I recently came across this beautiful song, but could find very little about what inspired this song. Any details about what inspired it, any other information about it, would be appreciated.
Singer-songwriter Melanie Safka was a 70s folksinger with a quirky, offbeat sensibility. She was most famous for her gospel-influenced Woodstock tribute "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)" and her eccentric, childish hit "Brand New Key."
"What Have They Done to My Song, Ma" is a satirical number more in the vein of the latter than the former. Like Pink Floyd's "Have a Cigar," the Kinks' "Moneygoround," Jimmy Webb's "P. F. Sloan," CCR's "Wrote a Song For Everyone" and Joe Walsh's "Life's Been Good," it's a look at what life is like for a singer/songwriter once the music industry sinks their hooks into them. In this case, the narrator is lamenting how her simple song has been repackaged and reinvented, presumably in pursuit of a hit. She feels alienated from it, and now can hardly bear to hear it.
It's not clear which one of her songs she's speaking about or even if she had one specific one in mind. She already had regional hits in Europe with "Bobo's Party" and "Beautiful People" at the time this came out, but "Lay Down" and "Brand New Key" probably hadn't been released yet when she wrote this song.