Songs About People

12 More Songs That Bands Have Written About Other Artists

12 songs inspired by, in tribute to or just straight-up about other artists…

Song inspiration can come from anywhere. But throughout the history of popular music one subject has proved consistently fruitful – writing songs about other people, specifically other musicians. Whether it’s fuelled by jealousy, rage, admiration or good old fashioned spite, putting pen to paper about fellow artists has been a tried and true source of songwriting gold, as we highlighted recently.

We had so much fun compiling that one we figured we’d go back for another round, and even still there are countless other examples of bands and artists turning their hand to songs about their fellow musicians…

Sugar Ray – Rivers (Written About Rivers Cuomo)

While Rivers Cuomo is never named in Sugar Rays lyrics, the whole song is a tribute to him and a loving pastiche of Weezers songwriting style, that ended up on the Scream 2 soundtrack. In 2015, Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath explained: Ironically, I’ve never even met Rivers Cuomo to this day. I’m just a gigantic fan. We were all transfixed by that first Weezer record. […] We had this song, and it was our tribute to Rivers. It sort of felt like a Weezer song without the genius, so we named it Rivers and got a lot of love for that.” 

Temple Of The Dog – Say Hello 2 Heaven (Written About Andrew Wood)

After Wood’s death, Soundgarden frontman (and Wood’s former flatmate) Chris Cornell wrote two songs – Say Hello 2 Heaven and Reach Down – about him, and approached Mother Love Bones Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament to play on them, something they found really therapeutic in the wake of their friend’s death. They later recruited guitarist Mike McCready and Soundgarden’s drummer Matt Cameron, forming Temple Of The Dog and recording an album in just 15 days. A relatively untested vocalist named Eddie Vedder did some work on it, and Pearl Jam ended up forming. Of Say Hello 2 Heaven, Cornell later said: The amount of times someone has requested I play that song for someone else who’s died have been numerous. That’s great that it’s become this anthem that makes somebody feel some comfort when they’ve lost someone, but recently I’ve become a little more possessive of the idea that this song was actually written for a specific guy and I haven’t forgotten that person.” 

Pavement – Range Life (Written About Billy Corgan)

The third verse of Range Life calls out the Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots, albeit in a pretty odd way. Out on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins. Nature kids, I, they don’t have no function. I don’t understand what they mean and I could really give a fuck’, sings Steven Malkmus. Pavement soon left the Lollapalooza tour, and rumours abounded for years that Billy Corgan had them kicked off. Corgan insisted, I had no problem with Pavement”. Malkmus later said A lot of people claim we dissed them. We never did. I only laughed about the band name, because it does sound kinda silly… Smashing Pumpkins.” 

Evanescence – Call Me When You’re Sober (Written About Shaun Seether)

The lead single from Evanescences second album was written about Amy Lee’s failed relationship with Shaun Morgan, frontman of South African band Seether. Morgan was an alcoholic, checking into rehab shortly after the pair broke up, and Lee’s lyrics (‘I’m sick of the lie, and you’re too late’) reflect the pain of being in a relationship with an addict. Lee told MTV: It was very brave for me, the lyric writing, because I was just sick of hiding behind metaphors in all that I had been writing. So much of the record was about the turmoil I was going through, with choosing between happiness and comfort. In the end, I had to choose happiness and health for myself. I made the right decision. I was letting myself be run down.” 

Falling In Reverse – Tragic Magic (Written About Craig Mabbitt)

Tragic Magic is a swipe at Falling in Reverse frontman Ronnie Radke’s former band Escape The Fate, and specifically his replacement in it, Craig Mabbitt. Between his sacking from Escape The Fate and going to prison on a battery charge, Radke went to Mabbitt’s first show and screamed insults from the crowd, and the feud escalated from there. MySpace updates from prison accused Mabbitt and other band members of essentially trying to be him: How is it living my life? Must be pretty rad. I would know. Don’t get used to it. When I get out, there won’t be much left for you to live in cause the real deal will be back.” Then, when Radke was released, out came Tragic Magic: You’re such a dumb fuck, you need to shut up’, sings Radke. You bring a picture of me every time you get your hair cut’. Happily, the two frontmen (and their bands) later made up, with the two band co-headlining the Bury The Hatchet Tour. 

NOFX – Kill Rock Stars (Written About Kathleen Hanna)

NOFX have never been strangers to offending people, whether spontaneously (as with some poorly-thought-out comments made on stage in Las Vegas last year) or with a bit more forethought. After Bikini Kills Kathleen Hanna objected to some of the lyrics on 1996’s Heavy Petting Zoo attacking feminists, Fat Mike and co responded on So Long And Thanks For All The Shoes with the pretty hard to defend Kill Rock Stars. As well as dismissing feminism by claiming Can’t change the world by hating men’, Fat Mike refers to a physical fight between Hanna and Courtney Love and how he wishes he could have seen it. Hanna’s band Le Tigre then responded, on the track Deceptacon on their 1999 self-titled album – a better song that has an actual point to it beyond Oh, shut up’. 

