Who’s Melissa? Mysterious Women of Song
While driving down the highway in downstate Illinois singing along to Barry Manilow’s “Could It Be Magic”, it suddenly hit me: who is this Melissa anyway? And why does she come up so much in songs?
Now of course in today’s age, one can wikipedia most lyrics and find out that in some interview the artist explained the original inspiration for the name, but that is not really the full answer. The inspiration might start out about one specific woman, but the song is it’s own creature. When a singer namechecks a girl in a lyric, suddenly the character of the song changes, it really is about somebody. What made them so special that they got a song written about them? A heartbreaker, a muse, a poet….a beard. Are you that somebody, like Aaliyah? Today is an ode to odes, songs that mention a name and leave us wondering, who is that person anyway?
We’ll start with the Melissas.
I already mention Barry singing about the possible magic of sweet Melissa, but the Allman Brothers have the most famous Melissa song. It’s been covered by dozens of folks, too. But did you know that Pat Benatar has a song mentioning Melissa too?
I kept thinking there was a James Taylor song, but those are all “sweet baby James”, not Jane. Why does he sing about himself? That always weirded me out a little. No matter, there are plenty of other Jane songs.
Lou Reed’s classic Velvet Underground track (also did well as a Cowboy Junkies cover).
Shawn Colvin warns Jane about bringing bad news.
Of course, once you put “Mary” in front of Jane, there’s a whole other slew of songs about her.
According to most songs, a Sara is a beautiful heartbreak — dating back to the Dust Bowl.
Jefferson Starship wasn’t the only 80s hit about Sara. If you haven’t heard the Hall & Oates tribute album by The Bird and the Bee, it’s worth a listen.
“Wait a minute baby, stay with me awhile.” There are a lot of songs with a Sara, but Stevie singing her name is my favorite.
Do you have a favorite Melissa, Jane, or Sara song not mentioned? What other songs with a woman’s name do we love?