The role of muses in the creation of art could not be overstated. Although they don’t (usually) get actively involved in the creative process themselves, most great works of art and pieces of music wouldn’t have been conceived without them.
60s style icon and Rolling Stones muse Anita Pallenberg passed away last month. This sad news might make fans of the swingin’ decade wonder how many of the women who inspired some of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll songs are still around. This list offers an overview of the lives and careers of rock’s legendary muses, most of whom have also achieved fame in their own right.
The ultimate rock ‘n’ roll muse, model and photographer Pattie Boyd was married to George Harrison from 1966 to 1977. She left her first husband for Eric Clapton, who was a close friend of Harrison’s. Although her second marriage also ended after 10 years, she remains famous for having inspired many great songs in the 60s, 70s and 80s. The Beatles’ ‘For You Blue’, ‘I Need You’, ‘It’s All Too Much’ and ‘Something’ are said to be about her. Clapton was already under her spell in 1970, when he wrote much of the Derek and the Dominos album ‘Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs’. ‘Layla’ is a powerful declaration of love, which might have contributed to Boyd’s decision to leave Harrison. Her autobiography ‘Wonderful Today’ (‘Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me’ in the US’) was released in 2007. Her photographs of Harrison and Clapton have been shown all around the world, in an exhibition titled ‘Through the Eye of a Muse’. She got married for the third time in 2015 to long-time partner Rod Weston, a property developer.
Most people know Marianne Faithfull for being Mick Jagger’s girlfriend in the second half of the 60s. Several Rolling Stones songs were reportedly written about her, including ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’, ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’, ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, ‘Wild Horses’, ‘I Got the Blues’, ‘She Smiled Sweetly’, ‘Winter,’ ‘She’s Like a Rainbow’ and ‘100 Years Ago’. She was also the inspiration for ‘And Your Bird Can Sing’ by the Beatles and ‘Carrie Anne’ by the Hollies. But she has her own claim to fame as a talented singer-songwriter herself: she co-wrote ‘Sister Morphine’, and released 20 studio albums of her own, in a career spanning over five decades! After several years of living in the streets of London as a heroin addict in the 70s, she got herself back on track and became an incredibly prolific recording artist. Her latest studio album, ‘Give My Love to London’ was released in 2014, and her live album ‘No Exit’ came out in 2016. Over the years, she has collaborated with artists such as Roger Waters, Nick Cave and PJ Harvey, and has also toured extensively. She’s written three books about her life in the 60s and beyond. These days she resides in Paris.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s relationship need no introduction: it’s one of the most famous love stories in music history, and they continue to live in our collective memory as two people who had been made for one another. They first met when Ono was visiting London in 1965 or 1966, according to two different accounts. At the time, Lennon was still married to his first wife Cynthia Powell. He married Ono after his marriage from Powell was finalized, and they remained together until his murder in 1980, apart from an 18-month period of separation in 1973-75. The songs Lennon wrote about her include the Beatles’ ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’, as well as his solo tracks ‘Jealous Guy’, ‘Woman’, ‘Oh Yoko!’, ‘John & Yoko’ and ‘Dear Yoko’. A conceptual and performance artist in the 60s, she later ventured into music. She co-wrote several experimental albums with Lennon, most notably Double Fantasy, and released over a dozen of her own records between 1970 and 2013.
Asher appeared in a number of films as a child actress, and she met Paul McCartney at the age of 17 when she was asked to interview the Beatles. The two began a five-year relationship that ended in 1968. She inspired many Beatles songs, such as ‘Every Little Thing’, ‘You Won’t See Me’, ‘And I Love Her’, ‘Things We Said Today’, ‘I’m Looking Through You’, ‘Here, There and Everywhere’, ‘Honey Pie’, ‘For No One’, ‘I’m Down’, Martha My Dear’ and ‘We Can Work It Out’. She has appeared in many British films, including Alfie (1966) and Deep End (1970), in addition to several television series. More recently, she starred in the theatre plays Festen in 2004 at the Arts Theatre and The World’s Biggest Diamond in 2005 at the Royal Court Theatre, both in London. As of July 2017, she plays Madame Baurel in the stage production of An American in Paris at Dominion Theatre in London’s West End.