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10 Famous People Who Inspired Hit Songs

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If there’s one thing famous people like to write about, it’s other famous people. Makes sense—you write what you know! But when the medium is music, the subject isn't always obvious. Here are some lesser-known examples of songs about celebrities, proving that while Taylor Swift may be one of the more prolific artists in the category, she doesn’t have the market totally cornered.

1. DANAE STRATOU // “COMMON PEOPLE”

Jarvis Cocker, frontman of English rock band Pulp, has always been vague about who he’s been singing to in 1995’s “Common People.” After decades of speculation, it’s recently been conjectured that the subject of his hit is Greek artist Danae Stratou, married to Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s former finance minister and current controversial radical-left politician (both pictured above). Stratou certainly fits the description of someone who “came from Greece and had a thirst for knowledge” and “studied sculpture at St. Martins College.” Cocker hasn’t yet confirmed or denied it, nor has Stratou. Varoufakis, however, when asked to weigh in, only coquettishly replied that his wife was “the only Greek student of sculpture at St. Martins College at that time.”

2. EDIE SEDGWICK // “FEMME FATALE”

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One of the sweeter, softer cuts off the Velvet Underground’s 1967 debut album, “Femme Fatale” is what happened when Andy Warhol suggested that Lou Reed should write a tune about model/actress/heiress/It Girl Edie Sedgwick, one of Warhol’s favorite leading ladies in his films. (Warhol managed the Velvet Underground for a while.) The lyrics aren’t especially descriptive of Sedgwick in particular, although you’d think the line “You're put down in her book / You're number thirty-seven, have a look” would have applied.

3. SALMA HAYEK’S DAUGHTER // “VALENTINA”

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“Valentina” by Prince, which appears on his 2009 album, MPLSoUND, is a plea addressed to Salma Hayek’s daughter, instructing the toddler to tell her mama that “she should give me a call / When she get tired of runnin' after you down the hall.” Hayek and Prince were good friends, and Hayek directed the video for his song “Te Amo Corazon” in 2005; four years later, neither the movie star (nor her kiddo) had apparently left his mind.

4. NAS // “ME AND MR. JONES”

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While it can be safely assumed that Amy Winehouse’s 2006 hit “Me and Mr. Jones” was inspired by the Billy Paul classic “Me and Mrs. Jones,” the stories differ slightly: Rather than a loving ode sung by a man who’s having an affair with a married woman, Amy’s song is the first-person account of a woman who’s not too pleased with her lover. That part’s made clear in the lyrics, but what might not be is that the lover’s identity is American rapper Nas (whose real name is Nasir Jones). The lyric “Mr. Destiny, 9 and 14” refers to the name of Nas’s daughter and his and Amy’s shared birthdate, September 14.

5. FRANZ FERDINAND // "TAKE ME OUT"

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Scottish band Franz Ferdinand’s best-known hit, 2004’s “Take Me Out,” is believed to be about Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the band’s namesake. (Or more specifically about his assassination, when he was, ahem, “taken out” by Gavrilo Princip.) The lyric “I'm just a cross hair / I'm just a shot away from you” is a bit of a giveaway. In addition, “All for You, Sophia (Bang Bang),” the B-side of the "Take Me Out single," is dedicated to Ferdinand’s wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, who was also killed in the 1914 shooting.

6. VINCE NEIL // “DUDE (LOOKS LIKE A LADY)”

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Aerosmith’s “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” was, according to Mötley Crüe drummer Nikki Sixx, specifically inspired by his band’s vocalist, Vince Neil. The co-writer of the song, Desmond Child, has said Steven Tyler admitted to him that it was inspired by Vince Neil. Tyler himself has only said that "One day we met Mötley Crüe, and they're all going, 'Dude!' ‘Dude’ this and ‘dude’ that, everything was ‘dude.’ 'Dude (Looks Like a Lady)' came out of that session.” But all three seem to agree that when the song was conceived of by Tyler, Vince Neil was definitely there.

