If I wrote a song about you, you would see how much I love you. You'd love me, too, and we would live happily ever after. That's the way it is supposed to be, isn't it? Well, reading The Girl in the Song: The True Stories Behind 50 Rock Classics by Michael Heatley and Frank Hopkinson, I see that that rarely works. Of the fifty relationships recounted in this book, only a handful result in lasting love. The stories might be enough to dissuade you from becoming a songwriter. You have a better chance of finding happiness if you don't broadcast your feelings if these stories are representative of the way things are.
Of course, heartbreak makes for better stories than happiness in most cases. There is plenty of that behind the words in songs, such as "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," "My Sharona," "Every Breath You Take," "The Girl from Ipanema," "Maggie May," and "Tiny Dancer." The book's authors dish out sad stories about Bob Dylan, Sting, George Harrison, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, and many other rock stars. You also learn how the songs charted in the U.S. and Great Britain and how they sparked careers. Some of the stories may be familiar if you read rock music magazines, but you'd have to have read for decades to know them all. I did not know much at all about the musicians from the 1990s.
Not every story is about romantic relationships. "Fire and Rain" by James Taylor is about a friend who commits suicide. "Lovely Rita" starts with getting a parking ticket. "Sweet Caroline" is about five year old Caroline Kennedy.
Thanks to Jessica at Blogging for a Good Book for pointing out this nicely illustrated book, which I enjoyed over the course of four or five days as a break from reading other books.
Heatley, Michael and Frank Hopkinson. The Girl in the Song: The True Stories Behind 50 Rock Classics. Chicago Review Press, 2010. ISBN 9781569765302.