Were the Lyrics to Sarah McLachlan’s “Possession” Taken from an Actual Stalker’s Letters?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: The lyrics to “Possession” were taken from actual stalkers’ letters.

A few years back, I did a legend about whether The Police’s hit “Every Breath You Take” was based on actual letters that Sting had received from stalkers. You can check that one out to learn whether it is true or not, but in any event, the legend inspired longtime commenter ParanoidObsessive to write in about how he heard the story “about how Sarah McLachlan wrote “Possession” based on actual stalker letters.”


Is that true?

It is true that the song “Possession’ was, indeed, written in response to stalkers that Sarah McLachlan had early in her career, with two stalkers in particular who had these elaborate fantasies where they believed that they were actually in relationships with McLachlan really driving the song, which is written from the perspective of a stalker. Check out some of these lyrics:

And I would be the one
To hold you down
Kiss you so hard
I’ll take your breath away
And after I’d, wipe away the tears
Just close your eyes dear


Anyhow, while the songs were INSPIRED by the stalkers, the lyrics were McLachlan originals. She talked about writing the song to Addicted to Songwriting:

Tell me about writing “Possession.” Were you writing from a male point of view?

Yes. I tried to put myself into their shoes, into the mind of someone who is so obsessed with another person that they could conceive murdering them. It took me awhile to justify that one. As a woman, living with that fear in the back of your mind every day with the possibility of being raped. And so, it’s kind of weird for me, but then I save myself in the third verse by saying I’d never really act on it, except in my dreams. And maybe that’s putting me into a false sense of reality, but it did help. Not just that, but writing the whole song, was kind of a cleansing thing for me, because I had two people in particular who just became incredibly intense with the fantasy world that they created, and demanded that that was reality and we had to be together. And they went to great lengths to make this happen. It became frightening, but it ticked me off that I had to look over my shoulder every time I walked out the door. There was one point where I was told I’d have to have a bodyguard. It was like, screw that, I don’t want to live in fear. It makes me so angry.

One of the stalkers who believed he was in a relationship with McLachlan was Uwe Vandrei. Vendrei sent McLachlan poems and he then sued McLachlan for using his poems in her lyrics for “Posession.”

However, while it is clear that his poems directly INSPIRED the song, McLachlan (almost certainly purposefully) did not actually use his literal words.

Oh Sarah,
Will I ever hold you on that shore?
Or only live it in a dream?
Will I ever tell you of my fears?
Will you ever collect my tear?

As you can see from the lyrics from “Possession” above, the similarity is clear – however, it is nothing more than that. There was no direct connection between his poems and the lyrics to “Possession.” Tragically, the case ended when Vendrei killed himself in 1994.

Messed up stuff.

The legend is…

STATUS: I’m Going with False, although obviously the letters INSPIRED the lyrics pretty directly.

Thanks to ParanoidObsessive for the suggestion and thanks to Addicted to Songwriting for the great quote from McLachlan (and thanks to McLachlan for the quote itself!).

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

3 Responses to “Were the Lyrics to Sarah McLachlan’s “Possession” Taken from an Actual Stalker’s Letters?”

  1. ParanoidObsessive on December 19th, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    Yay – my moment in the sun!


  2. Stephanie Rambo on November 15th, 2018 at 3:40 am

    I just thought maybe you would want to edit your post and use the correct song title. The song you are referring to is “Possession” not “Obsession.”

  3. Thanks, Stephanie! I did call it by the wrong name a couple of times in the piece. Silly little typo. Fixed now!

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