Enrique Iglesias, John Legend, and Joan Jett are just a few of the newly released, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story Behind the Song. Read excerpts from the book by Melissa Etheridge and Christina Aguilera in the following pages.
Melissa Etheridge on "Come to my Window"
I wrote most of this song in a hotel room, which is where I did a lot of my writing once I started touring a lot after my first album. The first three albums did fine. I was being played on radio and had a bit of a following. The hip hop beats were starting around 1990, the time of my third album, I experimented musically with them. So for the fourth album, I was thinking of getting back to my soul – to the roots of rock and roll where I came from.
I was in a relationship at the time that was tumultuous. In my early twenties and thirties I made some poor choices and what you choose is what you get. I was struggling with fidelity, honesty and what it is that makes a relationship.
On the road, as a ‘rock star,’ there’s superficial attention and adulation is thrown at you for a couple of hours – then you’re alone in your room and it’s lonely. I understand why some people turn to drugs.
I started writing in my room (I remember it was nice but can’t remember where it was – Europe or America) after a show. I had a not so good phone call with my partner at the time, where out of loneliness, I sat on the phone, silent:
I would dial the numbers
Just to listen to your breath
Because of all of the attention I was getting, I felt I needed to do something for someone else. I would sacrifice so many things, put myself through so much pain for this relationship:
Come to my window
Crawl inside, wait by the light
Of the moon.
Come to my window
I’ll be home soon.
The last line means that I couldn’t connect with her and I was longing to be home.
I don’t care what they think
I don’t care what they say.
What do they know about this
However, at the same time the album became a hit, I came out publicly. The gay community lifted me up and supported me. That bridge in the song was taken to an anthem level. It bypassed any meaning I ever put in the song and became part of a mass consciousness. It is still a huge moment when I perform it live.
I realized that I was willing to compromise my wants, wishes for someone else. The need was deeper than skin, it was in my blood. I needed to make a connection.
Much therapy later, I realized that the hole I felt was for me to fill, but much of our lives we try to have others do that for us. Originally, I was referring to the pain love brings when I used the metaphor ‘the blackness in my chest.’ That’s where I feel my pain, where the heart chakra is. However, ten years later, in 2004, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my current partner asked when I last listened to my records. I couldn’t remember, so while I was undergoing chemotherapy, friends came over and we all listened to every album in the order in which they were released. We listened all the way through and it took about three days because we talked about the songs and each of our memories.
I was sitting there with a huge scar on my chest where they literally removed the blackness from the cancer. I realized how powerful words are. As I craft songs, I have a responsibility. Words and music go beyond lyrics or thoughts – they go straight to the soul.
The cancer changed my life. It showed me the power of intention. We’re all spiritual beings and there has to be a balance of the soul and the body. That is the journey I’m on now.
Christina Aguilera on "Fighter"
I wrote this for my sophomore album, Stripped, and I was very determined for it to reflect who I was. The first record was what the label wanted and created. There was a huge pop explosion at the time and I was part of that wave. I felt stifled. I was thankful that the early success allowed me the freedom to write what I wanted for the next one.
I was 21 and I had a lot on my mind. I had been performing in front of an audience since I was 6, helping to make a living for my family. I grew up in a very chaotic and abusive home where I didn’t feel very safe. I started writing music, both melodies and lyrics, when I was 15. In retrospect, I realize I used it as a release, a therapeutic outlet. It was the way I found my voice. I connected with the music and escaped from my home life. In school, I was somewhat alienated because of my passion for music. So I harbored a little personal pain but the seemingly negative things made me smarter and stronger. I took notice early of the people all around me in the business who were there for the wrong reasons.
I wrote “Fighter” when I was on tour promoting the first CD. I was coming up with titles and ideas and deciding what I wanted to write about. I had to sit down and make sense of my feelings and experiences. I learned a lot from the first record that helped me to develop. I took the good and the bad and considered some of the choices I made and became better because of it.
I called the CD Stripped because I wanted to strip away the pieces of myself from the first record that I felt weren’t me. I was searching for truth. We can all look at our pasts, childhoods, home lives and it’s easy to be a victim or victimize yourself -- but I didn’t want to do that. I was feeling lots of pent up emotions and they all came to a head in “Fighter.”
I wanted my songs to have positive empowering messages, especially to women so they could feel strong and speak for themselves. My father dominated our household and I didn’t want to feel weak.
Sometimes people try to put their negativity on you. I was telling one person in particular, at that time, that he couldn’t haunt me.
It was very freeing.
I try to write lyrics and music that people can relate to and that help them to find personal strength. I try to communicate universal ideas and thoughts that help them to get through the day or the year a bit better.