Carly Simon's ‘You're So Vain’ remains one of the most cutting jabs at an ex-partner ever crystallised in songKathleen Ballard / Wikimedia Commons (resized) /

In the glitzy world of showbiz, stars often become the subject of songs. From the breakup anthems of Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo to the fiery exchanges of Carole King and Neil Sedaka, celebs have a history of airing their personal lives in their music. Can us normies hope to have one penned for us or is a couple of lines on Crushbridge all we can wish for from our secret admirers? While you’re waiting for one to be written about you, I’ve compiled a list of people who have had the honour (or dishonour) of having a song written about them.

“Celebs have a history of airing their personal lives in their music”

‘Sara’ – Fleetwood Mac

At first glance, ‘Sara’ is a passionate love song with swoon-worthy lyrics and woozy instrumentals. Lines such as “And he was just like / A great dark wing / Within the wings of a storm” soon suggest a much messier love triangle at its root. Nicks has confirmed that the song “was pretty much about Mick [Fleetwood],” her bandmate and ex-lover. During her turbulent breakup with the band’s guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, Nicks found solace and romance in Fleetwood. Nicks wrote ‘Sara’ after learning about Fleetwood’s blossoming relationship with her friend, Sara Recor. She cautions, however, that it isn’t completely about her; it’s really about “me, about her, about Mick, about Fleetwood Mac”.

‘Disco 2000’ – Pulp

Besides the girl “from Greece” in ‘Common People’, no character in the Jarvis Cocker universe has generated as much interest as the “Deborah” of ‘Disco 2000’. Cocker sings about an unrequited crush on a childhood friend called Deborah and imagines meeting her in 2000, when they’re both “fully grown”. He confirmed that the song is based on a real childhood friend, Deborah Bone, who he “fancied … for ages”. As the song suggests, Bone and Cocker were born within hours of each other at the same hospital and grew up together in Sheffield. The two kept in touch and Bone went on to have two children, working as a mental health nurse in Hertfordshire. Discussing the song, Bone said that it was her “claim to fame,” even if they “never did get to meet up by the fountain down the road”.

“In a twist worthy of a US sitcom, the ruling was delivered as a rap”

‘Little Green’ – Joni Mitchell

For many years, Joni Mitchell’s cryptic ‘Little Green’ puzzled fans, with Rolling Stone suggesting that it “passeth all understanding”. Only when a tabloid article exposed Mitchell’s 1965 decision to put her daughter up for adoption did its meaning become clear. As she subsequently explained, “it was difficult parting with the child, but [she] had to let her go” as she was a “dirt poor” 19-year-old student in Toronto. Mitchell’s inner turmoil is achingly clear as she recalls having to “sign all the papers in the family name” and feeling that “you’re sad and you’re sorry, but you’re not ashamed”. Towards the end, she addresses “Little Green,” wishing the child “a happy ending”. This happy ending finally arrived when Mitchell was reunited with her daughter, Kilauren Gibb, in 1997. Gibb said that meeting Mitchell made her feel like she’d “gone away on a trip for a couple of months and was coming home”.

‘Brain Damage’ – Eminem

In ‘Brain Damage’, Eminem raps about his experiences of school bullying. The rapper graphically recounts the abuse he suffered and names the main perpetrator, an eighth-grader called “DeAngelo Bailey”. In a Rolling Stone interview, Bailey admitted subjecting Eminem to “bully-type things”. However, in 2001, Bailey sued Eminem for slander, claiming that the rapper exaggerated Bailey’s “little shove”. Two years later, Bailey’s lawsuit was dismissed and, in a twist worthy of a US sitcom, the ruling was delivered as a rap. Judge Deborah Servitto explained: “The lyrics are stories no one would take as fact / They’re an exaggeration of a childish act … It is therefore this Court’s ultimate position / That Eminem is entitled to summary disposition.”

‘You’re So Vain’ – Carly Simon


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How could I not end with the acerbic breakup anthem that lends this article its title? Carly Simon’s ‘You’re So Vain’ remains one of the most cutting jabs at an ex-partner ever crystallised in song. But who was the “son of a gun” Simon tears into? I’m sure the star felt her point had been proven when she received a call from Hollywood heartthrob Warren Beatty thanking her for the song. Beatty, whose Wikipedia page’s “Personal life” section could make even Pete Davidson look unlucky in love, certainly fits the description. Simon confirmed in 2015 that Beatty was the subject of the second verse of ‘You’re So Vain’. However, she insisted that the song was based on three men. Simon has remained tight-lipped about the other two but she did auction off the names for charity in 2003.