There are a lot of inspirations for songs, and women are undoubtedly among the most common. From singing about siblings to love interests to names that were found in a book, female names pop up in songs a lot. Which ones stand out as the best, though? Here are the top 35 songs with a woman’s name in the title.
1. Elvira – The Oak Ridge Boys
Though originally recorded by country singer Dallas Frazier in the 1960s, the Oak Ridge Boys really made “Elvira” their own in 1981 as it became perhaps their most famous song. This doo-wop hit staple of rural bars had strong crossover appeal, making it to the top five of the mainstream charts when everybody was singing “Elvira.”
2. Gloria – Laura Branigan
Another cover version of a song that obtained mass appeal, “Gloria” was an Italian tune by Umberto Tozzi, but the 1982 version by Laura Branigan is the more well-known one. It’s about a woman in a hurry to start a relationship, and this tune had newfound success following the Stanley Cup run by the NHL’s St. Louis Blues in 2019 when they used it as their victory song.
3. Beth – Kiss
While more known for their hard rock anthems, Kiss had plenty of ballad songs throughout the years. Among the most notable was “Beth,” which was released on the “Destroyer” album in 1976. A top 10 hit in its day, it reached a new generation of fans when it was part of the Paul Rudd-led comedy “Role Models” soundtrack in 2008.
4. Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl) – Looking Glass
Another song that was revitalized due to a recent movie soundtrack “Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)” was the only true hit for the short-lived band Looking Glass in 1972. The song details a bartender working in a harbor town that’s consistently being flirted with by the sailor patrons.
5. Valerie – Steve Winwood
Many people might think this Steve Winwood hit is titled “Call On Me” due to the Eric Prydz cover that became popular in the mid-2000s, but the original track was named “Valerie” and was released as a single twice, in 1982 and 1987. The second release became one of Winwood’s biggest hits and details a man remembering his lost love.
6. Stacy’s Mom – Fountains of Wayne
While Stacy’s name is in the title of this song, the focus is on her mother. The biggest hit for Fountains Of Wayne, late lead singer Adam Schlesinger says that the inspiration for the song came when one of his childhood friends had an attractive grandmother. The tune was changed to talk about the subject’s mother, which fit the melody better anyway.
7. Maria Maria – Santana Featuring The Product G&B
Santana had a huge resurgence in the 1990s thanks to their album “Supernatural,” which included “Maria Maria.” The song dominated the charts for months while also scooping up a Grammy Award. It is a straightforward tune, detailing a girl from the Spanish Harlem district of New York City.
8. Mary Jane’s Last Dance – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Based on the name, the first thing everyone’s mind turns to is drug use, but the band has said that it’s up for interpretation as it can also be seen as a love song where both parties say goodbye. The original name for the song was actually “Indiana Girl,” but the name change ended up being the right call.
9. Rosanna – Toto
At the time “Rosanna” was released in 1982, Toto keyboardist Steve Porcaro was in a relationship with actress Rosanna Arquette. Thus, everyone assumes that the song is about her. The band and actress went along with it, and this feel-good pop hit made its way to number two on the charts.
10. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson has more hits than most people can even keep track of, but “Billie Jean” stands out as one of his best. The song is about questioning the parenthood of a child and was inspired by one of his groupies. It was a monumental classic that reached number one in just about every country.
11. Mandy – Barry Manilow
Earlier we mentioned “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass, which is also the original name of this track when it was recorded by Scott English in 1972. Two years later, Barry Manilow made it a global hit after changing it to “Mandy.” Though not about a particular woman, it does have a woman’s name in the title.
12. Roxanne – The Police
Inspired by some “women of the night,” Sting wrote this song in 1977 and named it after a theater character he saw on a poster. Though it didn’t get a lot of mainstream success, “Roxanne” is still regarded as one of the best rock songs of all time.
13. 867-5309/Jenny – Tommy Tutone
The phone number portion of the Tommy Tutone classic is obviously the most memorable part of the title, but it also includes the name, Jenny. The name and phone number were written on a men’s room wall, inspiring the song’s content when their guitarist called the number and asked Jenny on a date, spurring a short relationship.
14. Barbara Ann – The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys penned a lot of their classic hits, but “Barbara Ann” surprisingly isn’t one of them. The Regents released the original version in 1961, but The Beach Boys’ version four years later was a chart-topper. It was written by Fred Fassert, and he named the tune after his younger sister.
15. Come on Eileen – Dexys Midnight Runners And Kevin Rowland
Among the most notable one-hit wonders in music history is “Come On Eileen,” and the Dexys Midnight Runners hit became a song that made every girl named Eileen annoyed to no end. However, the band said there was no actual Eileen, and it’s actually about “Catholic repression.”
16. Bette Davis Eyes – Kim Carnes
While a lot of the names used in these songs have vague backgrounds, almost everyone knew who Bette Davis was upon the release of this song thanks to her acting career. First recorded seven years prior, the Kim Carnes version in 1981 won multiple Grammys and was adored by Davis herself.
17. My Sharona – The Knack
The Knack had one song reach the top 10 on the charts, and it was their debut single that vaulted to number one. “My Sharona” was released in 1979 and detailed lead singer Doug Fieger’s relationship with a girl named Sharona. The two remained friends after their split and did so until Feiger’s passing in 2010.
