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Rebekah Harkness Inspired Taylor Swift's New Song — Who Is the Late Composer?

Junie Sihlangu
Aug 02, 2020
08:30 P.M.
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Singer Taylor Swift fans might not know this, but one of her songs is about a woman named Rebekah West Harkness. She was one of the richest women in America.

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Swift’s song, "The Last Great American Dynasty" is actually a tale about Harkness. The woman was a 20th-century socialite whom we’ve covered some facts about.

HOW SHE BECAME RICH

Harkness became wealthy after her marriage to her second husband, William Hale Harkness. Swift called the St. Louis-born socialite a "middle-class divorcée” in her song but she was more than that.

Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards on August 26, 2019, in Newark, New Jersey | Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards on August 26, 2019, in Newark, New Jersey | Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

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The title might have fit her after her first marriage but that changed when she married her second husband. The man was the heir to the Standard Oil fortune.

The company was the largest oil refinery in the world in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

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HER EXPENSIVE HOME

Harkness and her husband were owners of a waterfront mansion in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. They nicknamed the property as their "Holiday House."

In 2013, Swift bought the same home for $17 million and also named it her "Holiday House.”

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HARKNESS’ “SQUAD”

The socialite had a group of female friends which she called her “[Expletive] Pack.” The group was founded on their love for having fun while undermining high-class events, spiking punchbowls with mineral oil, dying people’s pets green, and other shenanigans.

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FACING THE PRESS’ CRITICISM

Just like, Swift, a Grammy Award-winning vocalist, Harkness was known for being hounded and judged harshly by the media. Swift actually touches on this in her song and also relates to it.

Portrait of Rebekah Harkness, director of the New York Harkness Ballet in New York City on March 12, 1965 | Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Portrait of Rebekah Harkness, director of the New York Harkness Ballet in New York City on March 12, 1965 | Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

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HER BALLET COMPANY

She might have been a bit of a handful, but Harkness also had a love for the finer things. The socialite was very passionate about the arts and in 1964 she founded the ballet company, Harkness Ballet.

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HARKNESS WAS A COMPOSER

Her professional ballet company could be found at the Harkness House for Ballet Arts which was a training school in Manhattan. Near Lincoln Center, Harkness refurbished a former movie house; calling it the Harkness Theatre.

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There she hosted annual sessions of the Harkness Ballet. However, the incredible woman sponsored ballet companies and also composed music for them.

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A CHALICE BECAME HER URN

Harkness bought Spanish artist Salvador Dalí’s $250,000 "Chalice of Life.” The 1965 chalice was decorated with butterflies and made from gold, rubies, diamonds, sapphires, and emeralds.

When the socialite passed away from cancer at age 67 on June 17, 1982, the chalice became her urn. Swift’s “Folklore” album was released on July 24, 2020.

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