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The Girl in the Song: The Stories Behind 50 Rock Classics

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Women have long inspired rock artists, but what do fans really know about these muses? The Girl in the Song focuses on the girlfriends, wives, rivals, exes, groupies, celebrities, mothers, children, and even complete strangers who inspired 50 of rock’s greatest songs. Who was the Emily in Pink Floyd’s “See Emily Play”? Did life change for Prudence Farrow after John Lennon Women have long inspired rock artists, but what do fans really know about these muses? The Girl in the Song focuses on the girlfriends, wives, rivals, exes, groupies, celebrities, mothers, children, and even complete strangers who inspired 50 of rock’s greatest songs. Who was the Emily in Pink Floyd’s “See Emily Play”? Did life change for Prudence Farrow after John Lennon wrote “Dear Prudence”? And whatever happened to “the girl with mousy hair,” an ex-girlfriend David Bowie sings about in “Life on Mars”?             Songs are typically short and one-sided, and rarely do justice to their subjects. But author Michael Heatley explains how each woman inspired the song written about her, when the song was released, and the impact it had on the charts, the performer, and the woman. He also includes a mini biography of the song’s muse. Music buffs will also appreciate sidebars on the performers who wrote about the women in their lives--Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett would include as many as four girls in the same song--as well as trivia from recording history. It’s the perfect book for anyone who’s ever wondered, “Who was the girl in that song?”


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Women have long inspired rock artists, but what do fans really know about these muses? The Girl in the Song focuses on the girlfriends, wives, rivals, exes, groupies, celebrities, mothers, children, and even complete strangers who inspired 50 of rock’s greatest songs. Who was the Emily in Pink Floyd’s “See Emily Play”? Did life change for Prudence Farrow after John Lennon Women have long inspired rock artists, but what do fans really know about these muses? The Girl in the Song focuses on the girlfriends, wives, rivals, exes, groupies, celebrities, mothers, children, and even complete strangers who inspired 50 of rock’s greatest songs. Who was the Emily in Pink Floyd’s “See Emily Play”? Did life change for Prudence Farrow after John Lennon wrote “Dear Prudence”? And whatever happened to “the girl with mousy hair,” an ex-girlfriend David Bowie sings about in “Life on Mars”?             Songs are typically short and one-sided, and rarely do justice to their subjects. But author Michael Heatley explains how each woman inspired the song written about her, when the song was released, and the impact it had on the charts, the performer, and the woman. He also includes a mini biography of the song’s muse. Music buffs will also appreciate sidebars on the performers who wrote about the women in their lives--Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett would include as many as four girls in the same song--as well as trivia from recording history. It’s the perfect book for anyone who’s ever wondered, “Who was the girl in that song?”

30 review for The Girl in the Song: The Stories Behind 50 Rock Classics

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lynx

    Really fun coffee table book that sheds light on the muses that inspired some of rock n rolls greatest hits. Don’t go into this expecting deep insight. Each Muse has 2-3 pages with the broad strokes on who they are and how they came to influence the musicians who sealed their fate in rock and roll history. This is however a great introduction for those wishing to learn more on the subject. I’m pretty baffled by the negative reviews on here by those who didn’t like the fact that they didn’t know ev Really fun coffee table book that sheds light on the muses that inspired some of rock n rolls greatest hits. Don’t go into this expecting deep insight. Each Muse has 2-3 pages with the broad strokes on who they are and how they came to influence the musicians who sealed their fate in rock and roll history. This is however a great introduction for those wishing to learn more on the subject. I’m pretty baffled by the negative reviews on here by those who didn’t like the fact that they didn’t know every song in the book and even skipped over a bunch because of this. For me, the real fun in reading this was looking up each song and playing it as I read that chapter whether I knew it or not. You’re definitely going to get more out of the book if you put in the effort, and you may just discover some new kick ass music while you’re at it! For those interested in learning more about Muses check out the awesome podcast MUSES AND STUFF on itunes and Facebook!

