THE INSPIRATION BEHIND SONGS

I’m always fascinated to hear how famous artists got the ideas for some of their iconic songs. It’s common knowledge that John Lennon was inspired to write one of his most famous songs by a painting that his son, Julian, did in nursery school. The subject of Julian’s artwork was his friend and classmate, Lucy O’Donnell, and he told his dad the painting was called, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” Lennon had read and admired the works of Lewis Carroll, and the name of Julian’s painting reminded him of a passage in “Through the Looking Glass” in which Alice floats in a “boat beneath a sunny sky.” Lennon drew on some of the images in Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass” when he wrote “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

I was doing a weekly sing-along in a Dunkin Donuts store a few years ago and wanted to write a song that featured the word “donuts.” But rather than focus on the sweet tastiness of the sugary confections themselves, I decided to capitalize on a phrase I had heard a friend’s father use way-back-when. And so that funny little phrase, “dollars to donuts,” became the name of a song that seems to inspire kids to form a circle, hold hands, and dance around. Too bad the DD gig only lasted for a month. But I’ll have the song forever.

Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” was inspired by a chance encounter with an old high school buddy. One of the guys happened to be going into a pub, and the other one was just coming out. The two friends sat down at the bar together and began reminiscing about their high school days over drinks. They stayed there until closing time, and then never saw each other again for 3 decades. “Glory Days,” though, became legendary with a puzzling mystery: Who was that speedball pitcher in the song?

When my daughter was little, I used to tell her a story at bedtime about the sleep fairies who appear at night to help children fall asleep. And I’d embellish the story with lots of girlie details that my daughter loved – like how the sleep fairies would command the stars to twinkle, how beautiful their dresses were, what their wings looked like, how the fluttering of their wings sounded. I’d finally come to the end of the story where the fairies would sprinkle golden stardust on the child’s face…and my daughter would be asleep or…almost asleep. And that’s how my “Sleep Fairies Lullabye” was born.

There are lots of stories about how artists are inspired to write the songs they do. Choose a song you’re intrigued by, and look it up online sometime. It may surprise you.

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