16 famous songs that were reportedly inspired by celebrities

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images and Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty ImagesTaylor Swift has written a few songs that fans believe are about her ex Harry Styles.
  • Artists often write songs about their current and past relationships with other stars.
  • Some songs, like “You’re So Vain” and “Man on the Moon,” have references to more than one celebrity.
  • Justin Bieber, Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, and John Legend have several songs about their famous spouses.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Musicians often find inspiration in many places – and people.

Because of this, it’s not too uncommon for hit songs to be inspired by iconic celebrity romances, famous feuds, or even inside jokes.

Here are some famous songs and who they’re about, or widely beleived to be about.


John Mayer’s “Still Feel Like Your Man” is about Katy Perry.

Christopher Polk/GettyJohn Mayer confirmed at ‘Still Feel Like Your Man’ is about Katy Perry.

John Mayer has been the supposed subject of songs, like Taylor Swift’s “Dear John,” and he’s often told his side of the story through music as well.

After Katy Perry and Mayer broke up in 2014, he told Vanity Fair that he wrote “Still Feel Like Your Man,” about her.


Aerosmith’s “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” is about Vince Neil.

John Shearer/GettySteven Tyler’s song is about Vince Neil.

Songwriter Desmond Child shared that Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler mistook Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil for a woman at a bar inspiring the hit “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” according to HuffPost.

The line became an inside joke with the band, and Child later shared that they let Neil in on the joke after the song was released.


John Legend’s “All of Me” is about Chrissy Teigen.

Emma McIntyre/Getty ImagesJohn Legend and Chrissy Teigen got married in 2013.

It’s easy to see why John Legend would be inspired by his wife Chrissy Teigen, but she isn’t always as thrilled about it as people think she should be.

Legend confirmed to LA Confidential, that Teigen is the “me” in “All of Me,” but on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” Teigen revealed that she has heard the song so much now she doesn’t really get emotional anymore – even though everyone around her expects her to.


Amy Winehouse’s song “Me and Mr. Jones” is said to be about Nas.

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for NARAS/Frederick M. BrownNas spoke about ‘Me and Mr. Jones’ in 2011.

Amy Winehouse wouldn’t let anyone get between her and “Mr. Jones,” who has always been reported to be rapper Nasir Jones, better known as Nas.

Nas spoke to his connection to the song in a 2011 interview with XXL, but didn’t confirm it was about him.

Notably, the song’s lyrics include a mention of his daughter Destiny and the rapper’s September 14 birthday.


Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” is about a mix of three famous men.

APCarly Simon said she wrote ‘You’re So Vain’ with Warren Beatty in mind.

“You’re So Vain” is famously about one of Carly Simon’s lovers, but which one has remained a mystery since 1972.

However, Simon revealed in an interview with People magazine that the second verse is about one of her exes, actor Warren Beatty.

She told People that each verse of the song is about a different man, so the possible inspirations for the rest of the song include her other exes: James Taylor, Mick Jagger, and Dan Armstrong.


Taylor Swift may have accidentally confirmed that “I Knew You Were Trouble” is about Harry Styles.

Larry Busacca/David Becker/GettyTaylor Swift may have written about her ex Harry Styles.

Taylor Swift has written many songs about the famous people in her life, but rarely does she openly admit who inspired each hit.

In the case of “I Knew You Were Trouble,” Swift may have let it slip to the UK’s Sunday Times that the song is about fellow musician Harry Styles after she performed it at the BRIT Awards in 2013 – where Styles was in attendance.

“Well, it’s not hard to access that emotion when the person the song is directed at is standing by the side of the stage watching,” she said.

The two publicly dated for a few months in 2012 and split in 2013.


Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors” is about Jessica Biel.

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty ImagesJustin Timberlake confirmed that ‘Mirrors’ is about his wife Jessica Biel.

Timberlake has been open about his wife Jessica Biel and their son being the inspiration for his album “Man of the Woods.”

And it turns out he’s been writing about her for years. He revealed in his book “Hindsight” that his hit “Mirrors,” a song about finding your other half, was also about Biel.


Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind” is said to be about Marilyn Monroe.

Getty Images /Alex Wong/Baron/Getty Images‘Candle in the Wind’ is about the dangers of giving in to the indulgent culture of Hollywood.

When Elton John sang, “Your candle burned out long before the legend ever did,” he was using Hollywood actress Marilyn Monroe’s tragic death at age 36 as a metaphor for the overindulgence of fame, according to Parade magazine.

The rest of the lyrics refer to the loneliness and pressure of life in the spotlight.


