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Real Women Behind the Songs

Patti Boyd with George Harrison--she inspired "Layla" Patti Boyd with George Harrison--she inspired "Layla"

Who was Sweet Caroline? What about Clapton's Layla? The women behind famous songs have interesting stories. Let’s find out who these ladies were who inspired some of the greatest songs ever - and were immortalized for it!


The background behind some of the most popular songs ever sung may surprise you. We sing along to our iPods while we tend our hydroponics gardens, but do we know the real people they were written for?

Sweet Caroline

Neil Diamond wrote this pop song in 1969, and it not only reached # 4 on the Billboard chart but went platinum (sold one million singles). Who was it written for? Little Caroline Kennedy, who was only 11 years old at the time. Nearly two decades later, Diamond sang it to her on her 30th birthday.

Jenny (867-5309)

Songwriters Alex Call and Jim Keller wrote this sassy little number for Tommy Tutone’s second big album. Call claimed there was no Jenny and that the number was wholly fictitious, while lead singer Tommy Heath staunchly maintained it was the number of a girl he knew and that he had written it on a motel bathroom wall.

Suzanne (Fire and Rain)

James Taylor’s hit was at first thought to be about his girlfriend Suzanne who died in a plane crash - but the famed singer later explained it was really for Susie, a girl he knew from rehab who had been put in an isolation cell. Susie had ultimately killed herself. Her name was changed in the song to make the lyrics flow better.

Oh, Donna

Richie Valens wrote a song about his high school sweetheart which reached # 2 on the Billboard Top 100 chart and became his highest charted single. It was actually on the A side of his second album - the B side being La Bamba.

My Sharona

In 1979, Doug Fieger, lead singer for The Knack, met a girl named Sharona Alperin. Earlier, the band’s guitarist Breton Averre had played a riff for Fieger - it was developed into a song bearing her name which was released as a single from their album Get The Knack. It stayed on the Billboard Hot Singles Chart for six weeks and went gold.


This lady was a goddess, by all accounts - no, literally! Stevie Nicks became fascinated with a novel called Triad which related a mangled version of an old Welsh tale: a woman named Branwen was possessed by a ‘witch’ named Rhiannon. He liked the name so much he wrote a song about it - then later found out Rhiannon was actually a goddess in Welsh mythology. Nicks even wrote another song inspired by Rhiannon - the Fleetwood Mac hit Angel.


Eric Clapton's incredibly powerful guitar tour-de-force-paean to love, was composed for Beatle George Harrison's wife, Patti Boyd, whom Clapton was secretly in love with. She eventually ended up leaving Harrison and marrying Clapton. However, the romance didn't last--they were divorced in 1988. The name of the song comes from an old Sufi story--"Layla and Majnun"--about a pair of lovers destined to be apart forever.

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

Written mostly by John Lennon but officially credited to Paul McCartney, this Beatles’ classic was inspired by Lennon’s son, who drew a picture of his nursery school classmate Lucy O’Donnell. He told his father “It’s Lucy - in the sky - with diamonds!”

And you thought it was about LSD! :-)

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Clapton performs "Layla" live in Madison Square Garden
Last modified on Monday, 17 September 2012 15:43

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