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Song Stories

“Brown Sugar”

The Rolling Stones | 1971

According to Keith Richards, this outrageous ode to a black fantasy goddess was the first song for which Mick Jagger composed the main riff. Jagger came up with the concept, slave ship imagery and all -- most likely inspired by his affair with African-American singer Claudia Lennear -- while in the Australian outback filming Ned Kelly, and he admits that "Brown Sugar" is about more, and less, than the sordid lyrics indicate. "They've got a lot of different levels. There are drug references that are sort of covered. The whole thing is a double-entendre," Jagger told Rolling Stone in 2000, adding, "I don't know quite what to think of it now."

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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