Not to be confused with groupies, muses are in a league of their own. Their enchanting qualities have inspired artists to create some incredible works of art, from Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne to The Hollies’ Carrie Ann. Their voices, their smiles, and even the way they flip their hair have weakened the knees of even the most hot-headed rock n’ rollers.
Breakups, makeups, and deep conversations until the break of dawn – they’ve all been immortalized in our favorite songs. So, let’s take a moment to thank these great women for bringing out all the feels from these musicians. Because without them, music would be as bland and dull as wonder bread.
The Muse: Anita Pallenberg / The Musicians: At Least Two of the Rolling Stones
Anita Pallenberg lived her life with incredible “Savoir-Vivre” (a polished sureness). The German-Italian model had almond-shaped eyes that gave way to a clever and sinister gaze and a playful smile that drew in the enamored Brits Keith Richards, Brian Jones, and (possibly) Mick Jagger.
But Pallenberg wasn’t just a pretty face. She was a witty woman of the world who rid Richards of his gawky shyness, taught Brian Jones how to dress, and showed Mick Jagger how to move. “Anita seduced everybody. She was so powerful that very few people were immune,” long-time friend Robert Greenfield wrote in his book Exile on Main Street: A Season in Hell With the Rolling Stones.
She Left One Rolling Stone for Another
Brian Jones was the first one to fall under Anita’s spell. He met her at one of their concerts in Munich and befriended the bold 22-year-old on the spot. Anita naturally fit in with the rest of the band, joining them on their trippy acid ventures and long, intoxicated nights.
But after Brian’s drug abuse got out of hand, the young model found solace in the arms of none other than – drum roll – fellow bandmate Keith Richards! They remained together for 12 years, and although they never officially tied the knot, they had three children together (their second son, Tara, died of sudden infant death syndrome, SIDS).
She Was the Storm That Threatened His Life
While some muses inspired lovey-dovey, bird-chirping, sun-shining songs, Pallenberg inspired the tumultuous lyrics of a man begging to be saved. “A storm is threatening my very life today,” Richards wrote in the 1969 track Gimme Shelter.
Chain-smoking and depressed, Richards wrote the song at an all-time low, his mind filled with images of Pallenberg and Jagger getting intimate under the covers on the set of the 1970 drama Performance.
Even though Richards moved on to marry Patti Henson, Anita “was his real soul mate . . . but he would have died if he stayed with her,” said Victor Bockris, author of Keith Richards: The Biography.
The Muse: Yoko Ono / The Musician: John Lennon
Like it or not, Yoko Ono was John Lennon’s muse. She was the paint to his canvas, the strings to his guitar, the mother figure to his lonely soul. Independent, artistic, and driven, Ono was a breath of fresh air for Lennon. And all it took was a simple, three-letter word to spark his interest in her: yes.
He met her at her art exhibition in 1966 and was won over by one of her pieces which included climbing a ladder and peeking through a spyglass onto a white canvas with the word “yes” written in tiny letters. “Finally!” Lennon thought to himself, a bit of positivity and hope in the world.
They Made Love at Dawn
When Lennon met Ono, he was at his wits’ ends with his wife, Cynthia. And meeting the Japanese artist reassured him even more that it was time to get a divorce. On one of Cynthia’s trips away from home, Lennon took the opportunity to invite Ono over and get to know her better.
Like an excited little kid, Lennon showed her his studio and played her all the eccentric tapes he had made. Suitably impressed, Ono suggested they make one of their own. “We made [the experimental album] Two Virgins,” Lennon told The Rolling Stone. “It was midnight when we started Two Virgins, it was dawn when we finished, and then we made love at dawn. It was very beautiful.”
Woman, I’m Forever in Your Debt
Despite many people’s negative thoughts about Ono, there’s one thing that has to be said in her favor – she turned Lennon into a better man. He was a horrendous husband to Cynthia, aggressive and abusive. But Ono taught him to behave differently.
