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Song Stories

“I Don't Want to Wait”

Paula Cole | 1998

A former cheerleader, prom queen and backup singer for Peter Gabriel, Cole had a lot to be happy about in the late Nineties. But this living-for-the-moment song was inspired by a sobering time in her life — a final visit with her grandfather in Massachusetts. "I went home to Rockport that summer ... about a week after I arrived, he died," she said. "So that song has his spirit in it." Though Cole has said she really isn't a fan of television, this song was a guaranteed hit once it was chosen as the theme for Dawson's Creek.

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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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