Would it surprise you to learn that many of your best loved songs were inspired by actual living breathing people? Maybe not; after all, even the greatest artist doesn’t exist in a vacuum. So let’s take a little journey together 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. Not just music, of course. From Michelangelo’s David to the Doors’ Come on Baby Light My Fire, you can bet that there was flesh and blood behind the art. So come. Read on, and take a trip to the past. 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 café and noticed day after day as Heloisa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto, known to posterity as Helô Pinheiro would walk by on her way to the beach. Sometimes she would even come into the café to buy her mother cigarettes. 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 floating around. These include instrumental tracks, gender-reversed versions, and various comic parodies.