His song Woman is a powerful thank-you note. A romantic, ego-less ballad that shows how strongly Lennon felt for her. He told The Rolling Stone, “Woman came about because, one sunny afternoon in Bermuda, it suddenly hit me what women do for us. What dawned on me was everything I was taking for granted. Women really are the other half of the sky.”
The Muse: Patti Boyd / The Musicians: George Harrison, Eric Clapton
One of the leading international models of the ‘60s, Patti Boyd, looked like an absolute doll. She won over the hearts of Eric Clapton, George Harrison, and thousands of others who were too intimidated to get near her. Boyd’s entry into the rock ‘n’ roll scene came in 1964 when she was cast as a schoolgirl in the Beatles’ first film, A Hard Day’s Night.
Beatlemania was in full swing at the time, but despite all the frantic chaos surrounding the fab four, George Harrison managed to drown it all out and put his focus on one girl and one girl only – Patti. The first thing the Beatle told her was, “Will you marry me? Well, if you won’t marry me, will you have dinner with me tonight?”
Harrison’s Heart Froze
Harrison and Boyd’s love story culminated in their 1966 marriage but came crashing down seven years later in 1973 after Boyd’s affair with guitarist Ronnie Wood. Boyd fired back by citing Harrison’s numerous infidelities, including a startling one with Ringo Starr’s then-wife, Maureen.
As if the lies weren’t enough, Harrison’s drug abuse made their already sensitive situation a whole lot worse. “George used coke excessively,” Boyd recalled; “I think it changed him…it froze his emotions and hardened his heart.” They finalized their divorce in 1977.
Layla, You’ve Got Me on My Knees
Patti wasn’t single for long. She was approached by Eric Clapton, who had known her for a long time and had already professed his love before. Clapton had attempted multiple times to court Boyd when she and Harrison were in the death throes of their relationship.
Clapton’s album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs was written with Patti in mind. Specifically, the iconic classic “Layla” in which he begs the muse to leave her husband for him: “you’ve got me on me on my knees.” In 1979, the artist finally got his wish – he and Boyd said, “I do.”
Yes, You Look Wonderful Tonight
It’s safe to say we Have Patti Boyd to thank for many of Clapton’s great pieces. His song “Wonderful Tonight” was written one evening as Boyd frantically tried on multiple dresses to see which one suited her best. Looking at his lovely wife, Clapton picked up his guitar and began to strum.
But no matter how much Clapton loved his wife, he couldn’t keep his hands to himself. Like Harrison, Clapton cheated on Boyd multiple times, and by 1989, they were divorced. According to Boyd, Clapton’s interest in her was just a product of his competitive relationship with Harrison: “Eric just wanted what George had.”
A True Romantic Inspiration
Despite Eric and George’s infidelities, Boyd is still proud and appreciative of the insane chemistry she had with the two of them. She considers herself a “romantic inspiration” and is happy to have sparked such a fire in both Clapton and Harrison.
Songs like “Old Love” and “She’s Waiting” by Eric Clapton and “For You Blue” and “I Need You” by the Beatles have all been inspired by these men’s relationship with this iconic muse. So, thanks, Patti Boyd! Thanks for bringing out the best and the worst from these guys.
The Muse: Marianne Faithful
The Musicians: Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Allan Clarke, Eric Clapton
Marianne Faithful was born with looks that go hand in hand with her delicate name. With kind eyes and a timid smile, Marianne radiated faithfulness. Ironically, despite her innocent appearance, Marianne was far from faithful. Not that we blame her, yeah? Dating Mick Jagger is enough to drive anyone off the edge.
A musician in her own right, Marianne got involved in the rock ‘n’ roll scene after singing Mick Jagger and Keith Richard’s song As Tears Go By. She grew close to the band and eventually dated Jagger for four toxic, wild years until she cheated on him with fellow Stone member Keith Richards.
