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Song Stories

“Everyday People”

Sly and the Family Stone | 1968

"Everyday People" managed to trailblaze in two different ways -- it was one of the first pop hits to deal with the subject of racial harmony, and it utilized Larry Graham's "slap" technique on the bass guitar, which would soon be copied by countless other bassists. Graham once said about his pulsating style, "I'd never done that before … that's where the freedom of creativity came in for the band, that we'd be allowed to do that." In 1978, the song's line "Different strokes for different folks" would be borrowed for the title of the hit television show Diff'rent Strokes.

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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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