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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

“Vans”

The Pack | 2006

Berkeley, California rappers the Pack made their footwear choice clear in 2006 with the song "Vans." The track caught the attention of Too $hort, who signed them to his imprint. MTV refused to play the video for the song, though, claiming it was essentially a commercial for the product. Rapper Lil' B disagreed. "I didn’t know nobody [at] Vans," he said. "I was just a rapper who wore Vans." Even without MTV's support, Lil' B recognized the impact of the track. "God blessed me with such a revolutionary song… People around my age know who really started a lot of the dressing people are into now."

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