  2. 4 out of 5

    TrumanCoyote

    A nice idea...but pretty lame execution. The author (or authors--only one is included on the title page) seems pretty much of a musical tourist, which leads to remarks such as that Tusk was Fleetwood Mac's third album (lol), or saying that the relatively slow-selling Madman Across the Water was a blip in Elton John's career (grrrr). Also the thing is filled with book-reportish sentences ("James Taylor used a troubled personal life to help him become a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, his songs A nice idea...but pretty lame execution. The author (or authors--only one is included on the title page) seems pretty much of a musical tourist, which leads to remarks such as that Tusk was Fleetwood Mac's third album (lol), or saying that the relatively slow-selling Madman Across the Water was a blip in Elton John's career (grrrr). Also the thing is filled with book-reportish sentences ("James Taylor used a troubled personal life to help him become a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, his songs selling in the millions" or "Billy Joel worked tirelessly over his career to become the third biggest selling solo artist in the US"...which I don't think is quite what he was trying to say). Beyond that, much of it sounds like it was taken from press releases (or resumes) issued by the various "girls"...it's all quite bland and inane, with statements like: "[Linda McCartney] was as famous for her antivivisection views and vegetarian lifestyle as for marrying a Beatle" (lol...no, she wasn't). Oh yeah, and some of the songs are pretty marginal ("Hey Negrita"). And the writer has the usual modern-day priggishness, making a great deal of age gaps and so forth. On the plus side, it's a good-looking book with a number of cool pictures. As long as you don't make the mistake of reading it, you might end up enjoying this one. :)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alice

    Many of the songs are those I listened to when I was young. It's fun finding out about the women the songs were written about. The author did quite a bit of cutting and pasting of text in the biographies of some of the musicians, but overall it's entertaining.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rudy Gutierrez

    Most stories were new to me and all where very interesting, you get a background on the songs, peoples lives and the things that move artist to writing these tunes. Great quick read with 50 stories most of which I was not aware of.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Edwina Callan

    I loved this book! I think that my favourite story was the one about Julian Lennon drawing a picture and telling his Dad, "Look, it's Lucy in the sky with diamonds!" Out of the months of babes, indeed.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Waaaaaaay too much social gossip and titillating peeks into personal lives of artists. Some amount is necessary, of course, to explore a song's creation but puh-leeze. Over and over TMI about divorces and drug overdoses that had nothing to do with why That GIrl in THat Song.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    Fun bathroom reading about various pop song heroines: Rosanna, Rikki, Suzanne, Judy Blue Eyes, etc.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    This book had so much potential, but it missed out on one of the most important elements - the lyrics. How can you have a book describing "the girl in the song" without adding what the song is actually about? The songs were in random order and spanned a variety of genres, but without lyrics for context, I found myself skipping through to songs or artists I knew. Even then, I also found that the writing didn't really even flow well. It might start out talking about a David Bowie song, and within This book had so much potential, but it missed out on one of the most important elements - the lyrics. How can you have a book describing "the girl in the song" without adding what the song is actually about? The songs were in random order and spanned a variety of genres, but without lyrics for context, I found myself skipping through to songs or artists I knew. Even then, I also found that the writing didn't really even flow well. It might start out talking about a David Bowie song, and within that talk about the girl it was about, then David Bowie's career but, again, no real context to the song. Wikipedia would probably tell more and with better writing. I picked up one or two tidbits from the whole book that I will probably hold on to. I thought it would be a good "waiting for the judge to take the bench" book, but it only lasted me two days because I skimmed most of it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ann Keller

