What’s It Like to Inspire a Song?


There are some songs that have lyrics so saturating of our psyche that they seem almost innate; that have crowds raising their drinks and bellowing along to the chorus in a dive bar at 2 a.m. … well, maybe not that, at least not now.

But what if that song that seems to be playing everywhere has an uncanny resonance? What if that song is actually about you?

Songs named for people have long been part of the pop culture landscape: Dolly Parton’s Jolene, the elusive Lola name-dropped by the Kinks, the mysterious Roxanne (Sting, Arizona Zervas). Taylor Swift’s new album, “Evermore,” has two tracks named for women; “Marjorie” appears to be inspired by Ms. Swift’s grandmother. The other one, “Dorothea,” has set the internet alive with debate about its inspiration.

Eventually Mr. Fieger won Ms. Alperin after writing the catchy bass-driven track about her. She spent her late teens touring the world with him, with the song that pleads with her to “give me some time” being the highlight of every show.

“It played everywhere I went,” Ms. Alperin recalled. “It was in the elevator, it was in the dentist, it was on the airplane, in the market, played by every Top 40 band. It was everywhere. It was exciting, and it was everything.”

And then, by the time she was 21, it was enough.

“When we broke up it was time to be my Sharona,” Ms. Alperin said. “The word ‘my’ in that song says a lot. There’s not more of a possessive or obsessive word in the English vocabulary. He thought I was his soul mate, his other half, but it was a lot.”

And these women were written about before social media truly took off. The online furor to uncover the identity of Beyoncé’s “Becky with the good hair,” framed as the singer’s rival in “Sorry” on “Lemonade,” reflects how an era of lessened privacy means that being the subject of a song can now be much more invasive.

“‘My Sharona’ was written before social media,” Ms. Alperin said. “Things are very different now, and I feel that I wouldn’t have had the privacy that I have now if it had been written today.”

Indeed, Ms. Star managed to keep her identity a secret until 2019, when she was tracked down by Vice. But although she said that she has now removed “Valerie” from her playlists, and avoids bringing up the connection to the song on a first date, particularly with other musicians), she has no regrets about what she called “a part of my life, a moment in time that has transpired, that will live forever, ‘Valerie’ has made a mark that has now taken on a life of its own. I wouldn’t change anything about it.”

Now a real-estate agent in Los Angeles, Ms. Alperin said that people will sing the song to her when she introduces herself without even realizing that she is the inspiration, and plead for pictures while she does open house viewings.

“There are good days and bad days,” she said. “I’ve never gone a week without people singing ‘My Sharona’ to me. It’s been with me all these years, and it would never do me any good to feel anything other than gratitude and humility about it. It’s nice to bring people excitement, and it’s a special thing in my life. I appreciate the wonderful experience it’s been.”



Source link Nytimes.com

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