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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

“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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