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“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”

“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”

| May 12, 2013 | 0 Comments

By late 1969, Burt Bacharach and Hal David were kings of the pop songwriting game. With over 20 Top 40 singles by their vocal muse Dionne Warwick, cover versions of their songs by an A-Z of artists including Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones and Ella Fitzgerald, movie soundtracks, TV specials and a Broadway musical, they’d done […]

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Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee”

Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee”

| April 6, 2013 | 0 Comments

Merle Haggard often gets name-checked in contemporary country songs. It’s a quick way to tip a hat to tradition and add a helping of honky-tonk cred. Haggard’s 41 No. 1 country hits and place in country’s Mount Rushmore aside, his name personifies the hard life that was once synonymous with the genre. Prison sentences, multiple […]

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Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”

Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”

| September 9, 2012 | 5 Comments

Otis Redding had never seen anything so peaceful. The California sunlight sprinkling diamonds on the calm water of the bay, the seagulls circling overhead in an azure sky, the old fishermen hauling in their nets near the docks. While on the West Coast for an engagement at the Fillmore in June 1967, Redding and his […]

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Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”

| September 5, 2012 | 7 Comments

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is like a condensed version of the second side of Abbey Road, with makeup and tights. Six minutes of flamboyant patchwork pop—a capella intro, sentimental verses, faux-Italian chorale, a thundering glam-metal climax—it’s a testament to Freddie Mercury’s adeptness as a songwriter and Queen’s musicianship that the disparate parts add up to such a […]

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Jimmy Webb’s Story Behind “The Highwayman”

Jimmy Webb’s Story Behind “The Highwayman”

| August 15, 2012 | 9 Comments

I was in London, finishing an album, El Mirage, with [Beatles producer] George Martin. My friend Harry Nilsson was there, and we were doing some professional drinking. He left my apartment one night, and I went to sleep and had an incredibly vivid dream. I had an old brace of pistols in my belt and […]

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The Andy Griffith Show Theme Song

The Andy Griffith Show Theme Song

| July 3, 2012 | 4 Comments

Andy Griffith passed away this morning at the age of 86. With scores of roles to his credit—from Broadway to the Silver Screen to Matlock—the character that he is, of course, best known for is that of Sheriff Andy Taylor, the loveably laid-back peacekeeper of the fictional town of Mayberry. Anyone who grew up watching […]

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Ray Davies on The Kinks’ “Picture Book”

Ray Davies on The Kinks’ “Picture Book”

| June 21, 2012 | 0 Comments

I always knew that song would have its day,” Ray Davies says of 1968’s “Picture Book.” “Sometimes you just know. It was never a hit, but it’s become a hit in another way.” Tucked away as an album track for 36 years, “Picture Book” finally had its day when it was featured in an innovative […]

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Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young”

Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young”

| May 9, 2012 | 2 Comments

“When I wrote ‘Only the Good Die Young,’ the point of the song wasn’t so much anti-Catholic as pro-lust,” Billy Joel said. The object of Joel’s affections was one Virginia Callahan, an unrequited crush from his high school days in Levittown, Long Island. In 1999, the piano man reminisced, “One of the first gigs I […]

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The Christmas Song

The Christmas Song

| December 15, 2011 | 3 Comments

It was a sweltering hot July afternoon in 1945 when Mel Tormé showed up for a writing session at the Toluca Lake house of his lyric partner Bob Wells. Mel let himself in and called out for Bob. No answer. He walked over to the piano, and there, resting on the music board, was a […]

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The Lion Sleeps Tonight

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

| November 29, 2011 | 12 Comments

Wimoweh. For the last 50 years, that happy little word has been a universally recognized shorthand for the song known as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” From Pete Seeger’s version in 1952 (titled “Wimoweh”) to the Tokens’ No. 1 single in 1961 to its featured role in the hugely popular Disney film and Broadway musical The […]

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