    Ever listen to an outstanding love song and wonder about whom the song was written? Well, here’s your chance to find out! This book is peppered with wonderful summaries of how such songs were written, the background of the composer, performers and the inspiring girl who started it all. From Beware of Young Girls by Dory Previn to Wonderwall by Oasis, She’s Leaving Home by the Beatles, Uptown Girl by Billy Joel and Miss Amanda Jones by the Rolling Stones, The Girl In the Song will fascinate you. Ever listen to an outstanding love song and wonder about whom the song was written? Well, here’s your chance to find out! This book is peppered with wonderful summaries of how such songs were written, the background of the composer, performers and the inspiring girl who started it all. From Beware of Young Girls by Dory Previn to Wonderwall by Oasis, She’s Leaving Home by the Beatles, Uptown Girl by Billy Joel and Miss Amanda Jones by the Rolling Stones, The Girl In the Song will fascinate you. Able to be read at a single sitting or in small gulps like poetry. Excellent synopses. I really appreciate knowing the background of the songs I hear on the radio. It makes them live!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    Very quick read, and tons of fun just to flip through! It’s really interesting to hear some of the stories behind these women we always hear about in classic songs like “sweet child of mine” and “dear prudence”. If anything, this book proves why women are so often muses- we are complex, multidimensional, interesting, memorable and strong. All the things that make a good song. The majority of songs mentioned are songs from the 1960’s, so if you are a fan of that time like I am them this definitel Very quick read, and tons of fun just to flip through! It’s really interesting to hear some of the stories behind these women we always hear about in classic songs like “sweet child of mine” and “dear prudence”. If anything, this book proves why women are so often muses- we are complex, multidimensional, interesting, memorable and strong. All the things that make a good song. The majority of songs mentioned are songs from the 1960’s, so if you are a fan of that time like I am them this definitely provides some insight!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mary Ellen

    Not many of the songs were relevant to my interest. But if they are favorites of yours you will like it!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jim Salerno

    Not always the best choices of songs.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    A heavily fossilized attempt at demystifying the "mystical she". No head turner.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jodi

    I really enjoyed this book. I've bought 3 more copies for my friends for Christmas. Great gift for any fan of music.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Steve lovell

    After all these years she’s still stunning, would still turn heads including mine, I ruminate as I look at a recent image of her garnered from on-line. And in her youth she turned the heads of two of the greatest rock stars on the planet; firstly Beatle George and then later his good pal, Eric Clapton. And she inspired my favourite song! These days ‘God’ loves to hold back that instantaneously recognisable opening riff to it – teasing his audience, fiddling around with the melody for minutes unt After all these years she’s still stunning, would still turn heads including mine, I ruminate as I look at a recent image of her garnered from on-line. And in her youth she turned the heads of two of the greatest rock stars on the planet; firstly Beatle George and then later his good pal, Eric Clapton. And she inspired my favourite song! These days ‘God’ loves to hold back that instantaneously recognisable opening riff to it – teasing his audience, fiddling around with the melody for minutes until he unleashes ‘Layla’ in all its majestic glory, watching in bemusement as the punters ‘go off’. From bombastic rock perfection the song then winds down to lilting piano, before building again – and it’s all a paean to this one glorious woman. How gut-wrenching it must have been to be so in love with best mate’s wife – the pain of it all sent Clapton spiraling down to a dark place assisted by heroin. George of course couldn’t let Clapton outdo him so, from his pen, came another romantic gem ‘Something’. She certainly did ‘move’ these fellows. But even then classic love songs hadn’t finished with Pattie Boyd. About to go out one evening with now hubby Eric, Pattie casually asked if she looked okay. From that query we have the sublime ‘Wonderful Tonight’ – the most powerful reminder of all just how lucky we are to have our own goddess in our lives. This is the nutshell of just one of the stories covered in this informative delve into the background some tunes, redolent of times past, about bewitching women. Within its covers we find out that Pattie’s sister got in on the act by impacting on Donovan so much that he produced ‘Jennifer Juniper’ as a result, and then there were two of Dylan’s muses. For his mentor and lover, Joan Baez, there came ‘It Aint Me Babe’, and for Suze Rotolo, for gracing that iconic cover as well as his bed, we have ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’. There are tales of the power of famous beauties such as Marianne Faithful, Brigitte Bardot, Christie Brinkley, Caroline Kennedy, Rosanna Arquette, Angela Bowie and more. I discovered the mysteriously notorious Candy Darling inspired another of my favourite ditties, ‘Lola’ – or did she/he? You will have to peruse ‘The Girl in the Song’ to discover the identity of the Rikki who was implored ‘not to lose that number’, and the book will also leave the reader to wonder just why Cohen, in later life, snubbed the Suzanne who inspired his inspired titular song. The two collaborative authors give a potted history of these bewitching damsels and short biographies of their admirers. By its nature I suppose it has to be factual, but I would have liked a bit more ‘heart’. I guess most of these stories could be fleshed out in other places. Faithfull’s at times painful autobiography, for instance, is an excellent read. I was intrigued by several inclusions and certainly will investigate more. The opening night of this year’s series of RocKwiz featured Judy Collins and Whitlam’s leading hand Tim Freedman. It was magical to watch as she turned the tables on a flirtatious Tim, eye-balling him with those piercing azure eyes, and, at seventy plus, still daring him. She, who did so much to give the world Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, still sends out incendiary sparks with just ‘the look’. The younger version broke Stephen Stills’ heart, and as a result the epic CSNY classic ‘Suite Judy Blue Eyes’ is ours for posterity. Gifted men have the ability to make the subject of their tributes to love resound forever. Mere mortal males do not have the luxury of the ability to do the same, but if a book such as this has any message (I think only one of the partnerships survived - Bono’s), it is to cherish these beautiful creatures who share our lives, and at every opportunity tell them that they do indeed look ‘wonderful tonight’

