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Song Stories

“Chain Gang”

Sam Cooke | 1960

Inspired by Sam Cooke’s running into a chain gang of prisoners while on tour, the song pays homage to their hard work. Cooke was reportedly so moved by the plight of the prisoners that he and his brother gave them cartons of cigarettes. In exchange, the R&B crooner got his second-biggest hit, a song that hit Number Two on the pop charts. "Chain Gang" has lived on in tributes such as the Pretenders' "Back on the Chain Gang," with its prisoner chant that echoes Cooke's original. The song also changed the life of one Rod Stewart. "I heard Sam Cooke singing this on the transistor radio," he told Rolling Stone. "Up until then, my whole world was Eddie Cochran and Woody Guthrie."

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Song Stories

“Stillness Is the Move”

Dirty Projectors | 2009

A Wim Wenders film and a rapper inspired the Dirty Projectors duo David Longstreth and Amber Coffmanto write "sort of a love song." "We rented the movie Wings of Desire from Dave's brother's recommendation, and he had me go through it and just write down some things that I found interesting, and they made it into the song," Coffman said. As for the hip-hop connection, Longstreth explained, "The beat is based on T-Pain. We commissioned a radio mix of the song by the guy who mixes all of Timbaland's records, but the mix we made sounded way better, so we didn't use it."

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