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Song Stories

“I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free”

Nina Simone | 1967

Co-written by Billy Taylor and originally recorded by the jazz piano legend, this civil rights anthem was redone many times over, but none as famously as by Simone, who released it on her Silk & Soul album. Freedom was a value dear to the singer; she explored the theme time and again in her own compositions and reflected it in those she recorded. "I'll tell you what freedom is to me," she said. "No fear. It is something really, really to feel -- like a new way of seeing something."

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

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