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    Ever wondered who Sharona was, and why The Knack were singing about her? What about Dear Prudence? This book delves into the stories behind 50 classic songs, the women who inspired them, and (shocker!) the men who wrote the songs. It was hard to put down - simulataneously frivolous fun and insightful profiling. However, I would have appreciated seeing some female songwriters represented; the women in this book are (for the most part) portrayed as peripheral muses, footnotes, and sometimes tragic Ever wondered who Sharona was, and why The Knack were singing about her? What about Dear Prudence? This book delves into the stories behind 50 classic songs, the women who inspired them, and (shocker!) the men who wrote the songs. It was hard to put down - simulataneously frivolous fun and insightful profiling. However, I would have appreciated seeing some female songwriters represented; the women in this book are (for the most part) portrayed as peripheral muses, footnotes, and sometimes tragic figures; it's as though the book assumes women weren't writing music at this time, and if they were, they were not putting women in their songs. One of my favorite parts of the book was the story behind "My Sharona." I never really liked the song, but the bittersweet story behind it gave me a new appreciation; the book describes a deathbed meeting between Sharona and the songwriter that will stay in my head for a long time to come.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Dwyer

    The cover to this book is super cute with two shades of pink font against a black and white sixties girl photograph, but we aren't supposed to be judging books by their cover. If it's only what's inside that counts, then this book could have used a little bit of a makeover. It seems that this turned out to be a slim textbook, rather than a sleek expose on the sirens that inspired some of the greatest rock songs of all time. On top of all that, this book covers a few songs that I've hardly ever h The cover to this book is super cute with two shades of pink font against a black and white sixties girl photograph, but we aren't supposed to be judging books by their cover. If it's only what's inside that counts, then this book could have used a little bit of a makeover. It seems that this turned out to be a slim textbook, rather than a sleek expose on the sirens that inspired some of the greatest rock songs of all time. On top of all that, this book covers a few songs that I've hardly ever heard of (and I am a diehard rock n' roller) and seems to be more concerned with bubbles in the corner that explain the origin of the band at hand. Ummm... we know who the Rolling Stones are. I would have rather heard more about Bianca and Mick's late night arguments.

  18. 5 out of 5

    PennsyLady (Bev)

