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Song Stories

“Biko”

Peter Gabriel | 1980

In 1977, Stephen Biko, an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa, was seized at a roadblock and taken to a police station, where he was interrogated several days. On September 12th, he died from head injuries, the result of police brutality. Biko's death would draw worldwide attention to the brutality of apartheid, with Gabriel's dirge bringing South Africa's injustices to the younger generation. "I was uncertain about getting engaged in a political song," Gabriel told Rolling Stone. "Because I'd never directly taken on an issue in that way. I just tried some ideas, and I felt the spine tingling."

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

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