The Night She Cheated on Jagger Was the Best Night of Her Life
Marianne and Keith’s night together came from a place of pure revenge. Jagger’s girl wanted to get back at him for sleeping with Keith’s girl, Anita Pallenberg, behind her back. And what better way to do it than to give them a taste of their own medicine?
Marianne, who had always carried a torch for Keith, said in an interview that “The night I spent with Keith. Even now, it stands out. I think it was so great and memorable because it was just one night.” Their hot encounter was interrupted by Jagger, who had arrived home earlier than expected. In a matter of seconds, Richard scrambled to his feet and snuck out the window.
Hey Marianne, What’s Your Game Now?
The Hollies’ song, Carrie Anne, was written by bandmembers Allan Clarke, Graham Nash, and Tony Hicks as a timid tribute to Marianne Faithfull. Clarke and Faithfull had nothing more than a brief fling, but it was memorable enough to inspire a song.
The Hollies released Carrie Anne in 1967, and, for the longest time, no one knew who this mystery woman was. Decades later, Graham Nash revealed it was written about the British darling; only they were too embarrassed at the time to use her name.
The Muse: Pamela Des Barres
The Musicians: Keith Moon, Waylon Jennings, Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Frank Zappa, Michael Des Barres, Robert Plant
Pamela Des Barres had rock ‘n’ roll’s biggest names in the palm of her hands. While most girls were at home fantasizing about Mick Jagger and Jimmy Page, Des Barres was out there raising hell with them on the Sunset Strip. Her unapologetic “groupie career” began after a friend introduced her to Frank Zappa.
The mustachioed musician encouraged Pamela to form her own musical group, The GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously). Despite their limited vocal ability, Pamela and her girls teamed up and released one album titled Permanent Damage.
Keith Moon Was a Needy Soul
Miss Pamela’s relationship with Keith Moon, the drummer of The Who, started innocently enough on the set of “200 Motel,” a 1971 rockumentary directed by Zappa. “I was Keith’s L.A. girl, and there was no doubt about it. I knew that whenever he came to town, he’d call no one but me,” she proudly recalled.
But after Moon accidentally ran over his chauffeur (while trying to escape a mob), he went from being light and silly to terribly dark and needy. “I was a stabilizing thing for him,” De Barres wrote in her iconic 1987 memoir I’m With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie. “When he’d wake up screaming about being a murdering f*ck, I could calm him. It was my duty as a muse to take care of this brilliant genius who inspired so many.”
I’m With the Band
Des Barres’ iconic memoir is an unapologetic account of her romantic and sexual escapades in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It’s a fun, eye-opening book that gives you an intimate look into how wild things were at the time.
Miss Pamela didn’t shy away from writing down the names of the people she hung out with. According to her, none of the stars had a problem with her revealing memoir. When Jagger was asked what he thought of it, he said, “I was there. It made me feel good.”
The Muse: Sable Starr
The Musicians: Johnny Thunders, Iggy Pop, Richard Hell, David Bowie, Robert Plant
Sable Starr was crowned “Queen of the Groupies” back in the ‘70s, and while we know that being a groupie doesn’t necessarily make you a muse, in Starr’s case, she was both. Partying on the Sunset Strip with huge names resulted in having her own name in one of their songs.
“I slept with Sable when she was 13 / Her parents were too rich to do anything / She rocked her way around L.A. / ‘Til a New York Doll carried her away…” sang Iggy Pop in his 1996 hit Look Away.
Disturbed by the lyrics? With good reason. Sable was one of the many “baby groupies” of the era.
A Teenage Runaway
Starr ran away from home after meeting the New York Dolls’ guitarist, Johnny Thunders, but their impulsive affair was short-lived. In truth, I’m sure the two of them knew that their relationship was doomed before it even began. Thunders was a jealous drug addict who couldn’t control his emotions, and Starr was a lost teenager who still hadn’t finished high school.
“[Thunders] tried to destroy my personality. After I was with him, I just wasn’t Sable Starr anymore. He really destroyed the Sable Starr thing,” she explained. Not sure why someone would want to classify “partying hard” as their “thing,” Starr did well by escaping Thunders’ abusive hand.
