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Taylor Swift’s Connection to Rebekah Harkness Explained: ‘The Last Great American Dynasty’ and More

Taylor Swift's Connection to Rebekah Harkness Explained: 'The Last Great American Dynasty' and More
Taylor Swift and Rebekah Harkness. Getty Images (2)

Taylor Swift’s connection to Rebekah Harkness has made headlines ever since her 2020 song “The Last Great American Dynasty.” And in honor of Harkness’ birthday on April 17, two days before the 2024 release of Swift’s next album The Tortured Poets Department, Us Weekly is breaking it all down.

Folklore was the first time Swift’s songs were not purely autobiographical and told stories of different characters. “The Last Great American Dynasty,” for instance, was inspired by the life of Harkness.

“Rebekah rode up on the afternoon train / It was sunny / Her saltbox house on the coast took her mind off St. Louis,” Swift, 34, sings, referring to Harkness’ hometown in Missouri. “Bill was the heir to the Standard Oil name and money / And the town said, ‘How did a middle-class divorcée do it?’”

She continues, “The wedding was charming, if a little gauche / There’s only so far new money goes / They picked out a home and called it ‘Holiday House.’”

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Rebekah had moved to Rhode Island with her then-new husband, William “Bill” Harkness, whose family founded Standard Oil, after their 1947 wedding. (Rebekah was previously married to Dickson W. Pierce, with whom she shared two children, before they got divorced in 1946.)

The plot twist of “The Last Great American Dynasty” occurs at the end when it’s revealed what happened to the mansion after Rebekah’s death in 1982.

“50 years is a long time / Holiday House sat quietly on that beach,” Swift sings. “Free of women with madness, their men and bad habits / And then it was bought by me.”

Swift — who spends time in New York City, Los Angeles and Nashville — purchased a $17 million mansion in Watch Hill, Rhode Island in 2013. The property has since played host to the pop star’s now-iconic 4th of July bashes for her friends and significant others alike. Swift’s ex Tom Hiddleston even infamously sported an “I Heart T.S.” tank top during the 2016 festivities.

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Swift last hosted pals and fellow “independent girlies” Selena Gomez and Alana Haim at the property for the 4th of July in 2023, days before bringing her Eras Tour concert to Kansas City, Missouri. (The KC shows, in addition to taking place an afternoon’s drive away from Harkness’ hometown, is also where Swift’s now-boyfriend, Travis Kelce, first tried to shoot his shot with homemade friendship bracelets of his phone number.)

Swift also lets her squad borrow the pad. A source exclusively told Us in October 2023 that the home was a “perfect” getaway for Swift’s friend Gigi Hadid and her new love interest, Bradley Cooper.

While Swift has never publicly addressed the story behind “The Last Great American Dynasty, eagle-eyed Swifties have noticed similarities between the Grammy winner and Rebekah since they both had fame, fortune and were constantly scrutinized for their romantic relationships.

“I didn’t know then that soon enough people would decide on something else I wasn’t quite doing right, and then the circle would keep going on and on and rolling along and I would keep accommodating, over-correcting, in an effort to appease my critics,” Swift previously discussed the scrutiny during her 2019 Billboard Women on the Year speech. “They’re saying I’m dating too much in my 20s? OK, I’ll stop, I’ll just be single. For years. Now they’re saying my album Red is filled with too many breakup songs? OK, OK, I’ll make one about moving to New York and deciding that really my life is more fun with just my friends.”

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She added, “In the last 10 years I have watched as women in this industry are criticized and measured up to each other and picked at for their bodies, their romantic lives, their fashion or have you ever heard someone say about a male artist, ‘I really like his songs but I don’t know what it is, there’s just something about him I don’t like?’ No! That criticism is reserved for us.”

Like Swift, Rebekah’s notoriety only grew through the years. After Bill’s death in 1954, Rebekah went on to marry two more times but always retained Harkness as her last name. She also inherited $50 million from Bill, with news outlets nicknaming her the richest woman in America. (Swift, for her part, is worth billions due to her successful music career.)

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