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Song Stories

“Lonely Teardrops”

Jackie Wilson | 1958

If Jackie Wilson had known how prophetic the lyrics to "Lonely Teardrops" would be, he may have decided to pass on the song altogether. Co-written by Berry Gordy, who would later start the Motown record label, this song became Wilson's first Number One R&B single. But in an odd twist of fate, Wilson was singing this song at a casino in 1975, and right after he sang the lines "My heart is crying," the singer collapsed on stage from a heart attack and fell into a coma, which persisted until he passed away nine years later.

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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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