Top 10 Songs About Famous People
Script written by Jordan Ruimy. Broken hearts, bad grudges, beautiful odes… For this list, we’re looking at those songs that that were either confirmed or rumored to have been written with certain celebrities in mind. We’re ranking them based on how interesting the stories and the backgrounds of those stories are. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 songs about famous people. Special thanks to our users akt and Ariana Taller for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.com/suggest
Top 10 Songs about Famous People
Broken hearts, bad grudges, beautiful odes… Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 songs about famous people.
For this list, we’re looking at those songs that that were either confirmed or rumored to have been written with certain celebrities in mind. We’re ranking them based on how interesting the stories and the backgrounds of those stories are.
#10: “Man on the Moon” (1992)
Thanks to its alternative rock sound, the second single from Automatic for the People is one of R.E.M.’s most well-known songs. A top 40 Billboard Hot 100 hit, “Man on the Moon” also pays respect to the late Andy Kaufman. While it talks about several famous individuals, the mentions of the performer and comedian’s imitations, films and wrestling career are hard to miss. As alluded to in the title, the track also draws parallels between theories that the moon landing was faked with theories that Kaufman’s death was also faked. No matter the controversy, all we know is that this is one helluva great tribute song.
#9: “Ether” (2001)
Recorded following Jay-Z’s diss track “Takeover” from The Blueprint album, “Ether” responds to Z’s allegations that Nas is a “has-been.” In addition to calling out Jay-Z’s looks and lack of street cred, the rapper accuses Jay of stealing his rhyming skills from Biggie and brown-nosing other artists for fame. Nas even had the time to include a remixed line from 2Pac’s “Fuck Friendz.” Thanks to its production and the overall quality of the song and its lyrics, “Ether” has since become one of the most well-known diss tracks in the history of hip-hop.
#8: “You Oughta Know” (1995)
For the longest time, we never knew who the Canadian singer-songwriter was singing about in her breakout hit – that is, until 2008, when “Full House” actor Dave Coulier confessed that the song’s lyrics hit very close to home. Focusing on a broken up couple, “You Oughta Know” tells the story of a man who has moved on with another woman and the mourning undergone by the narrator. Marking Alanis Morissette’s switch from teen pop artist to angsty alt rocker, the lead single from her mega successful Jagged Little Pill was well-received tune and a top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
#7: “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” (1975)
Syd Barrett was with Pink Floyd from the very beginning. But a high consumption of psychedelic drugs led to unpredictable behavior and an unprofessional attitude that eventually got him kicked out of the band in 1968. The band recorded this nine-part tribute to Barrett during the Wish You Were Here sessions seven years later. Featuring elements of jazz, blues and art rock, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is an epic prog rock composition running 26 minutes long that quickly found a home in the band’s live sets.
#6: “You’re So Vain” (1972)
This is one of the most discussed break-up songs of all time because of the countless rumors that encircle the man – or men – about whom the tune is truly about. What we can gather with certainty is that the subject is a self-absorbed lover who probably knows this song is about him – at least that’s what Carly Simon thinks. While the singer-songwriter has implied that her soft rock single is actually about three men that she knew, most signs continue to point to Warren Beatty as being the vain dude in question. Whatever the case, it was a smash and topped multiple music charts.
#5: “Hey Jude” (1968)
Paul McCartney wrote this beautiful ballad as a song of comfort for John Lennon’s son Julian. His parents were going through a tough divorce following Lennon’s affair with Yoko Ono and McCartney knew the times weren’t going to be easy. While it’s also been suggested that McCartney may’ve also written “Hey Jude” as a subliminal message to himself with respect to his own relationship woes, there’s no denying the track’s beauty and poignant sound. The Grammy-nominated rock ballad also topped multiple charts.
#4: “Cry Me a River” (2002)
A song inspired by the singer’s breakup with Britney Spears, “Cry Me a River” isn’t only one of the highlights of Justin Timberlake’s Justified record, but also a top 3 pop hit. Written after an argument with the pop princess, the funky R&B number describes Timberlake’s feelings of being crushed after the song’s female subject reveals her deception to him. In response to JT’s put-down, Spears dropped the answer song “Everytime,” which came out in 2003.
#3: “American Pie” (1972)
In 1959, a plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, also known as the Big Bopper, crashed and killed everyone on board. And it’s because of this tune that the tragic event is now known as “The Day the Music Died.” By writing about the emotional impact of that day and its aftermath, Don McLean recognized several musical legends whose lives were cut way too short. Despite his dislike for talking about the lyrics in public, “American Pie” topped multiple charts worldwide and is now a folk rock classic.
#2: “Candle in the Wind” (1974)
The British singer-songwriter’s memorable ode to Marilyn Monroe is as beautiful a tribute as they come, recounting the actress’ early days, her struggles with the paparazzi and her tragic death. Twelve years later, a live version performed in Australia quickly became the go-to version of the song on radio airwaves. “Candle in the Wind” later proved its relevance and staying power when John revised the lyrics in 1997 to pay tribute to his friend Princess Diana following her untimely death earlier that year.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Pride (In the Name of Love)” (1984)
- “Ms. Jackson” (2001)
- “Mr. Crowley” (1980)
- “Hurricane” (1975)
- “Open Your Heart” (1986)
And now for a dishonorable mention…
- “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” (2012)
#1: “Layla” (1971)
When it comes to rock, few love songs are as iconic as this guitar-driven blues rock number from Derek and the Dominos. Be sure to check out the album version with its beautiful and surprising piano coda in the second half. Inspired by Eric Clapton’s unreciprocated love for Patti Boyd, wife of former Beatle George Harrison, “Layla” is passionate, and real. It may’ve taken some time for critics to warm up to it, but it has since gone down in history as a top 10 Hot 100 hit. The song has continued to stand the test of time, as proven by the fact that Clapton’s 1992 solo unplugged version won a Grammy and a top 20 spot on the charts.
Derek and the Dominos
Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite song about a famous person? For more entertaining Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.