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Song Stories

“Cult of Personality”

Living Colour | 1973

Political statements in heavy metal became common during the late Eighties, as evidenced by Metallica's "Disposable Heroes," Megadeth's "Peace Sells" and Living Colour's "Cult of Personality." Living Colour's Vernon Reid wanted the latter's lyrics to focus on the mass appeal of certain world leaders. As the guitarist said, "I was thinking about how Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were all very handsome. They had very profound things to say, and I just thought it was really weird that these are cats that are very important politically/socially, but they also look like matinee idols." "Cult" not only features a Zeppelin-esque guitar riff played by Reid, but it also has the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, uttering the final quote in the song.

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

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