know” by Alanis Morissette is about him.

I know, I can’t believe she went down on him in a movie theater either. It’s hard to imagine those two in such a passionate relationship that could skid so wildly out of control, right? I mean, Uncle Joey? At any rate, the drama inspired Alanis to write one of the best break-up songs of all time and it put her on the musical map.

I am fascinated by songs about well-known people. I don’t just mean love songs. I mean songs about famous actors and writers. Lots of bands, including the Eagles, have songs about James Dean. Elton John wrote about Marliyn Monroe in “Candle In The Wind.” Seems like half the bands in existence in the 1990s wrote a song for River Phoenix after he died.

Lots of musicians write homages to other musicians. For example, Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke.” (Click photo to enlarge:)

It’s a tribute to jazz’s greatest composer Duke Ellington. It also namedrops Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.

Or, Sting writing “An Englishman In New York,” about eccentric British writer Quentin Crisp. The Pixies wrote a puzzling song about the man who created the Eiffel Tower (“Alec Eiffel”) proving even architects can be the subject of a pop song. Although, I guess Simon & Garfunkel proved this first in the 1960s with “So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright.”

How about these:
Sonic Youth, Madonna, Sean and Me (Madonna, Sean Penn)
The Commodores, Night Shift (Marvin Gaye, Jackie Wilson)
Toto, Rosanna (Rosanna Arquette)
R.E.M., Man on the Moon (Andy Kauffman)
Bauhaus, Bela Lugosi’s Dead (Bela Lugosi)
Bertie Higgins, Key Largo (Humprhey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman)
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes (Judy Collins)
10,000 Maniacs, Hey Jack Kerouac (Jack Kerouac)
The Replacements, Alex Chilton (Big Star’s Alex Chilton)
Bryan Ferry, Kiss & Tell (Ferry’s ex-girlfriend Jerry Hall)
Joan Baez, Diamonds & Rust (Baez’s ex-boyfriend Bob Dylan)

I’ve done quite literally hours of research on the subject. If any agents read this, I’m ready to pen the book.

What’s your favorite musical homage? Or, maybe it’s a kiss-off song to a well-known somebody?

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20 thoughts on “I bet you think this song is about you

  1. Byl Cote on said:

    ‘Sad Vacation’ by Johnny Thunders about Sid Vicious

  2. ginavivinetto on said:

    That’s kind of ironic that punk’s second most messed-up guy wrote a tribute to the first. I wonder how many songs there are about Johnny?

  3. ‘I.C. Water’ – Psychic TV about Ian Curtis.

  4. Garth Carson on said:

    ‘Lonesome Cowboy Bill’- by The Velvet Underground about William S.Burroughs.

  5. Gina,
    The ‘Mats actually wrote a song about Thunders before they tipped their hat to Chilton (“Johnny’s Gonna Die” – Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash).

  6. My personal fave is Morrissey’s “Last of the Famous International Playboys” which is sort of about the Kray brothers, but I guess it’s actually about a dude trying to impress them or…maybe that doesn’t count. As Gina pointed out, Moz also wrote about a lot of lilly white Enlgish literary dudes too.

    But Fleetwood Mac doesn’t count either because they got famous while writing those songs. At the time, they’d been writing about mere humans, and those songs then turned them famous, after the fact.

    I think the new GZA tune “Paper Plate” about 50 Cent is really good too. If you start including rap in this, you’ll quadruple your song count.

  7. Garth Carson on said:

    ‘Holland 1945’, by Neutral Milk Hotel, was penned about the late great Anne Frank.

  8. Eric Morrison on said:

    I’ll go with “Robert De Niro’s Waiting” by Bananrama.

    also.. Seriously?! Dave Coulier?! Uncle Jesse maybe.. but gah!!

  9. Wendy Malloy on said:

    “Chelsea Hotel #2” — Leonard Cohen to Janis Joplin.

    I had no idea “Rosanna” by Toto was about Rosanna Arquette. Wow. You should totally write a book.

  10. ginavivinetto on said:

    I would love to write a book. I have pages of notes already. Alas, the only literary agent I ever had is long gone now.

  11. Marty Clear on said:

    “Hank, Karen and Elvis” by Young Fresh Fellows (Williams, Carpenter, Presley)
    “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel and Youssou N’Dour (also about Roseanna Arquette)
    “Sweet Black Angel” by the Rolling Stones (Angela Davis)
    “Don Henley Must Die” by Mojo Nixon
    “It Wasn’t Me,” A Dream” and “Hello It’s Me” by Lou Reed and John Cale — and in fact their whole “Songs for Drella” album (Andy Warhol

  12. ginavivinetto on said:

    If we are mentioning Mojo Nixon, we should include “Debbie Gibson is Pregnant With My Two-Headed Love Child.”

  13. Marty Clear on said:

    Since you didn’t restrict us to pop songs: Bach’s “Jesu. Joy of Man’s Desiring” (Jesus H. Christ)

    I guess we can’t count “Henry VIII” by Herman’s Hermits ’cause it’s not really about THAT Henry VIII.

    By the way Gina. I can hook you up with a literary agent if you want.

  14. “Georgia O” by the Nields Sisters. In addition to main subject Georgia O’Keefe, the song also cameos Ani DiFranco.

  15. “Went to See the Gypsy,” Dylan’s cleverly cloaked account of meeting one of his heroes, Elvis Presley. It’s off the 1970 album “New Morning.”

    “I went down to the lobby
    To make a small call out.
    A pretty dancing girl was there,
    And she began to shout,
    “Go on back to see the gypsy.
    He can move you from the rear,
    Drive you from your fear,
    Bring you through the mirror.
    He did it in Las Vegas,
    And he can do it here.”

  16. “Silver Needles” by Ian Hunter ’bout Sid Vicious. It’s got a really beautiful chorus… “sliver needles on the run” and he does a really great talk out at the end where he affects Sidney’s Cockney accent…
    I seen in some music paper that you was gone
    and I went right out and wrote you a farewell song. Boy, they had you dead before you was born. And it’s a shame – you were such a great mover!

  17. conner on said:

    what about “about a boy” by patti smith and “i don’t blame you” by cat power? the first was definitely about kurt cobain,the second is just rumored to be about him… but hey, rumors work for the media,right? oh, and the ultimate tribute song is called “thank you” by the descendents– it’s basically a shout-out to every band that’s inspired them. classy.

    keep up the blogging, gina.tampa misses you!

  18. “Joan Crawford” by Blue Oyster Cult

  19. Don’t forget “Sean Penn Blues” by Lloyd Cole!

  20. Adam Kasanof on said:

    Don Maclean had “American Pie” (about Richie Valens, Buddy Holly, and The Big Bopper)and “Vincent” (about Van Gogh), and here’s a link to a long list of other songs about famous people who weren’t politicians:

    http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/List-of-songs-about-famous-people-(other-than-politicians)

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