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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

“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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