There is an episode of Family Guy in which “Stewie” is lamenting about a girl and writing a song to express his emotions. “Brian” came in to witness it and comments on how unoriginal it was to write a song with a girl’s name as the title. Here is the scene (originally airing in 2009) for you to watch yourself…
After watching those, it made me start thinking particularly about the many songs from the ’80s with girl names in the titles. It probably goes without saying that women are a popular inspiration for many a songwriter. Quite a few use a girl’s name in song lyrics and sometimes even in the title. To qualify for this list, the song had to be released between 1980-1989. My rankings will be based on a combination of perceived quality of work and pop culture significance, but mostly just my personal taste level both then and now (which admittedly can change daily). I only list each artist once, so if they have multiple qualifying songs those are ranked together. Here are my TOP 30 SONGS FROM THE ’80s WITH GIRLS NAMES IN THE TITLE:
30. “Luanne” (1982) by Foreigner – Featured a live version of “Hot Blooded” on the B-side
29. “Roxanne, Roxanne” (1984) by U.T.F.O. & “Roxanne’s Revenge” (1984) by Roxanne Shante’
28. “Who’s Holding Donna Now” (1985) by DeBarge – Features background vocals by Mr. Mister’s Richard Page & Steve George
27. “Veronica” (1989) by Elvis Costello with Paul McCartney – Inspiration for this song was his grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s and it became Costello’s highest-charting hit in the U.S.
26. “Carrie” (1986) by Europe – This single surprisingly peaked higher on the U.S. pop charts than their most recognized hit “The Final Countdown”
25. “Bette Davis Eyes” (1981) by Kim Carnes – This cover of a 1974 single by Jackie DeShannon held the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for 9 total weeks
24. “Joanna” (1983) by Kool & the Gang
23. “Mony Mony” (original release 1981, live version 1987) by Billy Idol – Cover of the 1968 song by Tommy James & the Shondells
22. “Luka” (1987) by Suzanne Vega – This song deals with the issue of child abuse
21. “Venus” (1986) by Bananarama – Cover of a 1969 worldwide hit by Shocking Blue
20. “Darling Nikki” (1984) by Prince – Though not released as a single, it gained wide notoriety for its sexual lyrics and was featured in the film
19. “Roni” (1988) by Bobby Brown
18. “Little Jeannie” (1980) & “Nikita” (1985) by Elton John – “Nikita” features backing vocals by George Michael and Nik Kershaw
17. “Sara” (1985) by Starship – The song is titled after lead vocalist Mickey Thomas’ wife
16. “Ah! Leah!” (1981) by Donnie Iris
15. “Elvira” (1981) by Oak Ridge Boys – Cover of the 1966 song written by Dallas Frazier and also recorded in 1970 by Kenny Rogers
14. “Sussudio” (1985) by Phil Collins – Not a common girl’s name because it was originally just an improvised lyric that ended up sticking in the final version of the song
13. “Amanda” (1986) by Boston – The song was recorded six years earlier and was the first single released by Boston in eight years
12. “Valerie” (original release 1982, remix in 1987) by Steve Winwood
11. “Janie’s Got a Gun” (1989) by Aerosmith – After Steven Tyler read an article on gunshot victims, he was able to connect the song with the theme of child abuse and incest
10. “Oh Sheila” (1985) by Ready For The World – The song is commonly incorrectly attributed to Prince, due to similarity to his vocal and musical style, as well as the belief that the song’s lyrics allude to frequent Prince collaborator Sheila E.
9. “Gloria” (1982) by Laura Branigan – The song was originally written and composed in Italian by Umberto Tozzi and Giancarlo Bigazzi in 1979
8. “867-5309 (Jenny)” (1982) by Tommy Tutone
7. “Angelia” (1989) by Richard Marx
6. “Rio”(1982) by Duran Duran
5. “Oh Sherrie” (1984) by Steve Perry – The song was written for Perry’s then-girlfriend Sherrie Swafford
4. “Come on Eileen” (1982) by Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Although often believed to have been inspired by a childhood friend with whom Kevin Rowland had a romantic relationship in his teens, he has confirmed there was actually no real Eileen.
3. “Jack and Diane” (1982) by John Cougar Mellencamp – In 2014, Mellencamp revealed that the song was originally about an interracial couple
2. “Rosanna” (1982) & “Pamela” (1988) by Toto
1. “Billie Jean” (1982) & “Dirty Diana” (1987) by Michael Jackson – Jackson said that “Billie Jean” was based on groupies he and his brothers encountered while they performed as the Jackson 5. Regarding “Dirty Diana”, some reports at the time suggested the song was a poke at Jackson’s close friend Diana Ross; however, it was later denied and producer Quincy Jones later confirmed that the song’s lyrics were again about groupies.
There’s my list. As usual and as I mentioned earlier, these are based on my personal preferences and the order could very well change a little depending on my mood or nostalgia on a given day. Any songs that you think I missed or that you would rank a lot differently? If so, please be sure to leave those down in the comments section below. A couple songs that just missed qualifying are “Roxanne” by The Police (released in 1978) and “My Sharona” by The Knack (released in 1979) plus so many more when you expand to other decades. Our list just covers the ’80s, but as Family Guy and Adam Sandler clearly pointed out, girl names have always been a major source of song inspiration/titles and probably always will be.