Would it surprise you to learn that many of your favorite songs were inspired by actual people? Maybe not; after all, even the greatest artist doesn’t exist in a vacuum. So let’s take a little trip down memory lane and uncover the stories behind the songs. The faces behind the hits. Some, as you might imagine, were lovers. Others were loved from afar. And a few might be a little harder to characterize. A few of the musicians were bold enough to use the person’s real name in the song, while others were a bit more circumspect. But each of them created something truly memorable.
Every artist needs a muse, an inspiration, someone or something to get the creative juices flowing. Read on to discover the stories behind some of the greatest pieces of art ever created. We promise you will be in for a few surprises!
“The Girl from Ipanema” by Astrud Gilberto with João Gilberto and Stan Getz (1964)
Ipanema is a chic seaside neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In 1962, a pair of songwriters were sitting in an Ipanema coffee shop and noticed that day after day, Heloisa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto, known for posterity as Helô Pinheiro, would walk by on her way to the beach. Sometimes she would even come into the coffee shop to buy cigarettes for her mother. She was only seventeen years old, but beautiful enough to inspire a timeless song and win the heart of every man who saw her.
The bossa nova jazz song’s original Portuguese title was “Menina Que Passa” (The Girl Who Passes By). It is about the wistful longing for the passing beauty of youth. The song immortalized its subject; Pinhero would go on to become a model, boutique owner, and eventually a Brazilian Playboy Playmate in 1987. In 2003, at the age of 59, she was Playboy Playmate again alongside her daughter. “The Girl from Ipanema” was a worldwide Grammy-winning hit in the 1960s, both in the original Portuguese as well as in its probably better known English version. It has gone on to become one of the most covered songs in history, with literally dozens of versions. These include instrumental tracks, gender-reversed versions, and various comic parodies.