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Song Stories

“Planet Rock”

Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force | 1982

One of the more unlikely pop-song fusions to ever to hit the charts, “Planet Rock” brings the Bronx-based hip-hop of Afrika Bambaataa and his funky crew together with the futuristic synthesizer sounds of Kraftwerk. A DJ who often spun the German electronic band during his sets, Bambaataa asked keyboardist John Robie if he could play like Kraftwerk. Robie said, “I’ll tear that s--- up.” Jazz pianist Jason Moran recorded a version of this song in 2002 and often performs it live.

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Song Stories

“Nightshift”

The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

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