18. Rhiannon – Fleetwood Mac
“Rhiannon” has witchy beginnings, with Stevie Nicks writing the song after reading a book called “Triad” by Mary Leader. In the book, a girl named Branwen is possessed by a spirit named Rhiannon. Infatuated with the name, one of Fleetwood Mac’s most successful songs was born.
19. Oh Sherrie – Steve Perry
Released in 1984, the same year Steve Perry began his solo career in music, “Oh Sherrie” was written about his then-girlfriend Sherrie Swafford, giving an outside perspective to the song about their wild and passionate relationship. The couple didn’t stand the tests of time, unlike the tune, and they eventually split up.
20. Jolene – Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton found inspiration for “Jolene” when she met a young fan wanting an autograph. As mentioned in the song, the girl had beautiful red hair, fair skin, and piercing green eyes. She knew then and there that she wanted to use the little girl’s name in a song. The song itself came to be when an overly flirtatious bank teller, bearing similarities to the little girl, got a little too close to Dolly’s husband.
21. Amanda – Boston
Surprisingly, Boston’s only number one hit “Amanda” wasn’t written about anyone in particular named Amanda. Tom Scholz wrote the romantic love song from the perspective of someone madly in love and desperately longing to share their true feelings with their own personal “Amanda”.
22. Anna Molly – Incubus
Serving as a play on the word ‘anomaly,’ the song “Anna Molly” itself seems to be an anomaly. It doesn’t appear to be about any woman in particular, but rather, a woman who could exist and the lengths he would take to be with this ideal woman he’s visualized.
23. Dirty Diana – Michael Jackson
With another appearance on this list, Michael Jackson’s song “Dirty Diana” isn’t about any particular Diana. It is about his lifelong experience with girls, or ‘groupies,’ that hang out at shows and do a lot of unmentionable things to get close to the musicians.
24. Ruby Tuesday – The Rolling Stones
“Ruby Tuesday” is a song detailing heartbreak inspired by Keith Richards’ split from his girlfriend Linda Keith. She was said to have moved on to another rock icon, Jimi Hendrix, leaving Richards in shambles. On the bright side, the song was incredibly successful, reaching number one on the US charts.
25. Sara Smile – Hall & Oates
A short, sweet love song, “Sara Smile” is about the love Daryl Hall had for his long-term girlfriend Sara Allen. The couple ended up splitting up in 2001 but spent over 30 years together.
26. Eleanor Rigby – The Beatles
The inspiration for Eleanor Rigby came from a sweet bond Paul McCartney shared with a kind old woman, whose real name is unknown. The woman lived alone and was kept in good company by McCartney. He often helped her with errands and listened to her tell stories, becoming an influence on his future music.
27. Jamie’s Cryin’ – Van Halen
Another song not written about any one girl, in particular, David Lee Roth wrote “Jamie’s Cryin’” about the intense regret felt by a girl who had a one-night stand and wants a relationship with deeper meaning.
28. Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond
Now a staple of Boston sporting events, “Sweet Caroline” isn’t about a girl named Caroline at all. Neil Diamond wrote the song about his second wife, Marcia Murphey, but needed a name better suited for the song with three syllables.
29. Layla – Derek & the Dominos
Eric Clapton’s inspiration for the song “Layla” came after he read “Layla And Majnun,” a tale about forbidden love. Some also speculate he drew inspiration from the love he felt for his friend George Harrison’s wife Pattie Boyd, who later divorced Harrison and married Clapton.
30. Janie’s Got a Gun – Aerosmith
This next song has a much darker meaning behind it. Steven Tyler was inspired to write this song after reading about victims of childhood abuse. “Janie’s Got A Gun” is about a young girl getting revenge on her father following years of abuse.
31. Runaround Sue – Dion
Not long after his split from the Belmonts in 1960, Dion released his solo hit “Runaround Sue.” There isn’t a ‘Sue’ that Dion was directly inspired by, but was written from the point of view of a man warning others of his unfaithful partner.
32. Iris – Goo Goo Dolls
John Rzeznik wrote his song “Iris” for the movie “City Of Angels” starring Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan. One day, while flipping through the pages of a magazine, he stumbled upon the name of a singer and songwriter Iris DeMent, thinking her name was pretty and naming the song after her.
33. Hey There Delilah – Plain White T’s
Lead singer Tom Higgenson wrote “Hey There Delilah” about Delilah DiCrescenzo. He met her through a friend and was immediately infatuated with her. She was in a relationship with someone else and wasn’t interested in Higgenson. He wrote the song from the point of view of a couple in a long-distance relationship, making plans for their future.
34. Maggie May – Rod Stewart
Rod Stewart took from some of his personal experiences to write his song “Maggie May.” He has stated he wrote the song about an older woman he lost his virginity to at a 1961 jazz festival. The name came from another older song about a lady of the night named Maggie May.
35. Lola – The Kinks
The song “Lola” has an interesting meaning behind it. It shares the story of a man spending the night with a woman who turns out to be a man as well. It’s seen as pro-LGBTQ+ with its lyrics alluding to the acceptance of Lola being a man and encouraging love regardless.
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
Liam’s lifelong love for music makes his role at Music Grotto such a rewarding one. He loves researching, writing and editing music content for Music Grotto.