7. JEFF BUCKLEY // “TEARDROP”

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Many, many artists have written songs about gone-too-soon singer/songwriter Jeff Buckley—a list that includes PJ Harvey, Lana Del Rey, Coldplay, and Rufus Wainwright—but the one that got the most play was possibly Massive Attack’s 1998 single, “Teardrop.” The lyrics were written and sung by Buckley’s close friend Elizabeth Fraser, who fronted ethereal rock band Cocteau Twins and who was working on the piece on the day she heard Buckley had drowned in the Mississippi River. "That was so weird,” said Fraser. “I'd got letters out and I was thinking about him. That song's kind of about [Buckley]—that's how it feels to me anyway.”

8. JERRY CANTRELL SR. // “ROOSTER”

Over the years, plenty have opined on the backstory behind Alice in Chains’ 1992 grunge hit “Rooster”—a song written in the first person as an American soldier fighting in the Vietnam War—and especially about the identity of the Rooster himself. Some say it’s a reference to the muzzle flash of the M60 machine gun, which supposedly makes an outline similar to a rooster's tail. The song is also often connected to the 101st Airborne Division, whose troops wore a bald eagle insignia on their shoulder sleeves, resulting in the pejorative "chicken men” epithet being slung at them by the Vietnamese. The truth, though, turned out to be a little less convoluted: Alice in Chains singer Jerry Cantrell wrote the song about his veteran dad, Jerry Sr., whose childhood nickname was Rooster—a reference to his cowlicky hairdo as a kid.

9. COURTNEY LOVE // “LET IT DIE”

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Speaking of Seattle bands: Dave Grohl’s never really bothered hiding his distaste for his former Nirvana bandmate’s widow Courtney Love, calling her some pretty candid names during live shows  (although Love has said they’ve recently made up). As such, it’s long been rumored that the Foo Fighters’ 1995 hit, "I’ll Stick Around," off their self-titled debut album, concerned her. (Released only a year after Kurt Cobain’s death, the song’s unforgettable refrain “I don’t owe you anything” takes on a new meaning in that context, eh?) 

And in 2007, another song emerged that was interpreted as a diss track about Mrs. Cobain. Containing the lyrics "A simple man and his blushing bride / Intravenous, intertwined,” the song “Let It Die” on the FF’s 2007 album, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, seemed to obviously be about Love. According to an interview Grohl did with The Guardian in the same year, he admitted that “there are a lot of people that I've been angry with in my life, but the one that's most noted is Courtney. So it's pretty obvious to me that those correlations are gonna pop up every now and again." But in regards to whether this particular song is in reference to Love, Grohl said coyly, “I still remain a little secretive about it all."

10. BILLY CORGAN // “VIOLET”

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And lastly, perhaps as revenge for so many people writing songs about her, Courtney Love herself wrote “Violet,” a major radio hit for her band Hole, about her pre-Kurt paramour Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins. Unlike Grohl, Love has made no bones about the subject of the song, stating several times that the lyrics discuss her anger following their 1990 breakup. In 1995, on Later... with Jools Holland, she explained the track as "a song about a jerk. I hexed him, and now he's losing his hair."

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Steve Martin
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Is there anything Steve Martin can't do? In addition to being one of the world's most beloved comedians and actors, he's also a writer, a musician, a magician, and an art enthusiast. And he's about to put a number of these talents on display with Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life, a new comedy special that just arrived on Netflix. To commemorate the occasion, here are 10 things you might not have known about Steve Martin.

1. HE WAS A CHEERLEADER.

As a yellleader (as he refers to it in a yearbook signature) at his high school in Garden Grove, California, Martin tried to make up his own cheers, but “Die, you gravy-sucking pigs,” he later told Newsweek, did not go over so well.

