Song Stories

“Ambling Alp”

Yeasayer | 2009

The "Ambling Alp" was the nickname of the six-and-a-half-foot-tall Primo Carnera. Though the song is named after the Italian-born 1930s heavyweight champion, Yeasayer are actually paying tribute to boxing legend Joe Louis with this first-person psychedelic dance-rock tune. “I was always interested in writing a song that had boxing mythology in it,” Yeasayer’s Chris Keating said. “It’s pretty fascinating: There were so many amazing characters, and it was so closely entwined with 20th century history.” Yeaseyer also invokes German champ Max Schmeling and hints at the historical significance placed on the historic bouts between the Nazi-era boxer and the African-American Louis.

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Song Stories


The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

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