Nerf Herder – Van Halen (Written About Van Halen)

Nerf Herders Van Halen tells the story of frontman Parry Gripp’s obsession with Van Halen, and how he fell out of love with them when David Lee Roth was replaced by Sammy Hagar. It’s fairly safe to say Hagar was not a fan of the song – when he was asked to appear in the video, he said, Sure, after your 13th platinum album I’d be glad to.” A few years later, asked about it by a newspaper, he said, What dumb-ass fuckers would come up from nowhere and make fun of one of the biggest bands in the world? And to sit there and fuckin’ make fun of them, or make fun of Sammy Hagar? I Can’t Drive 55, number one records and stuff? Uh uh. That ain’t the way to make a living. Especially, here you are,trying to be in the same business. These fuckers! What did they expect me to do? How in the fuck do they expect to make it by making fun of somebody that everyone loves? It’s silly to me.” 

Tenacious D – Dio (Written About Ronnie James Dio)

While there are a few tongue-in-cheek jabs at Ronnie James Dios age in Tenacious Ds tribute (not to be confused with Tenacious D’s Tribute) to him, with lines like You’re too old to rock / No more rockin’ for you / We’re taking you to a home’, Dio received it in the spirit it was intended. Jack Black told The AV Club: We did call him out for early retirement. However, first we flattered him, so much more than we were poking fun at him, that he knew it was a compliment. Cause we wanted his torch. We could have asked for a lot of people’s torches. We didn’t want their torches! He was the one we chose to carry the torch. So ultimately, we were bestowing an honour upon him.” Dio later put Tenacious D in his Push video, and made a cameo appearance in Tenacious D In The Pick Of Destiny. 

Nirvana – Heart-Shaped Box (Written About Courtney Love)

Is it a metaphor for love, or a euphemism for a vagina? Either way, Kurt Cobain wrote Heart-Shaped Box in tribute to Courtney Love, the Cancer to his Pisces (both star signs are of course mentioned. As well as including supposedly verbatim quotes from arguments they had, there are several examples in the song of things – baby’s breath and angel hair – that are beautiful but harmful. But, yeah, the vagina thing. You do know the song is about my vagina, right?”, Love wrote on Twitter after Lana Del Rey covered the wong. “‘Throw down your umbilical noose so I can climb right back’ – umm… On top of which, some of the lyrics about my vagina, I contributed. So, umm, next time you sing it, think about my vagina will you?” 

Veruca Salt – With David Bowie (Written About David Bowie)

Veruca Salts Nina Gordon considers this her finest songwriting achievement, a coming-of-age tune about discovering oneself as a musician. She told MTV: ““People probably take this for granted now, but when we were little kids, you couldn’t just walk down the street and listen to music because Walkmen, – I’m dating myself but whatever – Walkmen weren’t invented yet. Walkmen were invented in the early 80s, and it was the coolest thing. Suddenly, you could walk to school and listen to your favorite bands. I just walked to school thinking about, you know, fantasising about being with David Bowie or being a rock star myself, like David Bowie. And that kind of confusion like, do I wanna just be with him or be him?” However, it nearly wasn’t David Bowie – other artists Gordon considered writing the song about included Prince and Stuart Copeland of The Police. 

Sonic Youth – Tunic (Song For Karen) (Written About Karen Carpenter)

Sonic Youths Kim Gordon was fascinated by Karen Carpenter from the height of her fame and beyond her tragically early death from anorexia nervosa aged just 32. In Gordon’s 2015 book Girl In A Band, she writes of Carpenter: The only autonomy Karen felt in her life she exerted over her own body. She was an extreme version of what a lot of women suffer from – a lack of control over things other than their bodies, which turns the female body into a tool for power – good, bad, or ugly […] In the end I think she wanted to make herself disappear, and did that by unleashing destruction on herself”. 

R.E.M. – Let Me In (Written About Kurt Cobain)

R.E.M.s Michael Stipe was friends with Kurt Cobain, and worried about him to the extent of creating a side project to keep him busy. Cobain took his own life when R.E.M. were halfway through making the album Monster, and Stipe wrote this song about wishing he could have made a connection that might have changed things. He told Newsweek: Kurt died. At that point, I just threw my hands up and wrote Let Me In. That was me on the phone to him, desperately trying to get him out of the frame of mind he was in. […] I wanted him to know that he didn’t need to pay attention to all this, that he was going to make it through.” 

Posted on March 12th 2020, 6:10p.m.
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