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Song Stories

“Just Out of Reach”

Solomon Burke | 1961

Although Solomon Burke is regarded as a soul legend, his early-1960s hit "Just Out of Reach" was a plaintive country lament, his frustrated longing heightened by melodramatic female backup singers and a brief spoken section. The song came to the attention of Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler through Billboard magazine editor Paul Ackerman, who'd also recommended Atlantic sign Burke. "I gave [Burke] that song, 'Just Out of Reach,' at the first session," said Wexler. "So Paul Ackerman was responsible for our getting both Solomon Burke and the song that made him."

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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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