Van Morrison was married to Janet “Planet” Rigsbee for six years surrounding 1970, and she was likely the muse for a number of his songs from that period, including “Crazy Love”. Their relationship was by all accounts intense and passionate, but nevertheless, it ended in 1973. Still, it was a pretty good run considering they only really married so that Van could avoid deportation to the UK. Their daughter Shana was born in 1970 and has occasionally shared the stage with her famous father in the 1990s. It is likely that Rigsbee was also the “Brown Eyed Girl” in Morrison’s possibly best-known song, as they were already dating at that point in 1967. After divorcing Van, Janet moved to California, becoming a songwriter in addition to recording five of her own solo albums.
Van Morrison has been a major figure in popular music since the 1960s. First, he was a rock performer as the frontman for Them, with whom he had the hit song “Gloria”. Later, as a solo artist, he branched out into pop, blue-eyed soul, world music, and much more. Among his most beloved songs are “Moondance” and “Wild Night”.
“Jersey Girl” by Tom Waits
Softer and more tender than your typical gritty Tom Waits song, “Jersey Girl” is a remarkably straightforward expression of love and passion for the love of his life, his future wife Kathleen Brennan. They met while she was living in New Jersey, which is what gave the song its name. He was working on a movie soundtrack at the time and would go see her whenever he could.
The pair have been married for decades, and live in California with their three children, often collaborating on projects. “Jersey Girl” has been covered by Bruce Springsteen, to the point that it is often associated with him more than its author. Tom Waits’ tough boozy musician persona makes his long fruitful marriage to Kathleen Brennan somewhat counterintuitive. He has always been an intensely private individual and has built an impenetrable wall of separation between his professional and personal life.
“I Love Mickey” by Teresa Brewer
The popular and versatile 50s singer Teresa Brewer had a hit in 1956 about the New York Yankees baseball superstar Mickey Mantle. The song was “I Love Mickey”. Mantle even showed up at the studio and recorded a short spoken word part for the song, which led to some rumors about a possible romance between them. The song was born of a visit by Brewer to Yankee Stadium to watch the team play. Watching the Yankees’ top player in action, she thought he was amazing and that someone ought to write a song about him. Her friend hummed a little tune, Brewer started writing lyrics, and before you knew it, the song was ready to present to Mantle for his approval.
Though her career lasted over four decades, the 50s really belonged to Teresa Brewer. Unbelievably, she recorded something like 600 songs in almost every conceivable style from jazz and R&B to country and show tunes. Such was her fame that when Elvis Presley was in high school, one of his very first performances was a Teresa Brewer song.
“Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond
The inspiration for Neil Diamond’s 1969 hit single would remain a mystery for more than four decades. Only then would Diamond finally reveal that the eponymous Caroline was none other than the daughter of President John F. Kennedy. Neil had seen an issue of Life Magazine from September 7, 1962, featuring a four-year-old Caroline Kennedy riding a pony. The image brewed in the musician’s fertile imagination for five years until he finally wrote the timeless song. Finally, when Neil Diamond was invited to perform for Caroline Kennedy’s 50th birthday in 2007, he told everyone the story. In a 2011 television interview, he added details about the magazine cover. However, the story got a little more complicated in 2014 when Neil said that in fact, the song was about his then-wife Marcia and that he changed the name in order to have the three syllables that he needed to fit the rhythm. We may never know the whole truth.
Not only has “Sweet Caroline” become one of Neil Diamond’s biggest hits and most beloved songs, but it has also been covered by other major recording artists, including Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. It has also become a very popular call-and-response song played at American sporting events, especially in Boston, a city with a long history of Kennedy family significance.
“Athena” by The Who
After years and years of being among the most vital pioneers of hard rock music, by 1982 The Who and their leader Pete Townsend were in an uncertain place. They were still selling albums and tickets, but it seemed like something was missing. One night, Townsend, drunk and high on drugs, went to see a Pink Floyd concert where he ran into the actress Theresa Russell, who was engaged to director Nicholas Roeg.
Townsend fell madly in love, possibly with the help of the foreign substances in his brain, but Theresa was having none of it. Heartbroken at his rejection, he went home and penned a very personal love song that he called, “Theresa”. When it came time to record it, however, he decided that maybe it was a little too personal, so he changed the name of the song to “Athena”, and the name stuck. As for Theresa Russell, she has been floating in and out of the mainstream for 40 years. She starred alongside Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, and Bill Murray in some of her early big-budget roles before starting to take riskier off-beat roles in many independent films. But you can still see her in supporting roles in major movies to this day.