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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

“You Oughta Know”

Alanis Morissette | 1995

This blunt, bitter breakup song -- famous for its line "Would she go down on you in a theater?" -- was long rumored to be about Alanis Morissette getting dumped by Full House actor Dave Coulier. But while she never confirmed it was about him (Coulier himself says it is, however), she insisted the song wasn't all about scorn. "By no means is this record just a sexual, angry record," she told Rolling Stone. "The song wasn't written for the sake of revenge. It was written for the sake of release. I'm actually a pretty rational, calm person."

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