Songs That We'll Never Listen To The Same After Learning Their Backstories

Kurt Cobain performing live
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A person's relationship with music is a highly personal thing. You might like a song for its lyrical content, or maybe you just like how easy it is to dance to.

In any event, songs are even more personal to the original songwriter. Lyrics and meanings are often shrouded in mystery and open for interpretation. Heck, in some cases, learning the true backstory of a song has the power to change the way you listen to it.

Pearl Jam: "Jeremy"

You can kind of tell there's something biographical in "Jeremy," and a quick look into the song's backstory confirms this. Eddie Vedder wrote the song after reading a newspaper article about a high school student who shot and killed himself in front of his class in 1991.

R.E.M.: "Losing My Religion"

Some people might know that "losing my religion" is a southern expression that refers to losing one's patience. The song was written with this in mind, and lead singer Michael Stipe says it's about the breakdown of a bad relationship.

Sarah McLachlan: "Angel"

McLachlan's sensitive ballad "Angel" appears on her fourth album, Surfacing. She wrote it as a tribute to Jonathan Melvoin, the touring keyboard player for the Smashing Pumpkins, who died of a heroin overdose in July of 1996.

The Beatles: "She Said She Said"

"She Said She Said," off of the Beatles' album Revolver, was written by John Lennon after an ugly LSD trip. Lennon was inspired to write it after attending a party where actor Peter Fonda kept describing a gunshot wound.

The Beatles: "Sexy Sadie"

The Beatles gif

"Sexy Sadie" may be the first verified diss track in popular music history. The Fab Four wrote it about their former guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. They had a falling out with him after finding out he'd allegedly made sexual advances on Mia Farrow.

Eric Clapton: "Layla"

Clapton wrote "Layla" not about a woman named Layla, but about Pattie Boyd, the wife of close friend and former Beatle George Harrison. Eventually, Boyd and Harrison got a divorce and years later, Clapton and Boyd got married.

Smash Mouth: "All Star"

Smash Mouth "All Star" gif

It's more meme than song at this point, but Smash Mouth wanted "All Star" to be a message of positivity for their fans. It was written after the band noticed that a lot of the fan mail they received was from kids who'd been bullied.

Pink Floyd: "Shine On You Crazy Diamond"

The sad, wistful nature of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" is due to the fact that it's a highly personal song. It was written about former vocalist Syd Barrett and his mental decline.

Kiss: "Detroit Rock City"

It's easy enough to tune out the lyrics of "Detroit Rock City" by Kiss, but it actually may be the band's darkest song. The lyrics are not just a tribute to Detroit, but also to a fan who died on his way to a Kiss show in Detroit.

Radiohead: "Creep"

Is "Creep" about a guy who's a creep and a weirdo? More or less. Radiohead's lead singer Thom Yorke wrote it about a girl he had a crush on in school. In a bit of a twist, Yorke later saw her at one of the band's shows.

Frank Zappa: "Dancin' Fool"

"Dancin' Fool" comes off as a silly song about a guy who can't dance. But the lyrics, about having misshapen legs and feet, relate to a serious injury suffered by Frank Zappa at a concert, in which he was punched and launched into the orchestra pit.

Dolly Parton: "I Will Always Love You"

Dolly Parton's written some great relationship songs, and it would seem at first blush that "I Will Always Love You" is about the breakup of a romantic relationship. In reality, Parton wrote it about a professional breakup with longtime collaborator and mentor Porter Wagoner.

Pink Floyd: "The Dark Side of the Moon"

Let's tackle a whole album rather than a given song. Pink Floyd's legendary The Dark Side of the Moon features indistinct voices in between songs. Those voices are actually studio members answering questions that were written on cue cards by band member Roger Waters.

Alanis Morisette: "Hands Clean"

Like many singer-songwriters, Alanis Morisette has written a number of autobiographical songs about past relationships. In the case of "Hands Clean," things get a bit darker. That's because the relationship she's singing about happened with someone in the music industry when she was only 14 or 15 years old.

U2: "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of"

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We've all been stuck in a moment we can't get out of, often due to personal trauma. That's the case with U2's "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of," which was written after the suicide of Michael Hutchence of INXS, who was a good friend of U2's lead singer Bono.

Pixies: "Ana"

Wordplay is common in songs, but acrostic poems are a little more rare. "Ana" by the Pixies is a short song that turns into an acrostic poem when you read the lyrics:

She's my fave

Undressing in the sun

Return to sea, bye

Forgetting everyone

Eleven high

Ride the wave

Nirvana: "Polly"

Kurt Cobain performing live
youtube | sgtpaminta

No one is going to mistake "Polly" for being an upbeat song, and that's probably because it's based on a truly messed up story. Kurt Cobain wrote the song after seeing a news article about a woman who was kidnapped and taken captive.

Suzanne Vega: "Tom's Diner"

"Tom's Diner" by folk singer Suzanne Vega was written about Tom's Restaurant in New York. The fun bit of trivia comes in the fact that while it was written and recorded years before the debut of Seinfeld, it concerns the same restaurant featured in so many of the show's exterior shots.

Plain White T's: "Hey There Delilah"

The 2006 single "Hey There Delilah" was written about Delilah DiCrescenzo, who songwriter Tom Higgenson had a big-time crush on. Even though the real-life Delilah already had a boyfriend, Higgenson still decided to write an ode to her.

Red Hot Chili Peppers: "Under the Bridge"

Most people know by now that RHCP's seminal "Under the Bridge" deals with lead singer Anthony Kiedis, his drug addiction, and the city of Los Angeles. What's less known is the fact that it references a story of Kiedis lying his way into a Mexican cartel's drug den to get his next fix.