Song Stories

“54-46 Was My Number”

Toots & the Maytals | 1969

Toots Hibbert coined the term "reggae," and Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff became the faces of the genre. But it might have been different had Hibbert not been arrested for marijuana possession in 1966. At the time, his group was planning a breakthrough European tour. But an 18-month jail term stalled Hibbert while others carried on. Hibbert, who wrote this song about the ordeal, suspects he was set up by a threatened competitor. "They flopped," he said. "They helped me more because I think about it, and I keep singing about it. And I get a Number One record about it."

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The Pack | 2006

Berkeley, California rappers the Pack made their footwear choice clear in 2006 with the song "Vans." The track caught the attention of Too $hort, who signed them to his imprint. MTV refused to play the video for the song, though, claiming it was essentially a commercial for the product. Rapper Lil' B disagreed. "I didn’t know nobody [at] Vans," he said. "I was just a rapper who wore Vans." Even without MTV's support, Lil' B recognized the impact of the track. "God blessed me with such a revolutionary song… People around my age know who really started a lot of the dressing people are into now."

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