There are thousands of songs that namecheck someone in the title. Sometimes they're fictional people, like Michelle in The Beatles song; sometimes they're well-known figures, like Pablo Picasso in the Modern Lovers song; plenty of times we simply don't know.

And then there are the ordinary folk who accidentally become part of pop culture by inspiring famous songs - friends of the songwriter, crushes, and even a secretary who just happened to have a good name...

Jolene by Dolly Parton (1973)

The song: In 2008, Dolly Parton told NPR: "One night, I was on stage, and there was this beautiful little girl - she was probably 8 years old at the time. And she had this beautiful red hair, this beautiful skin, these beautiful green eyes, and she was looking up at me, holding, you know, for an autograph. I said, 'Well, you're the prettiest little thing I ever saw. So what is your name?' And she said, 'Jolene.' And I said, 'Jolene. Jolene. Jolene. Jolene.' I said, 'That is pretty. That sounds like a song. I'm going to write a song about that.'"

The person: The name of the song came from a girl, but it isn't about her - it's about a woman who had eyes for her husband, Carl Dean, as Dolly revealed on stage at Glastonbury in 2014. As the Independent reported, the country singer said: "Now, some of you may or may not know that that song was loosely based on a little bit of truth. I wrote that years ago when my husband… was spending a little more time with Jolene than I thought he should be. I put a stop to that. I got rid of that redhead woman in a hurry... I want you folks to know, though, that something good can come from anything. Had it not been for that woman I would never have written Jolene and I wouldn't have made all that money, so thank you, Jolene."

Whether that woman was also called Jolene is not known, but Dolly told NPR she was a bank clerk, adding: "He [Carl] just loved going to the bank because she paid him so much attention. It was kinda like a running joke between us - when I was saying, 'Hell, you're spending a lot of time at the bank. I don't believe we've got that kind of money.' So it's really an innocent song all around, but sounds like a dreadful one."

Frankly, Mr Shankly by The Smiths (1986)

The song: The Smiths' Frankly, Mr Shankly is a stand-out track on a stand-out album, The Queen Is Dead, acclaimed by NME in 2013 to be the greatest album of all time. The lyrics are acerbic, suggesting that Mr Shankly is holding the song's singer, Morrissey, back in his career: "This position I've held / It pays my way, and it corrodes my soul." It gets worse. There's a dig at Mr Shankly's talent for poetry ("Oh, I didn't realise that you wrote poetry / I didn't realise you wrote such bloody awful poetry, Mr Shankly"); an even more childish insult ("You are a flatulent pain in the arse"); and, finally, a demand for payment ("Oh, give us your money!").

The person: The Smiths were signed to Rough Trade at the time, and Mr Shankly is assumed to be the label's boss, Geoff Travis. The band were warring with the label, and the song plays out as a resignation letter. "It's a funny lyric and the music's galloping rhythm makes me smile too," Travis told Mojo. "I love music hall and the whole breezy Max Miller feel was great. I saw the lyric as part of Morrissey's desire to be somewhere else, so it's not completely silly. It was The Smiths' prerogative to leave Rough Trade and Morrissey can only write about his own experiences."

Ever ambitious, Morrissey believed The Smiths were too big for the indie label. In his autobiography, he wrote: "Geoff had zero appreciation for the songs that had saved him from life's lavatory."

My Sharona by The Knack (1979)

The song: The debut single by LA rock group The Knack was a US No.1 that also went to No.6 here. It's a crush song written, singer Doug Fieger revealed to the Washington Post, "from the perspective of a 14-year-old boy". Among its fans is George W. Bush, who had it on his iPod in 2005 when he was president, as the New York Times reported.

The person: My Sharona is Sharona Alperin, who Doug met when he was 25 and she was 17. "It was like getting hit in the head with a baseball bat; I fell in love with her instantly," he said in the liner notes to the reissue of The Knack's debut album, Get the Knack. They would end up becoming engaged. The relationship didn't work out but Doug and Sharona remained friends. In 2005, when Doug was interviewed by the Washington Post, Sharona was working as an estate agent in LA.

Valerie by Mark Ronson feat. Amy Winehouse (2007)

The song: Valerie is a song by The Zutons. It gave the Liverpool band their breakthrough - charting at No.9 in 2006. A year later, Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse covered it for Ronson's second album, Version. When they released it as a single, it fared better than The Zuton's original, making No.2 and ending 2007 as the ninth best-selling single of the year. The song concerns a woman who the song's narrator is missing - "I've missed your ginger hair and the way you like to dress / Won't you come on over, stop making a fool out of me" - and also seems to be in trouble: "Did you have to go to jail / Put your house on up for sale / Did you get a good lawyer?"