The Muse: Linda Eastman / The Musician: Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney’s wife of 29 years, Linda Eastman, isn’t on this list of muses because she partied hard, did a bunch of drugs, and brought out the worst of him. Linda is on this list because from the moment they met at a concert in 1967, she became the muse of nearly every single piece of music he wrote.
“My Love” (Red Rose Speedway), “Silly Love Songs” (At the Speed of Sound), and 1970’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” (McCartney) are all famous works that can be attributed to McCartney’s deep feelings for this woman.
She Helped Him Through the Band’s Split
Interestingly, Linda once admitted that it was Lennon who caught her eye at first. “He was my Beatle hero,” she confessed. “But when I met him, the fascination faded fast, and I found it was Paul I liked.” The two married in 1969, right around the time the band parted ways.
McCartney wrote his song “Maybe I’m Amazed” as an ode to Linda, right after the Beatles broke up. His lyrics expressed beautifully how grateful, amazed, and even intimidated he was her by her good heart. “Any love song I write,” Paul said, “is written for Linda.” Sadly, she passed away in 1998 from cancer.
The Muse: Courtney Love / The Musician: Kurt Cobain
Yet another controversial muse, Courtney Love, was Kurt Cobain’s true inspiration (whether we like it or not). For some reason, he was head over heels for this destructive wild child. It was probably because she gave him some sort of false sense of security.
The two fed each other’s drug binges day in and day out, but they felt less guilty about it as long as they were together. “He wanted to stay in the apartment, do heroin, paint, and play his guitar all day long,” Love recalled. Tragically, their destructive habits drove Cobain mad to the point of suicide.
Heart-Shaped Box Is About Love’s Private Box
When Lana Del Rey covered Nirvana’s track “Heart-Shaped Box” back in 2016, Courtney Love tweeted in response, “You do know the song is about my vagina, right? So umm, next time you sing it, think about my vagina, will you?”
Poor Lana. She sang that song out of a place of genuine appreciation and admiration for the late artist. “When I was 11, I saw Kurt Cobain singing ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ on MTV, and it really stopped me dead in my tracks,” she mentioned in a radio interview. “I thought he was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. Even at a young age, I really related to his sadness.”
The Muse: Marilyn Monroe
The Musicians: Elton John, Madonna, Rihanna, The Kinks, Glenn Danzig, Lady Gaga, New Order
No muse list is complete without the one and only Marilyn Monroe. What’s neat about Monroe is that most of the musicians who have written songs about her never even met her. Decades after her tragic death, people are still jotting down lyrics inspired by her.
Elton John wrote his famous and tragic ballad, “Candle in the Wind,” in honor of this iconic actress. He starts with “Goodbye Norma Jean” and continues with heart-breaking lyrics like, “Hollywood created a superstar. And pain was the price you paid.”
Please Don’t Tread on Dearest Marilyn
The Kink’s 1972 tragic tune, Celluloid Heroes, tells the story of fallen stars like Marilyn. “Please don’t tread on, dearest Marilyn, cause she’s not very tough. She should have been made of iron or steel, but she was only made of flesh and blood.”
While her life was tragically cut short, this iconic star’s influence will be felt for decades. She was a bright, talented, interesting orphan who gracefully climbed her way to the top. Sadly, greedy bastards in the industry sucked the life out of her. She died from a barbiturate overdose in 1962.
The Muse: Bebe Buell
The Musicians: Mick Jagger, Steven Tyler, Iggy Pop, Rod Stewart, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Stiv Bators
Mick Jagger once said that if there was one woman he would bring along to dine with royalty, it would be Bebe Buell. This mesmerizing NYC model with feathers hanging off her eyelashes and platforms as high as skyscrapers became arm candy to many rockers during the ‘70s and ‘80s. She was nicknamed “Friend to the Stars” because she befriended – and not only dated – them all.
