Ten ridiculously captivating 'Valerie' songs

There was a recent list posted on the internet about "Mary" songs so we thought we would do one about Valeries.
Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson at the Brit wards
Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson at the Brit wards / JMEnternational/GettyImages
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Thus far, the Valeries in question have mostly been either fictional creations, or, if real, then also anonymous (or in the case of Valerie Plume, likely wishing to remain anonymous). That is not the case with Valerie Solanas, the subject of this collaboration between Reed and Cale, more than two decades after Reed booted Cale out of the Velvet Underground. What reunited them was the death of their one-time mentor, Andy Warhol, in 1987.

At his funeral, the two collaborators spoke for the first time in years and devised a novel project. They would create a song cycle in honor of Warhol, which would essentially guide the listener through the crucial events of his life. Reed thought this type of biography might become an effective way of engaging students with history. The educational value of the project never amounted to much, but the resulting album, Songs for Drella, is a fabulous, oddball creation, perfectly suited to its subject matter.

About three-quarters of the way into the album, Solanas, the woman who shot Warhol in 1968, makes her appearance. After Cale’s sprightly, Broadwayesque piano intro, Reed begins his matter-of-fact account of that fateful day. “Valerie Solanas took the elevator, got off at the fourth floor.” Next comes the shot – “From inside her idiot madness smoke and bang – Andy fell onto the floor.”

He then sings about retribution, and eventually brings it back to the personal level, lamenting how Warhol scolded him for not visiting the hospital sooner. Like all things in the Reed/Cale/Warhol relationship, it was weirdly wonderful.

NO. 4: “BROTHER JOE” by OLE 60 (2024)

If you’re looking for the most haunting song about a woman named Valerie, you need not go back very far. Alt-Country newcomers Ole 60 hit the indie scene big with 2023’s EP Three Twenty Four. Earlier this year, they followed it up with this tale of faith, vengeance, and … well, the end is open to your own version of morality. “Brother Joe never had a lot – He became a man of God – Started preaching at the church down by mile marker 17.”

Thus begins the tale of a man who found faith in the love of his woman, “sweet, sweet Valerie.” Then tragedy befalls his family, and Joe is faced with a choice. I won’t give away the ending. It’s designed to get the listener thinking and questioning. And it’s designed to stay with you after Ryan Laslie’s impassioned guitar and Jacob Young’s heartbreak vocal have long faded away.

NO. 3: “VALLERI” by THE MONKEES (1968)

The story goes that ace songwriting team Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart made up “Valleri” after saying they already had a “girl’s name song” ready to go for The Monkees TV show. It turned out to be one of the band’s biggest hits. It begins with Louie Shelton’s famous flamenco guitar solo. Then the anthemic harmonies of the chorus enter. Davy Jones sings the simple verse, and pretty soon horns enter the picture to create a mini-opera.

Lyrically, the song is nothing special. As Valeries go, the most interesting thing about this woman is that she spells her name a bit differently. But the production is exceptional. The Monkees were chafing at the bit to write and perform their own material by this point, and Mike Nesmith made a point of learning Shelton’s tricky flamenco riffs so he could play it live.