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Song Stories

“Donna”

Ritchie Valens | 1958

"Donna" was a plaintive ballad of painful teen sincerity that could have passed for doo-wop had it not been more guitar-oriented than the style's norm. Ritchie Valens, who died at age 17 in the 1959 plane crash that also killed Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper, wrote the song about his real-life girlfriend Donna Ludwig. "Typically, Ritchie had only the title and its first line figured out ... with no structure or meaningful lyrics to fill out the song," said producer Bob Keane. "I helped him rearrange the melody and its chord changes, and helped him write the guitar break."

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Song Stories

“Madame George”

Van Morrison | 1968

One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

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