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News and Views on Jews and Music

10 famous Jewish women who inspired songs

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The original Muses were Greek goddesses, but some recent muses have been Jewish women. Here are 10 famous and semi-famous Jewish women, presented alphabetically, and the songs they have inspired. (Is this "Jewish music"? Well, it's music about Jews, anyway…).

1. Rosanna Arquette: "Rosanna," by Toto/"In Your Eyes," by Peter Gabriel

The first of these songs was written by David Paich on behalf of fellow Toto member Steve Porcaro, who was the one dating her. But Gabriel did write the other one for her while he himself was dating her. Appropriately, the song is perhaps most famous for serenading-in the movie Say Anything…- another Jewish actress, Ione Skye.

2. Carrie Fisher:"Hearts and Bones" by Paul Simon 

Simon, in fact, wrote many songs about the former Princess Leia during and after their brief marriage. This song is off an album also called Hearts and Bones; it's the one just before Graceland, and both albums are pretty much all about their marriage and divorce. In the opening line, "One and one-half wandering Jews," he means himself… and Fisher, whose dad, singer Eddie Fisher, was Jewish.

3. Alyson Hannigan:"Alyson Hannigan" by Juvenile Wreck/"This One Time" by The Malcolm Effect.

The first one is obviously about her. The second is based on a line her American Pie character memorably says… but still.

4. Carole King:"Oh! Carol" by Neil Sedaka

Neil Sedaka (whose name is a form of the word "tzedakah") was a big deal back the day, but Carole's songs have proven even more indelible. Sedaka and King did date in high school, and he later wrote this for her. She responded with "Oh, Neil," even though by that time she was married to her songwriting partner Gerry Goffin. Neil, ever the gent, gave that song to his bosses at the Brill Building… who liked it so much they hired Goffin and King as songwriters, and the rest is major musical history.

5. Zoe Kravitz:"Flowers for Zoe" by Lenny Kravitz

In this case, they have the same last name because Lenny is her dad. This is a lullaby he wrote to her when she was a baby. He's a huge Hendrix fan, so it's no accident this sounds a lot like "Little Wing."

6. Linda McCartney:"Maybe I'm Amazed" and "My Love" by Paul McCartney 

Also "We Got Married" and "Golden Earth Girl." When she was just six, though, her dad's client (her dad was an entertainment attorney) named Jack Lawrence wrote "Linda" for her. It was recorded by Buddy Clark, by Jan & Dean and by Perry Como.

7. Marilyn Monroe:"Candle in the Wind" by Bernie Taupin and Elton John

Hey, she counts- she converted when she married Arthur Miller! The song came out in 1973, but it wasn't a huge hit until this live version, done in 1986. And it was a hit again in 1997, reworded for use at Princess Di's funeral. (Elton was dressed like Beethoven in the video because for this concert, he was backed by a full orchestra… so what else should he wear?)

8. Sally Oren:"Sally, Sally" and "Young Girl Sunday Blues,"by Jefferson Airplane

Jeffrey Goldberg reports in The Atlantic that Sally Oren- the wife of Michael Oren, an Israeli ambassador to the US- had a free-range adolescence that led her to meeting and even befriending: Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, promoter Bill Graham, Jerry Garcia, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and the members of Jefferson Airplane. Groovy!

9. Gwyneth Paltrow:"Moses," by Coldplay 

Coldplay's frontman, Chris Martin, is her husband; he wrote to her: "Like Moses has power over the sea/ So you've got power over me." Aww! Also, they named their son Moses. Passover seders at their house must be very musical!

10. Natalie Portman:"I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman" by K-Os ("chaos").

Speaking of Star Wars princesses… You might also count the rap Adam Samberg wrote for her for an SNL sketch (warning: there is a TON of cursing and other… stuff here). And the Aussie Jewish-punk bank YIDcore routinely drops her name into songs, since their lead singer has a huge crush on her.

Also, these women became famous because of their songs…

11. Sharona Alperin:"My Sharona" by The Knack

She was the Sharona, and the "my" was Knack frontman Doug Fieger. She was 16 at the time. Oy. The song is still raising eyebrows. When it was discovered on President George W. Bush's iPod that, no less than The New York Times noted: " "My Sharona," [is] the 1979 song by the Knack that Joe Levy, a deputy managing editor at Rolling Stone in charge of music coverage, cheerfully branded 'suggestive if not outright filthy.'"

12. Sara Dylan:"Sara," by Bob Dylan

While Yoko Ono and Edie Brickell (Paul Simon's current wife) were famous in their own rights, can anyone name Bob Dylan's wives? Yeah, so she goes here. Shockingly, not all of Dylan's songs are on YouTube, so this is a cover by a tribute band... from Spain.

Clearly, there is just something about Jewish women that inspires some of the best songwriters, all the way back to the writer of Song of SongsKing Solomon. OK, so that song's from Proverbs. But all of Song of Songs is inspired by a woman known only as "The Shumalite," perhaps the earliest example of a Jewish woman as a musician's muse.

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