Many classic songs lend themselves to many different interpretations.
We tend to focus on the overall vibe of the song rather than the lyrics, and if we do, we don’t think too much into it.
The thing is, even if you actually sat down and thought about some of these cryptic songs, you would never actually guess what they’re really about.
Here are 8 famous songs that have been misunderstood for decades.
1. “I Shot the Sheriff” by Bob Marley
You can listen to this song hundreds of times and you would never guess the hidden meaning behind it. If you think this song is about a man who shoots the sheriff but insists he did not kill the deputy, you’re wrong.
The 1973 reggae hit is actually a protest song against birth control. Marley believed that using birth control was a sin, and “the doctor who prescribed those baby-killing pills became the sheriff.”
That belief highlights this passage from the song: “Every time I plant a seed, he said kill it before it grow.”
2. “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton
Before Whitney Houston sang the most romantic couple’s song in the world, Dolly Parton wrote it. But it wasn’t meant to be romantic…
The song is not about the end of romance, but about a professional breakup. Dolly wrote it in 1974 for her mentor and singing partner, Porter Wagoner, when she decided to start her solo music career.
3. “Respect” by Arethra Franklin
If this isn’t every woman’s empowerment song, then what is?
Sorry to break it to you, but the song was originally written from the perspective of a hardworking man who looks forward to coming home and getting the respect he deserves. Let’s say you already knew that, but did you know the act of “respect” also refers to sex?
4. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler
This power ballad is supposed to be about human love, right?
Songwriter Jim Steinman said in an interview, “I was trying to come up with a love song and I remembered I actually wrote that to be a vampire love song … If anyone listens to the lyrics, they’re really like vampire lines. It’s all about the darkness, the power of darkness and love’s place in the dark.”
You can never listen to these next classic songs again without thinking about their hidden meanings.
5. “Every Breath You Take” by The Police
What better love song to put on a wedding list than this one? You might change your mind after reading what the hidden meaning behind this song is.
The song isn’t about love birds, but a stalker. Years after the song was released and won a Grammy Award for Song of the Year, Sting said, “I didn’t realize at the time how sinister it is. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control.”
6. “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M
This ’90s rock classic written by the group’s frontman Michael Stipe is about a tortured relationship, not a spiritual crisis.
If you’re familiar with Southern expression you’ll know that “losing my religion” means “reaching the end of my rope.”
7. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
This 1975 song makes you feel every emotion at once, but what it doesn’t explicitly reveal is it’s true meaning.
Freddie Mercury left his girlfriend for a man, and in Bohemian Rhapsody Freddie kills his former heterosexual self.
8. “Hotel California” by The Eagles
The 1976 classic song illustrating a traveler stopping for the night at a hotel in California where people are just having a wild time lends itself to be questioned.
People have pondered for decades on the layers of hidden meaning in this song.
Don Henley said, “It’s basically a song about the dark underbelly of the American dream and about excess in America, which is something we knew a lot about.”