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Song Stories

“One of Us”

Joan Osborne | 1995

When Eric Bazilian's fiancée asked him how songs were written, the Hooters singer produced a 4-track demo of a guitar riff that had been in his head. When she asked for words, he came up with lyrics that wondered "What if God was one of us/Just a slob like one of us/Just a stranger on the bus." The next day, he took it to Joan Osborne, who adopted it for her in-progress album. "Some people are pissed off that I would sing a song that represents God as anything remotely human," she told Rolling Stone.

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

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