The Destiny’s Child track “Soldier” seems to be about Jay-Z.

Christopher Polk/Getty ImagesThe song ‘Soldier’ references a man from Brooklyn.

Long before “Lemonade” and “4:44” gave us an inside look at the marriage of Beyoncé and Jay-Z, the pair were actually very secretive and hid their relationship for several years.

That’s what made “Soldier” from 2004 – and its references to a man from Brooklyn “snatching up” Beyoncé – so surprising, because it seems to be about Jay-Z long before they went public.

Both fellow Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams and producer Rich Harrison told MTV that it is supposed to be obvious who that song is about.


Britney Spears’ “Everytime” is said to be about Justin Timberlake.

Kevin Winter/Getty ImagesThe power couple reportedly wrote songs about each other.

After the pop couple broke up in 2002, they reportedly swapped songs about their relationship – Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River” and Britney Spears’ “Everytime.”

Neither artist has never confirmed whether or not the songs are about their breakup, however, the music video for “Cry Me a River”features a Spears look-alike.

And “Everytime,” which was released a year later, includes lyrics like, “I may have made it rain / Please forgive me / My weakness caused you pain,” that tie into the river theming of Timberlake’s song.


Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” might be about Caroline Kennedy … or one of Diamond’s ex-wives.

Caroline Kennedy may have been the inspiration behind ‘Sweet Caroline.’

In 2007, Neil Diamond said that Caroline Kennedy was the inspiration for the song when he performed it at her 50th birthday party.

But, in a 2014 interview with CNN, he gave a different story, saying the song was actually written about then-wife Marcia Murphey and the name “Caroline” was used simply because he needed a three-syllable name for the chorus.


Death Cab for Cutie’s “Stay Young, Go Dancing” is said to be about Zooey Deschanel.

Kevin Winter/GettyZooey Deschanel and Ben Gibbard were married for three years.

Death Cab for Cutie singer and guitarist Ben Gibbard and Zooey Deschanel were married for about three years.

During that time, the band released “Codes and Keys,” which seems to be mostly about Gibbard and Deschanel’s relationship, according to Consequence of Sound.

“Stay Young, Go Dancing,” which describes newlywed life, is perhaps the most sentimental song on the album, and it has direct references to the beauty of the She & Him singer’s voice.


Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” seems to be about Courtney Love.

Astrid Stawiarz/Michael Loccisano/GettyGwen Stefani and Courtney Love had a bit of a feud.

Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl, may have been a response to Courtney Love’s assertion that fame was like high school and Stefani was like a cheerleader.

In an interview with Seventeen magazine in 2004, Love said, “Being famous is just like being in high school. But I’m not interested in being the cheerleader. I’m not interested in being Gwen Stefani.”

Years later, Stefani told Billboard that her songwriting inspiration for the track came from how she “was being bullied by someone and was being called a cheerleader, which was a bad thing.”


“7 Things” by Miley Cyrus is likely about Nick Jonas.

APMiley Cyrus and Nick Jonas dated as teenagers.

Former Disney stars Nick Jonas and Miley Cyrus dated on and off for about two years when they were teenagers.

In a People magazine interview, “7 Things” music-video director Brett Ratner said one of Cyrus’ past relationships inspired her to write the song.

He also said that, in the video, Cyrus is wearing her ex’s “diabetes or medical necklace,” which could be Jonas’ seeing as the singer has Type 1 diabetes.


Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” is believed to be about Rosanna Arquette.

Frederick M. Brown/Mike Windle/GettyYou might recognise the song from ‘Say Anything.’

One of the most iconic rom-com moments occurs in “Say Anything” when John Cusack holds up a boombox playing “In Your Eyes” to win back his love.

This song is widely believed to be about Peter Gabriel’s relationship with Rosanna Arquette.

As Entertainment Weekly reported, Arquette supposedly helped convince Gabriel to let the “Say Anything” crew feature the song in the film.


Several songs on Justin Bieber’s album “Changes” have references to his wife.

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin / Getty ImagesJustin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin got married in September of 2018.

Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin were married in 2018, so it’s not all that surprising that the first album Bieber released since their wedding is centered around their relationship.

“Changes,” features songs like “Yummy” and “Intentions” that reference Baldwin’s successful modelling career and the couples’ engagement in lyrics like, “Picture perfect, you don’t need no filter/Gorgeous, make ’em drop dead, you a killer” and “You the best thing and I don’t need a witness/I’ma find me a ring and pray it’s perfect fitted.”

He also said on “The Ellen Show” that the song “Yummy” is about having sex with his wife.

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