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Song Stories

“Heartbreak Hotel”

Elvis Presley | 1956

Elvis Presley’s moody first single for RCA was not cut from the same rockabilly cloth as his Sun Records material: Sun founder Sam Phillips called “Heartbreak Hotel” “a morbid mess.” Written by Mae Boren Axton (who was Elvis’ former publicist) and Tommy Durden, Presley’s first of many Number Ones and the biggest-selling song of 1956 was based on a true-life tale. A news story in the Miami Herald reported a man’s suicide in a hotel: He left a note consisting solely of the line, “I walk a lonely street."

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Song Stories

“Nightshift”

The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

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