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Song Stories

“O-o-h Child”

The Five Stairsteps | 1970

A family act from Chicago’s South Side who were signed to Curtis Mayfield’s Windy C label, the Burkes started as four brothers and a sister ranging in age from 13 through 17 and helped inspire the formation of another Midwestern family group — the Jackson 5. Soaring on inspirational tones and the promise of a brighter day under the sun, “O-o-h Child” would be the Five Stairsteps' only Top 10 hit. Al Kooper has called it “one of [his] favorite singles.” More than 20 years after its original recording, “Ooh Child” was used memorably in Spike Lee’s film Crooklyn as well as in John Singleton’s Boyz N the Hood. Tupac’s “Keep Ya Head Up” incorporated the melody into its mix.

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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