It’s likely that we’ve all heard—or at least heard of—the song “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” by glam metal band Poison. But how many of us have ever heard of Tracy Lewis, lead singer Bret Michaels’ long lost girlfriend? According to rock and roll lore, Lewis inspired the 1988 power ballad: Michaels had called her from a laundromat payphone one night and, upon hearing another man’s voice in the background, hung up and drafted the song, probably during a dry cycle.
Michaels isn’t the only musician to find inspiration in the (or out of the) arms of a woman. Some of rock’s most famous songs wouldn’t exist if Eric Clapton hadn’t fallen in love with his best friend’s wife or if John Lennon had skipped out on the art show where he met Yoko Ono in 1966. Here’s the skinny on some of music’s most famous muses, the songs they inspired, and the effect they’ve had on pop culture ever since.
Pattie Boyd was at the center of rock’s most famous love triangle. A model and actress, she was cast in the Beatles’ film A Hard Days Night at nineteen years old and caught the attention of broody George Harrison. After she slipped out of an existing relationship, the two were married in 1966 and stayed that way for nearly a decade, during which time Harrison wrote “I Need You” and “Something” (both said to be inspired by Boyd). The couple divorced in 1974, but not before Harrison befriended Eric Clapton, who pursued Boyd aggressively near the end of her crumbling marriage. It was during that time that he wrote “Layla,” just for her, which is arguably rock’s most classic jam about unrequited love.
Bebe Buell is a self-proclaimed muse, though we’d classify her more as a groupie. Nevertheless, she deserves an honorable mention, if only for the sheer number of rock notches on her proverbial bedpost. Buell’s most legitimate claim to fame is the love child she shares with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler (she’s Liv Tyler’s mom), who was born in the midst of her six-year-long “open relationship” with rocker Todd Rundgren. She was also linked to Elvis Costello in those years, and Buell claims the rocker named his album “Blood and Chocolate” after her habit of demanding a candy bar whilst on her cycle. She also dated John Taylor of Duran Duran—and that’s just the beginning. In true floozy fashion, Buell (purportedly) shacked up with David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, and Rod Stewart, and swears that she was the inspiration behind Prince’s Little Red Corvette despite the fact that the song was written before the two had ever met.
Yoko Ono was John Lennon’s wife, lover, and co-singer/songwriter in the 15 years before his untimely murder. Though the conceptual artist moved Lennon to write hits such as “The Ballad of John and Yoko” (released as a single in 1969), “Jealous Guy” (Imagine) and “Woman” (Double Fantasy) over the course of their courtship, she is most often credited by fans as “the woman who broke up The Beatles.” Sir Paul McCartney recently spoke out about the Fab Four’s demise, saying it was not the fault of any one person, and especially not Ono.
The song “Claudette” may appear on the B-side of The Everly Brothers’ “All I Have to do is Dream,” but make no mistake: the song was written by Roy Orbison for his 16-year-old paramour Claudette Frady, whom he married in 1957. The Big O penned the Claudette-inspired hit ”Oh Pretty Woman” in 1964, which sold seven million copies and stayed on American and UK charts for a combined 32 weeks. The couple divorced in November of that year (one month after the song was released) due to Frady’s cheating, but even infidelity couldn’t keep the two apart: Orbison hit Frady with a literal dose of his famous “mercy,” and they remarried the following August.
No muse list would be complete without the mention of Linda Eastman, Paul McCartney’s late wife of 29 years. The two met at a Georgie Fame concert in 1967, and after a cross-continental affair they were married in 1969. Eastman arguably holds the title of most prolific rock muse, seeing as McCartney wrote 14 songs over the course of his solo career that are often attributed to her. Some of the more famous ones include “My Love” (Red Rose Speedway),“Silly Love Songs” (At The Speed of Sound), and 1970’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” (McCartney).
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