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Song Stories

“Folsom Prison Blues”

Johnny Cash | 1956

Prison always suited Johnny Cash, even if he never spent much time there beyond the occasional live performance. And while charming some 2,000 inmates would prove a tall order for most, these prisoners were Cash's kindred spirits -- it's clear in their explosive applause when the Man in Black snarls, "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die." The outlaw line came to Cash while envisioning "the worst reason...for killing another person," he once said. "It did come to mind quite easily, though." The live take, recorded at California's Folsom Prison in January 1968, offers a heaving helping of American goth. And these jailbirds eat it up.

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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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