Sometimes we hear cheesy heartbreak or lovey dovey songs we can absolutely relate to. But other times we hear strange and obscure references in music and we don’t have a clue where they come from or to what they’re really referring. Contrary to common misconception, Lucy in The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” is not a blatant reference to LSD. So who exactly is she? What about the taxi in Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”? Is it an actual taxi she rides in? And what about Caroline in “Sweet Caroline” from Neil Diamond? An ex-lover? Nope. So what exactly inspires these artists to center entire songs on a certain subject?
When little Julian Lennon brought home a drawing he had made about girl in his class named Lucy, John pictured a psychedelic-esque song about a girl named Lucy, floating in the sky with diamonds. He thought his son’s drawing carried such a perfect vibe for a song. That idea turned into one of the greatest songs of the late sixties.
No, there was no literal “yellow taxi”. Not one that Joni Mitchell was a fan of, anyway. She was inspired by the greed and corruption, and environmental unconcern she witnessed during the seventies. The idea of an authority figure which “paved paradise, and put up a parking lot” led her to write a popular song expressing her condemnation of the government’s ability and tendency to capitalize the natural and beautiful.
So... “Sweet Caroline” really sounds like a touching summer-y love song. It can be, if that’s how you want it to be. But Neil Diamond had different intentions. He recently revealed that his inspiration for the song actually originated from a photograph he saw of a little Caroline Kennedy (daughter of John F. Kennedy), standing next to her horse. Now, keeping that in mind, some of the lyrics from the song might seem a little questionable but that old photograph was behind the number one hit.
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