List: 10 Great Woman’s Name-Titled Songs

What man hasn’t wanted to write a song named for a particular distaff object of his affections? Well plenty of men did, and here are some of my favorites in chronological order:

1. Lucille (1957) – Little Richard

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Little Richard Penniman, the godfather of glam and the spiritual father of every preening rock frontman ever, wondered why Lucille wouldn’t do her sisters’ will, and then the planet shook, and then he turned to the ministry.

2. Michelle (1965) – The Beatles

This was mostly a McCartney composition, but Lennon, who had been listening to Nina Simone records at the time, came up with the “I love you I love you…” part, suggesting again that these guys were touched by some kind of supernatural force.

3. Victoria (1969) – The Kinks

Ray Davies was too cool to write a simple love song. Did he ever write any? This was a piss-take on old dour Queen Victoria and her times (“Sex was bad and obscene/ And the rich were so mean”), driven by a relentlessly workmanlike performance by the band.

4. Maggie May (1971) – Rod Stewart

So many songs have been overplayed to death on classic rock radio, but this one always sounds fresh to me, thanks mainly to Ronnie Wood. His unconventional bass line swoops and soars like a guitar solo, while the actual guitar solo is a masterpiece of structure and restraint. His playing thrills me every time I hear it.

5. Rosalita (1973) – Bruce Springsteen

To me, there was an energy on the first two Springsteen albums that he could never recapture after he became The Future Of Rock & Roll. The early tales of life on the Jersey shore were hotter, hungrier, sexier, and more genuine than they could ever be for a guy known as The Boss. This song is one irresistible party.

6. Jessica (1973) – Allman Brothers

Writing a song for for his infant daughter, Dickie Betts crossed gypsy jazz with southern boogie and gave us seven minutes of joyful yee-haw. It makes me long for the return of the rock instrumental.

7. Gloria (1975) – Patti Smith

This Van Morrison song has been covered by every bar band that ever existed, but no version carries the urgent cultural weight of this proto-punk Molotov cocktail. Is she really singing about a girl? One thing was for sure when you heard this in 1975 — the sixties were dead and buried.

8. Roxanne (1978) – The Police

Suddenly, three years later, the seventies were dead and buried too. Buried alive, as it turned out. Hello, skinny tie.

9. Veronica (1989) – Elvis Costello

Another Paul McCartney collaboration, this was Elvis Costello’s tribute to the life of his grandmother. McCartney’s part is easy to identify, it’s the McCartneyesque middle eight: “On the Empress of India… “. Elvis Costello is no John Lennon, but I always wondered how the Beatles might have sounded with him as a replacement.

10. Valerie (2007) – Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse lived and died as the ultimate Rock chick. Although she didn’t deal in standard rock idioms, she could have. She could have done just about anything, and I guess that was part of her problem. But what a romp it was.

Honorable Mentions: If I had the space, I would have added Elenore by the Turtles, Bernadette by The Four Tops, Layla by Derek and the Dominoes, Peg by Steely Dan, Debra by Beck, Cath by Death Cab For Cutie, and Claire by the Rheostatics

Front page photo credit: By Okeh Records (Billboard, page 24, 1 July 1967) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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8 comments to “List: 10 Great Woman’s Name-Titled Songs”
  1. As mentioned, “Gloria” belongs to Them (Van Morrison). I also think the Allman’s “Sweet Melissa” trumps “Jessica” and the Kinks’ “Lola” trumps “Victoria”. But is “Lola” about a girl or not? Like the list, it could go either way…

    • Totally agree with you on “Sweet Melissa.” Can’t believe it didn’t even get an honorable mention.

      • Thanks for the post. I was going for song titles that had only a women’s name in it, without any adjectives or other words.

  2. One other I like even though it may seem to some people like a corny 80s song is Rosanna by Toto, I really like that song

  3. Some good calls – would have voted for The Turtles’ “Elenore” to be in Top Ten.

    Other notables (in UK at least!):

    Debora – T.Rex (1968)
    Caroline – Status Quo (1973)
    Sarah – Thin Lizzy (1979)

  4. Jolene by Dolly Parton. Yes it’s “country” but it’s still great and The White Stripes do a badass cover as well.

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