1. "Valerie" - Steve Winwood
What ever happened to Steve Winwood? He was huge in the 80's and one day simply wasn't there anymore. It wasn't until Eric Prydz sampled this one in 2004 that people went "Oh yeah.....". Valerie's identity has never been revealed, but Winwood's lyricist insists she's real.
2. "Felicia" - The Constellations
Musicians love strippers. It's a fact. They make no apologies for explicitly including strippers in videos and stage shows. It's no surprise then that many songs have been written about the pole dancers. Chris DeBurgh, Van Halen and Akon are a few that come to mind. The Constellation's 2010 funky tune is about one named "Felicia".
3. "Rosanna" - Toto
For a long time it was common knowledge that this song was written about Rosanna Arquette, until a 2002 interview with Toto's guitar player revealed that while she was dating Steve Porcaro (keyboards) the song just shares her name and nothing else. This one takes me back.
4. "Angie" - The Rolling Stones
Another song where the titular girl's identity is shrouded in specluation. Many thought it was about Angela Bowie, David Bowie's wife. Jagger himself claims Keith Richards came up with the title after his own daughter's name. Either way it's a very sweet song and was uncharacteristic for the Stones at the time, as it's entirely acoustic.
5. "Kathleen" - Josh Ritter
Josh Ritter is one of the world's best modern songwriters. Hailing from Idaho he's had a huge following for most of the last decade and has yet to have any real mainstream success. "Kathleen" is off his 2003 album Hello Starling. The opening line caught me instantly "All the other girls here are stars; You are the Northern Lights". Other songs by Ritter to check out "Harrisburg", "Thin Blue Flame" and "Stuck On You".
6. "Suzanne" - Weezer
This song was used during the closing scene in one of my all time favourite flicks, Mallrats. In fact, the monkey in it's 2001 cousin Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, was named after this song. "Suzanne" features all of Weezer's dork poetry and classroom love letter mentality that you'd expect, but in an endearing way. Theses songs weren't an imitation of themselves yet.
7. "Judith" - A Perfect Cirlce
It's pretty clear what this song is all about. Someone having blind faith and calling themselves and others sinners for very small and petty reasons. Judith was Maynard's mother's name, she was paralyzed by a stroke and still held on to her faith.
8. "Sylvia Plath" - Ryan Adams
We all know who Sylvia Plath was, poet, authour of The Bell Jar and a seriously depressed woman. She committed suicide at age 30 by sticking her head in the oven and leaving the gas on. Odd that Adams is singing about wanting a woman like that, maybe he merely means a strong willed woman. Someone slightly eccentric and shows her love in different and imaginative ways...come to think of it...I want that too!!
9. "Veronica" - Elvis Costello
Love that there are many solid singer/songwriters on this list! This one came about during Costello's collaboration with Paul McCartney. Though Costello claims it's not one of his favourite songs for it's pop sensibilities and accessibility, it's definitely a great track. It's clearly about his grandmother wasting away in a retirement home. Grim places they are.
10. "Jane" - Barenaked Ladies
I seemed to have my choice of many songs named "Jane" or "Mary" or any combination of the two, The Barenaked Ladies' "Jane" always reminds me of my childhood and the lovely musical awakening I had there. So I picked this one to cap the list off. I always enjoyed BNL's more seriously toned tracks to their poppy pun-filled ditties. It's actually named after an intersection in Toronto, Jane & St. Clair. I guess since I was coming of age like the character in the song I identified with "Jane", though in my mind it was a different girl I was singing about. Who was that girl? I'll never tell.
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