|By Stephanie Heim|
How do we express our love for another? Flowers? Chocolates? An exotic trip complete with champagne? While all of these may be favourable options, one of the most powerful means of declaring one’s emotions is through the magic of music. This is why love songs are so important in modern culture and why having a song written for you is considered such a high honour. Believe it or not, music history is filled with love songs that were inspired by a doting pet and these tunes span decades, genres and artists.
Firstly (and perhaps most obviously) Cat Stevens’ first ever single, “I Love My Dog” was written for his…you guessed it…dog! This song is a very literal explanation of the many reasons why Stevens loved a little dachshund that he found tied to a post as a child and adopted when the pooch was not claimed. The fact that “all he asks of me is the food to give him strength” and “all he ever needs is love and that he knows he’ll get” are some of the qualities Stevens admired about the human-dog bond.
Another song that explores a human-animal friendship is “Ben.” Written in 1972 by Don Black and Walter Scharf for the movie Ben (sequel to Willard), this song celebrates a pinnacle part of the film – a young boy who befriends a rat. Although originally intended for Donny Osmond, this popular song was actually recorded by 14-year-old Michael Jackson and became his first #1 hit as a solo artist. While this song does not actually reference a real pet rat, the song has nevertheless stood the test of time and emerged as a melody that sings of lasting comradeship.
However, in Jimi Hendrix’s song, “Fire,” a dog is referenced within the lyrics because of a real life occurrence. The story goes like this. After a show in 1967, Jimi stayed at bassist, Noel Redding’s, mother’s house. It was a frightfully cold night and Jimi wanted to stand next to the fireplace in order to warm up. However, the Reddings’ massive Great Dane simply refused to budge, thus inspiring the line, “Aw move over, Rover…” in the later hit, “Fire.”
|By Stephanie Heim|
The B52s were also partial to the pooch play list phenomenon, penning “Quiche Lorraine” in the late 1970s. Although there was never actually a poodle named Quiche as the song suggests, this song is about a poor mangy mutt who lives to have a good time in the rain and doesn’t let life get him down. The content resonated with the eccentric funkiness of the B52s sound and has become a loved classic by their fans.
Paul McCartney is yet another international artist who owes the success of at least one major song to a pet. The 1974 chart-topping hit, “Jet” is rumoured to be about McCartney’s spunky Labrador-Retriever of the same name, although in an interview the artist superstar reveals the original inspiration in fact came from a pony he owned as a small boy.
Sometimes, however, songs intended for pets are not written so joyfully, instead professing the pain of loss. For example, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song “Death of a Martian” is the story of the bass player’s dog, Flea, passing on while in the midst of recording the band’s insanely successful Stadium Arcadium album. The lyrics speak of the owner’s grief and reminiscing. Lead singer, Anthony Kiedis, often referred to the 200lb canine as the band’s “little spirit guide,” and grew even more attached to the song when his own dog, Buster, also passed a few weeks later. The band believes that both of these dogs helped them through some of their darkest times as a group.
There are also a number of songs that use real pets as a metaphor for other things or people. For instance, the Pink Floyd song “Lucifer Sam.” The meaning of this song is often debated, but a couple of things can be known for sure. One of these, is that Syd Barrett did in fact own a cat named Sam, which is why it is widely thought that this song is in fact about this feline. However, other theories state that ‘cat’ was used more as a slang term for a man, or that the song is about Barrett’s then girlfriend and the metaphor of his cat is used as a way to write about her without it sounding too obvious and insulting. In any case, Sam the cat did exist and Syd Barrett seemed to have utilized his existence artistically as a way to express a message.
Though these songs, and the countless others like them, seem to have very little in common on the surface, they are in fact following the same theme. Each one was written with a special pet in mind and each one has therefore immortalized these pets forever…whoever said only people could be muses?
By Meagan Curran