Songs are undeniably one of the most essential parts of our lives. Sure we enjoy the melodies, but it is more fascinating to know what’s behind the masterpieces. The same songs sometimes sound different when we learn about their history. Every legendary song is a derivation of some other inspiration, idea, or backstory. Forget about the sweet and motivational ones; they are clichéd. To satisfy your curiosity, here’s the list of 10 popular songs with weird backstories
1. “Hey There Delilah”
Tom Higgenson, the lead singer of Plain White T’s, was introduced to a cute girl, Delilah DiCrescenzo in a hotel by one of his friends. He was apparently being all flirtatious with her, but since Delilah was committed to somebody else, she didn’t respond the same way. Tom didn’t just give up and went on to brag that he’ll write a song about her, and it would be a great hit. Delilah didn’t take Tom’s words seriously, but Tom wrote the song anyway.
DiCrescenzo was a 24-year-old athlete, pursuing her graduate degree at Columbia University when she met Tom. Higgenson actually wrote the song five years after he met Delilah.
Initially, the song didn’t get much recognition, but with time, it became a favorite of everybody. At one point, it rose to the nation’s top single. The band performed the hit for years at concerts and shows.
The identity of Delilah was not revealed. At the brink when the song gained popularity, the real Delilah surely came across it everywhere, at the gym, pool, etc. However, she was too shy to reveal that Delilah was her.
2. Smells Like Teen Spirit
During the early days of Nirvana, Kurt Cobain, the frontman of the band, and was dating a girl that his friend, Kathleen Hanna, hated. Teen Spirit was actually a girl’s deodorant that Kurt’s girlfriend used. On one regular day, Hanna spray-painted “Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit“ all over his bedroom. That was the day after his girlfriend had stayed over. Kurt had no idea what Teen Spirit was but thought “Smells like Teen Spirit” was a perfect title for his new song.
Hanna, the singer of the band Bikini Kill, said she was tipsy when she decorated Kurt’s place with that single phrase in 1990. Kurt wrote the song in frustration a year later after his breakup with Tobi Vail, his girlfriend who wore Teen Spirit.
Kurt took the phrase as a compliment and learned that Teen Spirit was a deodorant months later after the song was out in September. He assumed the phrase has to do with their earlier discussion on the teen revolution, and thought he was being referred to as an inspirational figure.
Nirvana, except Kurt, didn’t appreciate the song; they found it derivative and clichéd.
Kurt wanted to name the song “Anthem” at the beginning, but he backed off since Bikini Kill had already released one with the same name. Nonetheless, “Smells like Teen Spirit” became Nirvana’s game changer and catalyzed their success immensely. (1, 2)
3. “Let It Be”
Paul McCartney was deep into drugs and alcohol when his mother visited him in his dream one night and gently told him, “Let it be.” His mother Mary, who died when Paul was 14 years old, appeared clearly in his dream and reassured him to be kind, gentle, and to go with the flow. Paul was overwhelmed by the inspiration and the first thing that he did after waking up was write the legendary song.
There were many reasons why Paul was in a rough phase during the 1960s. He was struggling with all the stress from managing the band, the music industry, and the cons of fame.
Paul’s late mother entered his dream and soothed him with her hopeful words, “It’s going to be okay, just let it be.”
In an interview, Paul mentioned, “My mother gave me the positive words, and so I wrote the song ‘Let It Be’ out of positivity.”
Undoubtedly, the song is a rhetoric one, and there are no questions about its incredibility. However, it also triggers the memory of Paul’s disintegration from the Beatles since it was the final single released by the four-piece. (Source)
Jonny Greenwood, the guitarist of the band Radiohead, said that Thom Yorke had written this song in memory of a girl that he chased around like a creep. Yorke followed her after she had been a part of a gig by the band. In 1993, Yorke himself mentioned that he had a real problem being a man in the ‘90s.
The song delivers a perspective of an intoxicated man that keeps stalking a woman whom he is attracted to and isn’t confident to confront her.
York was being asked about the song one time, and he replied that he was dealing with this problem of asserting himself in a masculine way without looking like a part of a hard-rock band. Yorke adds, “It is one of the things that I’m always trying: To assert a sexual persona and on the other hand trying desperately to negotiate it.”
Thom had written the song back in the second half of the 1980s while he was studying at Exeter University. At first, Yorke was dissatisfied with his writing and thought the lyrics were just crap.
5. “The Way”
This upbeat pop hit is about an elderly couple who reportedly had medical issues that often made them confused. They ended up being 500 miles away from their home without their families knowing. A few weeks after their mysterious disappearance, only their bodies were found at the bottom of a cliff in Arkansas. The news grabbed Tony Scalzo, Fastball’s bassist, attention, and he wrote a song about the tragedy.
The story begins in Salado, Texas. In 1986, in their 70s, Lela and Raymond fall in love with each other and decided to get married.
The couple had a tradition of driving to the fiddling festival every year, held in Oldsmobile 15 miles away from their place. In 1997, they were on the same, crazy, teenage-like pursuit even if Raymond was in his late 80s and had a stroke; Lela 83, was showing all the signs of dementia.
Fastball’s bass player Tony Scalzo kept track of the missing couple’s headlines in the newspaper.
Tony couldn’t just pull his attention away from the story and decided to write a song about the couple. The song sounds much like a typical romantic teenage love story with road trips rather than an insane elderly couple.
The band released the song in 1998, and it became a mainstream hit. (Source)