This column topic was suggested by Weekly copy editor Mike Howie. Mike is the one who edits my weekly ramblings and removes most of my totally correct Oxford commas. Mike is also a musician, and gave me the idea of writing a couple of columns about songs with women’s names in the titles — songs both good and, well, maybe not so good. This week, we’re starting with the really good songs that name women in the title.
“Roxanne” – The Police. One of the most recognizable songs in this grouping, it’s so easy to hear Sting plaintively plead with his ladyfriend (of the evening) not to go out and participate in the world’s oldest profession.
“Alison” – Elvis Costello. A beautiful song with a soulful delivery, Costello insisted that the song was not about something nefarious; rather, he wrote it after seeing a beautiful girl at the checkout counter of a grocery store, the dreams of her youth fading away.
“Dear Prudence” – The Beatles. John Lennon wrote this about Mia Farrow’s sister Prudence, who got perhaps a little too obsessed with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s meditation practices.
“Amanda” – Boston. In 1986, eight years after Boston’s previous album (and a whole lot of litigation), Tom Scholz’s guitars and Brad Delp’s vocals gave Boston its only number one single.
“Amelia” – Joni Mitchell. One of my favorite songs of all time, Joni wrote this comparing her life as a solo musical traveler to that of Amelia Earhart’s solo aviator’s career.
“Eleanor Rigby” – The Beatles. One of Paul’s best. Ever.
“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” – Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Written by Stephen Stills for his paramour, Judy Collins — it was a really nice tribute. She didn’t stay with him, however.
“Ruby (Don’t Take Your Love To Town)” – Kenny Rogers. A sad story about a paralyzed Vietnam vet, saddened by his lady looking for love elsewhere. It’s a really good song.
“Peg,” “Josie,” “Aja” – Steely Dan. While it’s not totally clear that Aja is a woman, there may not be three better-crafted songs about women in the history of rock and roll — and they’re all from the same album!
“Laura” – Billy Joel. This is perhaps the most Beatle-esque song ever released by someone who wasn’t in the Beatles. It’s a really good song.
“Melissa,” “Jessica” – the Allman Brothers. E’nuff said.
“The Wind Cries Mary” – Jimi Hendrix. One of rock’s most beautiful ballads, the song combines poetic lyrics and an amazing arrangement featuring Jimi’s stunning guitar work. Rolling Stone listed it as number 379 of the 500 best songs ever.
“Aimee” – Pure Prairie League. A really nice acoustic song about a girl who doesn’t know what she’s going to do. Hope she figured it out by now.
“Billie Jean” – Michael Jackson. Leon Ndugu Chancler’s drums and Louis Johnson’s bass set the stage for one of the best pop songs ever. It’s a groove that makes everyone want to move.
“Michelle” – The Beatles. Another of Paul’s really lovely melodies, it was made complete with John’s help on the middle eight. Producer George Martin composed the melody of the guitar solo that George Harrison played — the result is an amazing song from the four twenty-something mop tops. It was considered a daring pop record in 1965 that showed just how far the Beatles were progressing.
“Sara Smile” – Hall and Oates. Blue-eyed Philadelphia soul at its finest — this song gave the duo its first top 10 hit, peaking at number 4 in 1976.
“Angie” – Rolling Stones. A beautiful ballad written mostly by Keith, this song went straight to number 1. A close listen reveals a “ghost vocal” in places where Mick’s guide vocal wasn’t totally obscured by the overdubbed lead vocal.
“Janie’s Got A Gun” – Aerosmith. A really good song about justifiable homicide. Steven Tyler said that it took him nine months to finish the lyrics.
“Dreamboat Annie” – Heart. This is a perfectly lovely acoustic song by the Wilson sisters and the original Heart lineup. Dreamy vocals, dreamy guitars, even a dreamy banjo — the song is simply dreamy.
“Visions of Johanna” – Bob Dylan. One of his best, the song features some of his greatest lyrics, including one of my favorite lines ever: “The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face.”
“Mary Jane’s Last Dance” – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Considered a throwaway filler song by Tom (who was working on the Wildflowers album at the time), this track turned into one of his greatest hits. It was also Stan Lynch’s last recording as the original drummer of the Heartbreakers.
There are loads more good songs with women’s names … but next week, we’ll take a look at some of the really bad ones! See you then!
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