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Song Stories

“Hunger Strike”

Temple of the Dog | 1991

When Eddie Vedder eavesdropped in on a Temple of the Dog rehearsal, he was taken by the tune "Hunger Strike," with its lyrics about a modern-day Robin Hood. But it was a unique vocal idea that Vedder had that was the song's missing ingredient. "I was sitting in the corner, putting duct tape on a little African drum," Vedder recalled. "About two-thirds of the way through, [Chris Cornell] was having to cut off the one line, and start the other. I'm not now, and certainly wasn't then, self-assured or cocky, but I could hear what he was trying to do, so I walked up to the mic -- which I'm really surprised I did -- and sang that other part, 'Going hungry, going hungry.'" Pearl Jam has performed the song onstage sporadically -- whenever Cornell guests.

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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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