According to Bebe, the stars she hung out with didn’t need to put on a front for her. She could cuddle up with them at the Plaza Hotel, watch TV, munch on food, and discuss philosophy with them until the break of dawn.
Todd and Bebe Were Rock Royalty
Out of all of Bebe’s relationships, her scandalous time spent with Utopia band member Todd Rundgren is arguably the most memorable one. She met the artist by chance after she accompanied a friend of hers to drop off some tapes at his house.
Todd came down and made instant eye contact with Buell. “There was an immediate connection that you can’t deny,” she told Rolling Stone Magazine, “I was 18, and he was 23. I very quickly became rock royalty: There was Mick and Bianca, Angie and David, Bebe and Todd. We were one of the trinity.”
Aerosmith’s Frontman Swept Her off Her Feet
Her relationship with Todd went on and off and on and off for six tumultuous years. During that time, she flirted with other artists, one of them being Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. Bebe recalled the first time she met Aerosmith’s frontman. It was 1974, and she and Todd flew to Boston when the band was considering Todd as their producer.
They went to the band’s outdoor show, but it was raining and muddy all around, and Buell was wearing a long, white dress. Before Todd got a chance to help her cross over the mud, Steven Tyler came and literally swept her off her feet. He hurried toward Bebe, picked her up, and carried her across. “I thought it was hilarious and very gallant. Like a knight in shining leopard,” she recalled.
Her Notorious One Night Stand
The second time she met Tyler was in New York a while later. Bebe was at her friend Liz Derringer’s place (where she stayed when Todd was out touring). Late one night, at around 3 a.m., Steven called her and said, “Bebe, come get me.”
“I’m at the Pierre hotel, and I can’t walk,” he told her over the phone. Bebe rushed over, took him back to Liz’s apartment, and tossed him into the bathtub. They found themselves stumbling from the bathtub to the bed. Their one-night stand got Buell pregnant with baby Liv.
A Mesmerizing Muse
Bebe has enough wild stories to fill this whole article and then some. From flying first class with Jimmy Page and his raccoon to painting David Bowie’s face with makeup, Buell got to experience surreal moments that every girl at the time could only dream of.
Several songs have been written about her by her rocker lovers, including Todd Rundgren’s “Can We Still Be Friends?” and Elvis Costello’s “I Want You.” There’s no doubt that Bebe’s reign as a spell-binding muse in the ‘70s had a massive impact on the rock ‘n’ roll scene.
The Muse: Jerry Hall / The Musician: Mick Jagger
Supermodel Jerry Hall admitted once that “there is no job as fun as being a rock muse.” And as Mick Jagger’s former wife, she should know. The two met in 1976, while both were still involved with other people (Jagger with then-wife Bianca, Hall with Bryan Ferry).
Jagger had invited them over for dinner one night, but the lack of tact oozed from him as he struggled to hide his feelings for Hall. “Bryan was flattered by Mick’s attention, but he could also see that Mick was smitten with me. It couldn’t have been nice for him,” Hall wrote in her 2010 memoir.
A Fractured Fairytale
“We got on great,” she said about her relationship with Jagger. “Except he slept with lots of other people, which was horrible. Otherwise, he was perfect.” (Why are we not surprised?) Despite his infidelities, the two ended up having four kids and stayed together for 23 years.
According to Hall, the main issue with Mick Jagger is that he’s a straight-up addict. If it’s not drugs, then it’s sex. “He’s a sick, addictive womanizer who made me very unhappy,” she told S.F. Gate. Even so, she finished the interview on a positive note by saying that “he’s the most fabulous ex-husband.”
The Muse: Marsha Hunt / The Musician: Mick Jagger
A model, author, activist, actress, and singer, Marsha Hunt, was unlike the other women Mick Jagger had met before. She had little interest in the wild and enticing rock scene and wasn’t impressed by Jagger’s hectic lifestyle. On the contrary, what she adored about him was his awkward and shy nature.
