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Song Stories

“Hold On”

Wilson Phillips | 1990

This harmonizing trio may have had strong musical genes on their side — two were the daughters of Brian Wilson, the third had John and Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas as her parents — but their family connections also provided their share of heartbreak. Chynna Phillips, who wrote this song about difficulties she faced growing up, told Rolling Stone she had a lot of anger because her father was never there for her. "But there comes a time in your life when it keeps coming up and you have to face it."

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

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