3 Songs Inspired By Incredible People

One of the beautiful things about songwriting is that an artist is at liberty to write lyrics about whatever they feel passionate about, or interested in. The most popular songs in the world transcend language barriers and cultures due to the fact that they speak to core human motivations and desires – from love and loss, to self empowerment, dreams or even political commentary. 

Often it can be a person that inspires a songwriter to craft a memorable tune. Whether they know them personally, or admire them from afar, some of our most memorable songs are directly inspired by the actions, thoughts and words of some extraordinary people.

Below we’re taking a look at three great examples of this trend within popular song writing, and will seek to uncover what makes these people so special they played muse to some of our greatest musicians.

Candle in the Wind

Few songs have ever been written about multiple people at the same time, but that’s precisely what happened with Elton John and songwriting partner Bernie Taupin’s iconic ballad, Candle In the Wind. The song was originally written in 1973 about the Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe, who died young. 

The lyrics speak to the experience of witnessing someone cut down in their prime. As such, it proved to be a fitting tribute when John’s dear friend, Princess Diana, died thirty years later, in 1997. 

The song was re-released as a tribute to the princess, and became a cultural phenomenon and focal point for a nation coming to terms with grief surrounding her loss of someone who had captured the hearts of the public with her humanitarian work and personality.

The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo

Taking a leaf from the history books here we have The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, a song that in its day was as big as any modern pop hit. Written by music hall songwriter Fred Gilbert in 1891 and popularized by the superstar singer and comedian, Charles Coburn, the song refers to the escapades of one Charles Wells.

In 1891, Charles Wells – a man of many talents, enjoyed a record breaking run on the Casino de Monte Carlo, the iconic gaming parlor at the heart of the Principality of Monaco. It is said that over the course of several days, Wells employed a roulette betting strategy known as the Martingale system, to sweep Monte Carlo’s roulette tables to the sum of 1 million francs. 

Correcting for inflation, that amounts to around $13 million. Given he started out with the equivalent of $3000, this is no mean feat. At the time it caused a sensation across Europe, and was widely talked about. No wonder Gilbert, who had a keen sense of a captivating tale, saw in Wells’ feat the raw materials for crafting a music hall classic.

Nowadays roulette is most often enjoyed in its digital variants by a new generation of tech savvy table fans. What’s more, while the betting strategy employed by Wells is now arguably an antique, it can still be found in use among gaming aficionados looking to emulate the man’s record results.

Come Together

Few bands can hold a candle to The Beatles when it comes to crafting memorable songs. From the iconic ballad Hey Jude, to the rock n’ roll thrills of A Hard Day’s Night, their discography amounts to one of the most instantly recognizable and widely acclaimed of any in the 20th century. 

And while John, Paul, George and Ringo most frequently wrote on love, relationships and heartbreak, sometimes the source of their inspiration was more pointed. In 1969, Timothy Leary – one of the leading counter-cultural lights of the late 60s, a popularizer of psychedelics and the originator of the slogan ‘Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out’, requested of his friend John Lennon a very special song. 

This tune was to serve as the song for Leary’s failed ‘69 bid to run for Governor of California. The song, which came to be called ‘Come Together’, and ultimately appeared on The Beatles 11th studio album, Abbey Road, sought to capture the essence of the man and his message, and has gone down as one of the all time great counter-cultural protest songs.