2. HIS FIRST JOB WAS AT DISNEYLAND.

Martin’s first-ever job was at Disneyland, which was located just two miles away from his house. He started out selling guidebooks, keeping $.02 for every book he sold. He graduated to the Magic Shop on Main Street, where he got his first taste of the gags that would later make his career. He also learned the rope tricks you see in ¡Three Amigos! from a rope wrangler over in Frontierland.

3. HE OWES HIS WRITING JOB WITH THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS TO AN EX-GIRLFRIEND.

Thanks to a girlfriend who got a job dancing on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Martin landed a gig writing for the show. He had absolutely no experience as a writer at the time. He shared an office with Bob Einstein—better known to some as Super Dave Osborne or Marty Funkhauser—and won an Emmy for writing in 1969.

4. HE WAS A CONTESTANT ON THE DATING GAME.

While he was writing for the Smothers Brothers, but before he was famous in his own right, Martin was on an episode of The Dating Game. (Spoiler alert: He wins. But did you have any doubt?)

5. MANY PEOPLE THOUGHT HE WAS A SERIES REGULAR ON SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.

Martin hosted and did guest spots on Saturday Night Live so often in the 1970s and '80s that many people thought he was a series regular. He wasn't. 

6. HIS FATHER WROTE A REVIEW OF HIS FIRST SNL APPEARANCE.

After his first appearance on SNL, Martin’s father, the president of the Newport Beach Association of Realtors, wrote a review of his son’s performance in the company newsletter. “His performance did nothing to further his career,” the elder Martin wrote. He also once told a newspaper, “I think Saturday Night Live is the most horrible thing on television.”

7. HE POPULARIZED THE AIR QUOTE.

If you find yourself making air quotes with your fingers more than you’d really like, you have Martin to thank. He popularized the gesture during his guest spots on SNL and stand-up performances.

8. HE QUIT STAND-UP COMEDY IN THE EARLY 1980S.

Martin gave up stand-up comedy in 1981. “I still had a few obligations left but I knew that I could not continue,” he told NPR in 2009. “But I guess I could have continued if I had nothing to go to, but I did have something to go to, which was movies. And you know, the act had become so known that in order to go back, I would have had to create an entirely new show, and I wasn't up to it, especially when the opportunity for movies and writing movies came around.”

9. HE'S A MAJOR ART COLLECTOR.

As an avid art collector, Martin owns works by Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, and Edward Hopper. He sold a Hopper for $26.9 million in 2006. Unfortunately, being rich and famous doesn’t mean Martin is immune to scams: In 2004, he spent about $850,000 on a piece believed to be by German-Dutch modernist painter Heinrich Campendonk. When Martin tried to sell the piece, “Landschaft mit Pferden” (or "Landscape With Horses") 15 months later, he was informed that it was a forgery. Though the painting still sold, it was at a huge loss.

10. HE'S AN ACCOMPLISHED BLUEGRASS PERFORMER.

Many people already know this, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that he’s an extremely accomplished bluegrass performer. With the help of high school friend John McEuen, who later became a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Martin taught himself to play the banjo when he was 17. He's been picking away ever since. If you see him on stage these days, he’s likely strumming a banjo with his band, the Steep Canyon Rangers. As seen above, they make delightful videos.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Wine
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by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Between the vine and the liquor store, plenty of secrets are submerged in your favorite bottle of vino. Here, the author of Back Lane Wineries of Sonoma spills some of the best.

1. DIGITAL EYES ARE EVERYWHERE IN VINEYARDS.

Certain premium estates in Bordeaux and Napa are beginning to look a little more like an army base—or an Amazon.com warehouse. They’re using drones, optical scanners, and heat-sensing satellites to keep a digital eye on things. Some airborne drones collect data that helps winemakers decide on the optimal time to harvest and evaluate where they can use less fertilizer. Others rove through the vineyard rows, where they may soon be able to take over pruning. Of course, these are major investments. At $68,000 a pop, the Scancopter 450 is about twice as costly as a 1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon!

