From Ray Charles' spontaneous creation to John Lennon's attempt at dodging interpretation, these artists prove that inspiration is everything.
There certainly isn't any linear approach to writing a song. Artists often start with a singular idea and find it takes on a life of its own. In many cases, the final product doesn't bare much resemblance to that all important spark of inspiration and, as a result, some of our favourite classics have unexpected backstories.
Here, the backstories that will help you find a whole new appreciation for some of your favourite songs.
Song: "What'd I Say" (1959)
Written by: Ray Charles
Few songs demonstrate the lyrical genius of Ray Charles the same way "What'd I Say" does. Unlike other artists on this list, Charles didn't have time to dig deep for inspiration—after he ran out of material late during his second set of a marathon dance show in a small town near Pittsburgh, he created the song on the spot. As Charles took to the piano, he told his band to follow along and instructed his back up vocalists, the Railettes, to repeat after him.
"The people just went crazy," Charles told Rolling Stone in 1978. "And they loved that little ummmh, unnnnh."
The song, however, did drum up it's fair share of controversy—not only for it's sexual overtones, but its use of gospel style singing. According to Charles, he had no choice in the matter. "All I was tryin' to do was sing the only way I knew how, period. I was raised in the church," he explained to Rolling Stone. And as for the sexual overtones, he says they were natural in their own right as well. "Everybody knows about the ummmmh, unnnnh. That's how we all got here."
The song ultimately became the closing number for the majority of his shows and was his first top 10 single. Not bad for something he made up on the spot.
Next: "I Met A Little Girl"
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