The Muse Mix: 100 Songs That Cry Her Name Women have inspired art since the days of Greek mythology, and popular music is no exception. Eric Teel, host of "Open Air" on Jefferson Public Radio in Ashland, Ore., presents 100 of his favorite songs named after the muses that led to their creation.
NPR logo The Muse Mix: 100 Songs That Cry Her Name

The Muse Mix: 100 Songs That Cry Her Name

The Beatles' "Michelle" won the Grammy for Song of the Year in 1967. EMI hide caption

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The Beatles' "Michelle" won the Grammy for Song of the Year in 1967.


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For millennia, artists of all types have been inspired by muses. Classical Greek myth defines the original muses — the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne — as the personification of knowledge and the arts, especially literature, dance and music. The Greek word "mousa" translates as literally "art" or "poetry." Most paintings of them depict each with some type of musical instrument. In today's language, some of our common terminology is derived from the muses; think "music" or "museum." Muses continue to inspire modern musicians, though the list has expanded far beyond the original nine.

A few years ago, while hosting a daily eclectic music program, it struck me just how many of today's songs are written about women, so I started making a list. To keep it manageable, I narrowed my criteria to focus only on songs with a woman's name as the title. Choices like "Lulu's Back in Town" didn't make the list. It's been a fun project with some unusual discoveries — like nine different songs called "Jolene," or the discovery that, for some reason, "Angelina" and "Julia" seem to be the most popular choices for song titles.

For this mix, I've picked 100 songs. They're all pulled generally from the roots-rock/singer-songwriter genres, and a couple of the names come up more than once. A few of the better-known selections will probably be familiar, and with luck, others will not only be new discoveries, but may also turn you on to artists you haven't heard before.

100 Songs That Cry Her Name

  • Anais Mitchell, "Venus"
  • The Beatles, "Michelle"
  • The Beatles, "Eleanor Rigby"
  • Ben Folds Five, "Alice Childress"
  • Billy Bragg, " Jane Allen"
  • Bjork, "Isobel"
  • Bob Dylan, "Jolene"
  • Bobby McFerrin, "Susie Q"
  • Brandi Carlile, "Josephine"
  • Brett Dennen, "Sydney (I'll Come Running)"
  • The Bridge, "Angelina"
  • Chris O'Brien, "Rosa"
  • Chris Smither, "Lola"
  • Colin Hay, "Maggie"
  • Corinne West & Kelly Joe Phelps, "Lily Ann"
  • Elvis Costello, "Allison"
  • D'Amphibians, "Esther C."
  • Damien Rice, "Amie"
  • Dave Matthews Band, "Rapunzel"
  • Dave Rawlings Machine, "Ruby"
  • David Wax Museum, "Beatrice"
  • The Decemberists, "Valerie Plame"
  • Devendra Banhart, "Angelika"
  • Devon Sproule, "Julie"
  • Dr. John, "Marie Laveau"
  • The Duhks, "Annabel"
  • Thomas Dybdahl, "Cecilia"
  • Emmy The Great, "Iris"
  • Eric Clapton, "Layla"
  • Erin Ivey, "Amelia"
  • First Aid Kit, "Emmylou"
  • Gillian Welch, "Annabelle"
  • Girlyman, "Viola"
  • Gregory And The Hawk, "Isabelle"
  • Ian Moore, "Caroline"
  • James Hunter, "Carina"
  • Jay Farrar & Benjamin Gibbard, "Williamine"
  • Jeff Hanson, "Maryann"
  • Jess Klein, "Shonalee"
  • Joe Henry, "Odetta"
  • Joni Mitchell, "Amelia"
  • Jordan Zevon, "Camila Rhodes"
  • Josh Ritter, "Kathleen"
  • Josh Rouse, "Carolina"
  • Kajsa Vala, "Irene"
  • Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson, "Adeline"
  • Kathleen Edwards, "Alicia Ross"
  • Katie Melua, "Mary Pickford"
  • Keb' Mo', "Angelina"
  • Keb' Mo', "Rita"
  • Laura Marling, "Sophia"
  • Lauryn Hill, "Selah"
  • Little Richard, "Lucille"
  • Los Lobos, "Rita"
  • Lucy Kaplansky, "Amelia"
  • Madison Violet, "Lauralee"
  • Mark Ronson Feat. Amy Winehouse, "Valerie"
  • Martin Sexton, "Candy"
  • Martin Sexton, "Angeline"
  • Martina Sorbara, "Claudia"
  • Memphis Slim, "Bertha May"
  • Mindy Smith, "Jolene"
  • Mos Def, "Nadine"
  • Natalie Merchant, "Sally Ann"
  • Natalie Merchant, "Ophelia"
  • Nickel Creek, "Eveline"
  • Nickel Creek, "Helena"
  • Norah Jones Feat. Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, "Loretta"
  • One Eskimo, "Kandi"
  • Paul McCartney, "Jenny Wren"
  • Paula Cole, "Carmen"
  • Peter Bradley Adams, "Teresa"
  • Punch Brothers, "Alex"
  • Punch Brothers, "Missy"
  • Randy Newman, "Marie"
  • Ray Charles, "Mary Ann"
  • Ray LaMontagne, "Sarah"
  • Ray LaMontagne, "Meg White"
  • Ray LaMontagne, "Hannah"
  • Ray LaMontagne, "Jolene"
  • Richard Thompson, "Francesca"
  • Rufus Wainwright, "Natasha"
  • Ryan Adams, "Sylvia Plath"
  • Samuel L. Jackson, "Alice Mae"
  • Sarah Jaffe, "Clementine"
  • Sarah Jarosz, "Annabelle Lee"
  • Shook Twins, "Rose"
  • Simon & Garfunkel, "Cecilia"
  • Soulive, "Mary (Edit)"
  • Sting, "Roxanne"
  • Suzanne Vega, "Calypso"
  • Ted Hawkins, "Corrina, Corrina"
  • Teddy Thompson, "Delilah"
  • Thea Gilmore, "Juliet (Keep That In Mind)"
  • Tom Waits, "Alice"
  • Tommy Tutone, "867-5309/Jenny"
  • Tony Furtado, "Angelina"
  • The Weepies, "Jolene"
  • The Wood Brothers, "Mary Anna"
  • The Wood Brothers, "Liza Jane"

Eric Teel is the FM Network Program Director for Jefferson Public Radio in Ashland, Ore. For the last decade, he's been one of the hosts of "Open Air," the station's daily eclectic/AAA music program. Over a 20-year career in public radio, Teel has also hosted classical and jazz programs, and has a musical background that can be traced back to a Yamaha electric-organ class when he was about 3.