2. THERE ARE ALSO LOTS OF COW SKULLS.

They’re not everywhere, but biodynamic farming techniques are on the rise among vintners who don’t want to rely on chemicals, and this is one trick they’ve been known to use to combat plant diseases and improve soil PH. It’s called Preparation No. 505, and it involves taking a cow’s skull (or a sheep’s or a goat’s), stuffing it with finely ground oak chips, and burying it in a wet spot for a season or two before adding it to the vineyard compost.

3. FEROCIOUS FOLIAGE IS A VINTNER’S FRIEND.

The mustard flowers blooming between vineyard rows aren’t just for romance. Glucosinolates in plants like radishes and mustard give them their spicy bite, and through the wonders of organic chemistry, those glucosinolates also double as powerful pesticides. Winemakers use them to combat nematodes—tiny worms that can destroy grape crops.

4. WHAT A CANARY IS TO A COAL MINE, ROSES ARE TO A VINEYARD.

Vintners plant roses among their vines because they get sick before anything else in the field. If there’s mildew in the air, it will infect the roses first and give a winemaker a heads-up that it’s time to spray.

5. VINTNERS EXPLOIT THE FOOD CHAIN.

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Small birds like blackbirds and starlings can clear out 20 percent of a crop in no time. But you know what eats little birds? Big birds. Falconry programs are on the rise in vineyards from California to New Zealand. Researchers have found that raptors eat a bird or two a day (along with a proportion of field mice and other critters) and cost only about as much to maintain as your average house cat.

6. THE BIG PROBLEMS IN TASTING ROOMS ARE VERY SMALL.

Winemakers are constantly seeking ways to manage the swarms of Drosophila melanogaster that routinely gather around the dump buckets in their swanky showrooms. You know these pests as fruit flies, and some vintners in California are exploring ways to use carnivorous plants to tackle the problem without pesticides. Butterworts, sundews, and pitcher plants all have sweet-sounding names, but the bugeating predators make for terrific fruit fly assassins, and you’ll see them decorating tasting rooms across wine country.

7. WINE NEEDS CLEANING.

Winemaking produces hard-to-remove sediments. Filters can catch most of the debris, but winemakers must add “fining agents” to remove any suspended solids that sneak by. Until it was banned in the 1990s, many European vintners used powdered ox blood to clean their wines. Today, they use diatomaceous earth (the fossilized remains of hard-shelled algae), Isinglass (a collagen made from fish swim bladders), and sometimes bentonite (volcanic clay). Irish moss and egg whites are also fine wine cleaners.

8. ATOMS HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS.

About 5 percent of the premium wine sold for cellaring doesn’t contain what the label promises. So how do top-shelf buyers avoid plunking down serious cash on a bottle of something bunk? Most elite wine brokerages, auction houses, and collectors use atomic dating to detect fraud. By measuring trace radioactive carbon in the wine, most bottles can be dated to within a year or two of the vintage.

9. FINE WINES GET MRIs.

Even with atomic dating, there are certain perils involved in buying a $20,000 bottle of wine. Leaving a case in the hot trunk of your car is enough to ruin it, so imagine what can happen over a couple of decades if a wine isn’t kept in the proper conditions. Back in 2002, a chemistry professor at University of California at Davis patented a technique that uses MRI technology to diagnose the condition of vintage wines. Not planning any $20,000 wine purchases? This is still good news for the consumer. This technique may soon be used at airport security, meaning you’ll be able to carry on your booze.

10. THERE’S A TRICK TO AGING YOUR WINE.

If you end up with a bottle of plonk, Chinese scientists have developed a handy solution. Zapping a young wine with electricity makes it taste like something you’ve cellar aged. Scientists aren’t quite sure how it happens yet, but it seems that running your wine for precisely three minutes through an electric field changes the esters, proteins, and aldehydes and can “age” a wine instantly.

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