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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

“Long Walk Home”

Bruce Springsteen | 2007

When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

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