She first met Jagger after the Stones asked her to star in a photoshoot for their track, “Honky Tonk Woman.” Hunt declined their offer because she didn’t want to be featured as just a sex symbol. Impressed by her confidence, the Rolling Stones frontman was strongly drawn to her.
He Wrote Her Secret Love Letters
In her 1986 autobiography, Real Life, Hunt recalls Jagger showing up in the middle of the night at her Bloomsbury apartment. He stood at the doorway dressed in a dark coat with a huge grin on his face. “He drew one hand out of his pocket and pointed it at me like a pistol… Bang,” she wrote.
Their clandestine relationship brought out a different side to Jagger. “I feel with you something so unsung there is no need to sing it…” he wrote in one of the many love letters he sent her. “Thanks, Hunt, for being so nice to an evil old man like me,” he added.
Brown Sugar, How Come You Taste so Good?
Infatuated and spellbound, Mick Jagger wrote the lyrics to “Brown Sugar” with Hunt on his mind. “If I sailed with you around the world, all my sails would be unfurled,” he sang. Their love affair persisted for three passionate years before they gave birth to their baby daughter, Karis, in 1972.
But being the man-child he was at the time, Jagger grew distant within a few months and moved on to a new pretty attraction: a 22-year-old girl named Janice Kenner, whom he hired to be his personal cook. Shortly after, Marsha moved out and was forced to take care of baby Karis on her own. Sadly, some muses are simply used and cast aside.
The Muse: Edie Sedgwick
The Musicians: The Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol (technically not a musician, but an artist, so he still counts)
Edie Sedgwick was a well-connected model with irresistible dimples, a radiant smile, and a sunny aura. She was The Cult’s “stormy little world shaker” (from their 1989 hit, Edie), The Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale,” and Bob Dylan’s “Rolling Stone.”
The quintessential “It Girl” made a name for herself in pop culture after befriending Andy Warhol, who, after seeing her at a house party, exclaimed, “She’s so bee-you-ti-ful!” (strongly emphasizing every single letter).
She Aches Like a Woman but Breaks Like a Little Girl
Bob Dylan met Edie one day at Warhol’s New York City studio, The Factory. While their relationship’s exact nature was never really clear, people knew that there was something flirtatious happening between the two.
Sedgwick’s older brother, Jonathan, would, later on, claim that Edie had carried Dylan’s child but had to get an abortion because of her mental struggles and heavy drug abuse. Dylan’s song “Just Like a Woman” is rumored to have been written with her in mind. “Her fog, her amphetamine, and her pearls…” Dylan wrote: three nouns that perfectly summed up Sedgwick’s life at the time.
The Muse: Rosanna Arquette / The Musicians: Toto, Peter Gabriel
Rosanna Arquette is not only an incredible actress, but she’s also the muse behind two romantic songs: “Rosanna” by Toto and “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel. Gabriel wrote the song while the two were living together back in 1986.
As for Toto’s hit, musician David Paich confirmed that they had written the song while Arquette was dating band member Steve Porcaro. “I was looking for a title and was singing the chorus ‘Meet you all the way’ when she walked into the studio,” he recalled. “She was cuter than ever, and I had a crush on her, and as she walked out, I just finished the line with ‘Rosanna.’”
The Muse: Suze Rotolo / The Musician: Bob Dylan
Dylan’s heart-breaking ballad Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right has the ability to both comfort us but also make us bawl our eyes out. It was written in honor of Suze Rotolo, Dylan’s lover at the time. “She was the most erotic thing I’d seen,” he revealed; “she was fair-skinned and golden-haired, full-blood Italian… We started talking, and my head started to spin.”
Rotolo met Dylan when she was a blooming teenager back in the early ‘60s. “I once loved a woman, a child, I am told,” he wrote in his 1962 ode. The two eventually drifted apart once Dylan grew in fame. “I knew I was not suited for his life,” Rotolo told The L.A. Times.