Why We’ll Never Know Who Rick Springfield’s ‘Jessie’s Girl’ Was
There's a good reason the identity of the woman who inspired Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl" will never be known.
"I don't know her name," Springfield told Songfacts in 2009. "Actually, it was a brief relationship I had when I was making stained glass for a while. I was going to a stained-glass class in Pasadena, and I met this guy and his girlfriend. I was completely turned on to his girlfriend, but she was just not interested. So I had a lot of sexual angst, and I went home and wrote a song about it. Then about four months later I stopped going to the class and lost contact with them."
Springfield remembered the man's name, Gary, which he changed to "Jessie" partly because it was easier to sing, and also as a tribute to Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Ron Jessie. "But the whole thing is absolutely what I was feeling," he explained. "He was getting it and I wasn't, and it was really tearing me up. And sexual angst is an amazing motivator to write a song."
At one point, Springfield said, Oprah Winfrey's staff tried to track her down. The closest they got was the teacher of the class but, unfortunately, "he had died two years earlier, and they'd thrown all his papers out a year after that. So we missed finding out who she was by a year."
Watch the Video for Rick Springfield's 'Jessie's Girl'
Released as a single from Working Class Dog in early 1981, "Jessie's Girl" rebooted Springfield's career in the U.S. He'd reached No. 14 a decade earlier with "Speak to the Sky," but had failed to dent the Top 40 after that. Around the same time, he'd landed the role of Dr. Noah Drake on the ABC soap opera General Hospital, and both his musical and acting careers picked up steam.
"Jessie's Girl" was the No. 1 single in the U.S. on Aug. 1, 1981, the day MTV was launched, but it was not part of that day's programming. Springfield reportedly storyboarded the video; it took about 24 attempts at smashing the mirror before getting the right take.
The song has continued to remain a pop-culture touchstone. It was used in a memorable scene in Paul Thomas Anderson's 1997 movie Boogie Nights. "Jessie's Girl" was also sung by members of the cast of Glee in 2010. Their version reached No. 23.
Watch Rick Springfield's 'Jessie's Girl' in 'Boogie Nights'