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Song Stories

“Maybellene”

Chuck Berry | 1955

Chuck Berry cooked up the hipster-lingo inventions (“As I was motorvatin' over the hill . . .”), but its groove comes from “Ida Red,” a 1938 recording by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. By 1955, Berry had been playing country tunes for black audiences for a few years — “After they laughed at me a few times, they began requesting the hillbilly stuff,” he said. Producer Leonard Chess came up with the title, inspired by a discarded Maybelline mascara box. DJ Alan Freed, co-credited as a songwriter, had nothing to do with writing “Maybellene,” although he got royalties for years in return for radio airplay.

Find out Chuck Berry’s response to a legal dispute about the authorship of his songs.
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Song Stories

“Vicious”

Lou Reed | 1972

Opening Lou Reed's 1972 solo album, the hard-riffing "Vicious" actually traces its origin back to Reed's days with the Velvet Underground. Picking up bits and pieces of songs from the people and places around him, and filing his notes for later use, Reed said it was Andy Warhol who provided fuel for the song. "He said, 'Why don't you write a song called 'Vicious,'" Reed told Rolling Stone in 1989. "And I said, 'What kind of vicious?' 'Oh, you know, vicious like I hit you with a flower.' And I wrote it down literally."

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