    softcover 144pg The Girl in the Song: The Stories Behind 50 Rock Classics, a companion piece to The Boy in the Song: The True Stories Behind 50 Rock Classics is an enlightening mini trek into rock history (144 pg) It's not designed to be an exhaustive reference book but it’s a researched book of musical trivia for anyone who’s ever wondered, “Who's the girl in that song?” Some I easily knew: It Ain't Me Babe (Bob Dylan) and some I found a bit more difficult: Rosanna (Toto) "Author Michael Heatley expl softcover 144pg The Girl in the Song: The Stories Behind 50 Rock Classics, a companion piece to The Boy in the Song: The True Stories Behind 50 Rock Classics is an enlightening mini trek into rock history (144 pg) It's not designed to be an exhaustive reference book but it’s a researched book of musical trivia for anyone who’s ever wondered, “Who's the girl in that song?” Some I easily knew: It Ain't Me Babe (Bob Dylan) and some I found a bit more difficult: Rosanna (Toto) "Author Michael Heatley explains how each woman inspired the song written about her, when the song was released, and the impact it had on the charts, the performer, and the woman." There is also mini bio of the muse in that particular song. An enjoyable read!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    on the one hand very interesting to hear about the origns of those 50 (well, 51) songs but on the other hand very, very, very, very narrow in the choice of topics. only a handful of songs from the 80s and 90s, the rest all from before that and mostly out of the UK Pop scene (Beatles/Rolling Stones/Bowie) or the US Folk scene (Dylan/Crosby, Still & Nash/Baez) with many repeat offenders. The same incident was introduced twice for two different songs. Most of these tidbits can be found on the respec on the one hand very interesting to hear about the origns of those 50 (well, 51) songs but on the other hand very, very, very, very narrow in the choice of topics. only a handful of songs from the 80s and 90s, the rest all from before that and mostly out of the UK Pop scene (Beatles/Rolling Stones/Bowie) or the US Folk scene (Dylan/Crosby, Still & Nash/Baez) with many repeat offenders. The same incident was introduced twice for two different songs. Most of these tidbits can be found on the respective Wikipedia page as they are without exception well-known songs. In short: interesting but superfluous

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    This is an interesting book showcasing the women who inspired 50 rock songs. I'm always curious about the story behind songs however most of the stories were the same. Guy meets girl... writes song... gets married... gets divorced. I think Bono was the only one who stayed married. If you are a music fan, I recommend reading this book but just skipping to the songs that mean the most to you.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Gary Anderson

    Mildly interesting but written in a plodding style, this book provides little beyond well-known public relations packet-style information. The best new item I read here was that David Bowie's "Golden Years" was offered to Elvis Presley in 1975. My imagination has been churning on how that would have sounded.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sleepless G

    I have waited for some time to read this book, and I am savoring it like a savory succulent piece of meat smothered in gravy! hahahaaaaa Besides a painting or sculpting, I don't think there is any better way to give tribut to a woman...if in fact it is a tribute. This book give the dirt on a few songs we all just might know. I just wish it was a little bit more inclusive.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jennie

    Quick read about the ladies behind some very big pop songs but various artists such as: Bowie, the Stones, Pink Floyd, the Beatles and more. My favourite explanation was of Phil Collins "In the Air Tonight" which hold no truth to the legend of him witnessing a drowning; he adlibed the song during a performance. Decorated with black and white photos, a few colours pics included. Fun.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    I liked this idea, but I have to admit ~ I only read about the songs that interested me which was about half the book. Favorite tidbits: finding out who the drummer for Steely Dan was in their college years, the actress who inspired "Rosanna" and "In Your Eyes", the celebrity for whom "Sweet Caroline" was written.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kristal

    A pretty thin look at the female inspirations behind famous songs. The passages were mostly common knowledge, dull and poorly written. The book wasn't even big budget enough to get the rights to print the lyrics for most of the songs so unless you knew them off the top of your head, the passages weren't all that poignant. Too bad, I love this kind of stuff.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I loved this book. It was a quick read and each story was interesting. In addition to learning about the songs noted, there were several other tidbits that were very interesting....such as the girl who inspired the song "In Your Eyes," which is one of my favorite songs of all time.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    I liked the idea behind it, but it seemed like there were some editing problems that could have been avoided. Some of the writing appears extremely sexist, too (I definitely noticed it in the Billy Joel song). I did kind of enjoy, though, learning about the origins of these songs.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This was interesting to read. Many of the songs are ones that you already know who they are about (like "Wonderful Tonight" and "Suite Judy Blue Eyes") but there are some that are a little more unusual like "Tiny Dancer" and "Negrita". A fun read if you like stuff about music.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    This is a throw away kind of book with very little content or depth but a few interesting stories. Seems like every other 60's song was about Judy Collins or Mia Farrow. Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" was revealing. Also enlightening was how many songs were about trans women.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Stoneangel

    I have always loved the story behind the story-type books and, for its kind, the book is very enjoyable. I read it in one day. Since it was mentioned, I feel I should point out that there are some songs written by females: Stevie Nicks' 'Sara' and Dory Previn's 'Beware Young Girls' for example.

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