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Song Stories

“If I Die Young”

The Band Perry | 2010

This country-pop sibling trio made its debut with an uncommonly sad single. "We wanted to write a song about making the most of whatever time you're given — whether it's two years, 20 years or 200," eldest sister and singer Kimberly Perry said. But the song is more an elegy than it is a pep talk, with lyrics that confront death to an almost uncomfortable extreme. On it, Kimberly sings of a life that never knew love, lamenting, "Who would have thought forever could be severed/By the sharp knife of a short life" and "what I never did is done."

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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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