15 Interesting Secrets Behind Famous Songs Fans Didn't Know

Jordan Claes
Photo of a jam space with a few scattered acoustic guitars and a bass guitar.
Unsplash | Wes Hicks

Songs can be a fickle thing. Sometimes, what we presume a song to be about is dead on the money. Other times, it couldn't be any further from the mark.

Music is an art and unless you understand the inspiration, it can be difficult to decipher a song's true meaning. So in the interest of peeling back the onion, here are 15 interesting secrets behind famous songs fans didn't know.

Bryan Adam's "Summer Of 69" isn't an ode to Americana.

Bryan Adams holding a vegan cuisine cook book.
instagram | @bryanadams

You might think that just because Adams bought his real first six-string at the Five and Dime that this track is an ode to '60s lore. In reality, it highlights the first summer wherein Adams performed the sexual act of 69.

Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" is about a drug dealer.

In Dylan's time, songs about illicit drug use would've fallen victim to censorship, so artists had to get creative. However, a close examination of Dylan's lyrics leaves little room for interpretation.

Johnny Cash didn't actually write "A Boy Named Sue."

Johnny Cash performing at Folsom Prison.

There's no denying that Cash's unmistakable baritone voice made the classic Rock song what it is today. But the lyrics were written by the iconic poet and children's author — Shel Silverstein.

"Semi-Charmed" by Third Eye Blind is the furthest thing from a radio-friendly pop tune.

Third Eye Blind backstage.
instagram | @thirdeyeblind

The lyrics "The sky was gold, it was rose, I was takin' sips of it through my nose" and "Doing crystal meth will lift you up until you break" are especially indicative of the song's true meaning.

Billy Joel's "Only The Good Die Young" is provocatively sexual in nature.

You might be misled into thinking that "Only The Good Die Young" has some type of profound philosophical meaning. However, the song is really about a young boy trying to convince a catholic girl to lose her virginity.

The song "1985" by pop-punk band Bowling For Soup is actually a cover.

Group shot of the band Bowling For Soup.
instagram | @bfs_official

The original version was written by fellow pop-punk aficionados, SR-71. It's not quite as punchy and the tempo feels a little off, but other than that the two song versions are quite similar.

"Watermelon Sugar" by Harry Styles is incredibly sexual in nature.

Harry confirmed what everyone already believed to be true while performing on stage in Nashville. He said that the song is about the sweetness of life — and the female orgasm.

You will never listen to Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti" the same way, ever again.

Little Richard playing the piano with his leg resting on top.

That's because the song that we've all sung along/danced to at weddings and parties is actually an ode to Little Richard's love of anal sex.

There's a lot more to "The Way" by Fastball than you might've guessed.

The track was inspired by the real-life story of Raymond and Lela Howard — an elderly couple suffering from serious mental illness. One day, they went for a drive, got lost, and were later found dead in a ditch.

"Under The Bridge" by The Red Hot Chili Peppers is an ode to singer Anthony Keidis' drug-using days.

Scene from the "Under The Bridge" music video by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The song is actually making reference to a bridge in Los Angeles, under which Keidis used to shoot up. Listen close to the lyrics and you'll hear "Under the bridge downtown, is where I drew some blood..."

Blind Melon's "No Rain" details bassist Brad Smith's struggles with depression.

That's right, singer Shannon Hoon didn't even write the band's most popular tune! The song was written about Brad's early days in LA when he was too depressed to even get out of bed in the morning.

"Slide" by The Goo Goo Dolls isn't a love song.

John Reznik of Goo Goo Dolls holding a guitar, standing beside his bandmate.
instagram | @googoodolls

The song "Slide" is really about a young couple weighing their options with an unplanned pregnancy. The fact that the second verse of the song begins with, "Don't you love the life you killed?" seems to suggest that the couple in the song gets an abortion.

John Mellencamp's "Pink Houses" is actually an anti-American protest song.

Despite the fact that numerous politicians have attempted to use the song in their campaigns, JCM maintains that the song is written about how the American Dream has become perverted and dystopian over time.

TLC's "Waterfalls" makes a profound social commentary.

Scene from TLC's "Waterfalls" music video.
Giphy | NOW That's Music

Once again, this is the furthest thing from a love song. in "Waterfalls", TLC sing/rap about drug use, murder, and HIV — all things which predominantly affect young black men and women.

Sia's "Chandelier" is a song about her struggles with addiction and alcoholism.

Sia sitting in a boat on the Venice canals.
instagram | @siamusic

The Grammy-winning singer said that she wrote "Chandelier" as an anti-pop anthem — a song that rebelled against revelry and the never-ending need to keep the party going.