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Song Stories

“Graceland”

Paul Simon | 1986

Paul Simon caused a tremendous stir in 1986, audaciously recording this blend of pop and South African mbaqanga music with South African musicians in their homeland. Some grumbled that he shouldn’t have “supported” the apartheid government then in power, but fans loved the new sound, taking the album to Number Three and pushing the title track into the Top 40. Simon has long been slow in the studio, and the same goes for this song. “The two longest songs on this album were ‘The Boy in the Bubble’ and ‘Graceland,’ ” Simon told Rolling Stone. “It took three or four months to write each of them.”

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Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

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