Writing is about expression and often, especially in song lyrics, the meaning can be hidden under obscure depths. I’ve often been fascinated by the meaning behind some of the classic songs, so I did some internet detective work. This is what I uncovered.
- American Pie – Don McLean: The song describes the death of music which, according to McLean, started after the death of Buddy Holly.
- Brown-Eyed Girl – Van Morrison: Some have held that the song is about heroin. “Brown-eyed girl” is drug slang for brown heroin. The song is about his love for the drug. “Slipping and a-sliding” is a description of using a needle for injection. However, this ISN’T the case. It’s actually about a white guy making love to his black girlfriend. The original title for the song was “Brown-Skinned Girl” but because it was being released in the 1960s, he had to rewrite the song because interracial relationships were a big deal back then. The record company worried that radio stations would have had a problem with it otherwise.
- Hey Jude – The Beatles: For many years, people believed this song was about heroin addiction. The line “The minute you let her under your skin then you begin to make it better” seems to denote shooting up. However, after years of telling only John Lennon what it was about, Paul McCartney (who wrote the song) finally revealed that it was actually about Lennon’s preteen son, Julien, after his parents broke up. The lyrics, apparently, do not hold double meaning.
- Hotel California – The Eagles: The popular belief is that this song is about a whore house, but the truth is it was intended to be a song about the excesses of American culture, as well as the uneasy balance between art and commerce. (Source: http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1121)
- Let it Be – The Beatles: Popular interpretations of the song range from it being about the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus, coming to Paul McCartney as he prayed to her, to being a song about marijuana (“Mary” is slang for the drug and McCartney was well-known to be fond of it). However, the true meaning is that it is about Paul’s mother. Her name was Mary and she died when he was a child. Paul said he dreamed of he one night and she said to him in the dream to: “Let it be.”
- Puff the Magic Dragon – Peter, Paul and Mary: Many believe this song is about smoking marijuana. There are, after all, a lot of lyrics in the song that might hint at that: “Jackie Paper” referring to rolling the paper around the drug; “Dragon” referring to “draggin’” (slang for inhaling the smoke); and “Puff”, which some thought meant taking a “puff” on a joint. However, it isn’t called “taking a puff”—it’s called taking a “hit” or “toke” on a joint. Peter, Paul and Mary insist the song is about nothing more than a little boy who grows up and no longer plays with his favorite toy anymore. |
- Landslide – Fleetwood Mac: The song is about a father-daughter relationship. Stevie Nicks wrote it in Aspen, Colorado when she looked at all the mountains and marveled at how they could all come tumbling down and there was nothing she could do about it.
- Mary Jane’s Last Dance – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers: Yes, the clear answer is that this song is about marijuana, and Tom Petty hasn’t come out and just said what it’s about. However, it is interesting to note that he had recently divorced a woman named Jane, so some believe it may be a farewell song to her. Also, the first take of the song was called “Indiana Girl,” but that didn’t feel right to Petty, so he changed it.