The person: Valerie is an American friend of the song's writer, Zuton Dave McCabe. According to the Zuton's drummer Sean Payne (via Songfacts), "She's in trouble for drink driving. She was a friend Dave met over in the US. It's his musical postcard to her, saying he's having a hard time and can she come over and see him. He didn't mean it, it just made a good song."

Me and Bobby McGee by Janis Joplin (1971)

The song: This classic was written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster and became a No.1 hit for Janis Joplin in 1971 when it was released after she died. It's still most closely associated with Joplin, although many others have covered it and Kristofferson performed it on his first album, Kristofferson, which became re-titled Me and Bobby McGee after the success of Janis's version. It's the story of two lovers travelling across the US, sharing the secrets of their souls, until they're forced to split. "But I'd trade all of my tomorrows for one single yesterday / To be holdin' Bobby's body next to mine," sings the narrator.

The person: That Bobby is both a male and female name has no doubt helped the number of times it's been covered by singers of different sexes, but the real Bobby is a woman - Barbara McKee, known as Bobbie, who was the secretary of a friend and colleague of Fred Foster's, Boudleaux Bryant. Foster, who was a songwriter, producer and record label owner, suggested to Kristofferson that he write a song called Me and Bobbie McKee, but Kristofferson misheard, used McGee and changed Bobbie to Bobby. He'd never met McKee. She told the Star Tribune that Kris visited her in her office and played her the song: "Fred came in and said, 'I want you to meet the real Bobby McKee and here's Kris Kristofferson to sing your song for you.' It was great! I loved it, of course. Kris said he couldn't sing very good, but he'll try. But I just thought it was the most fantastic song I had ever heard."

Daniel by Elton John (1973)

The song: Daniel is taken from Elton John's 1973 sixth album, Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player, which also includes Crocodile Rock - Elton's first US No.1. Daniel couldn't be a more different song - it's a reflective ballad about someone called Daniel "traveling tonight on a plane". We know that the narrator is Daniel's brother and that he thinks he's "a star in the face of the sky", but it's not exactly clear what the song is about, or who Daniel is.

The person: Elton's lyricist Bernie Taupin said in the 1991 documentary Two Rooms, "Daniel had been the most misinterpreted song that we'd ever written," and there's a seemingly decent reason for that - fearing that the song was too long, Elton chopped off the last verse, which explains the rest of the lyrics. Or so Elton once said, while performing in Las Vegas in 2008. Bernie, however, maintains that the fabled last verse doesn't explain anything, but we do now know what inspired the song - an article in a newspaper. "The story was about a guy that went back to a small town in Texas, returning from the Vietnam war," Bernie said in Two Rooms. "They'd lauded him when he came home and treated him like a hero. But he just wanted to go home, go back to the farm, and try to get back to the life that he'd led before.

"The piece was about how many of the soldiers that were coming back from Vietnam were these simple sort of down home country guys who were generally embarrassed by both the adulation and, depending on what part of the country you came from, the animosity that they were greeted by. I just took it from there and wrote it from a younger brother's perspective, made him disabled and wanting to get away."

Suzanne by Leonard Cohen (1967)

The song: Leonard Cohen's famous debut single appears to be a love song. "Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river," it begins. "You can hear the boats go by / You can spend the night beside her." But there's a twist. The narrator says that he "has no love to give her" and the song ends with, "And you know you can trust her / For she's touched your perfect body with her mind," as indeed the male character has to Suzanne with his mind.

The person: Suzanne is Suzanne Verdal, wife of the sculptor Armand Vaillancourt. In a 1991 BBC interview Cohen explained more: "They were a stunning couple around Montreal at the time... everyone was in love with Suzanne Vaillancourt, and every woman was in love with Armand Vaillancourt. But there was no... well, there was thought, but there was no possibility; one would not allow oneself to think of toiling at the seduction of Armand Vaillancourt's wife. First of all he was a friend, and second of all as a couple they were inviolate, you just didn't intrude into that kind of shared glory that they manifested. I bumped into her one evening, and she invited me down to her place near the river... I touched her perfect body with my mind, because there was no other opportunity. There was no other way that you could touch her perfect body under those circumstances. So she provided the name in the song."

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