Exclusive Audio: Mary J. Blige Tells It to Us Straight

January 11, 2007 12:00 AM ET

Mary J. Blige, the reigning diva of R&B, who recently received eight Grammy nominations for her 2005 album The Breakthrough, spoke to our Austin Scaggs about her music, her past and her pop-lock skills. Listen to choice excerpts of their interview:

Blige on the music that she listened to growing up, her first big performance and her break-dancing abilities.

Blige on singing's power to make her lose herself.

Blige reveals the struggles that inspired her album, The Breakthrough.

The singer on her friendship with Bono.

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

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