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Song Stories

“Nowhere to Run”

Martha and the Vandellas | 1965

Martha Reeves was a secretary for Motown A&R guy Mickey Stevenson who stepped in when Mary Wells didn’t show for a session. Fast forward a few years and several upbeat Motown classics, and “Nowhere to Run” is another Top 10 hit for the office worker turned soul diva. Although the song is about a bad love affair, its musical inspiration came from the mean streets of Detroit. According to song co-composer Lamont Dozier, "I was sitting at the piano one day playing this groove, and it came out sounding kind of military because I was looking out my window and there were tanks coming down the street.”

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Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

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