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Song Stories

“Race With the Devil”

Gene Vincent | 1956

With sung-mumbled lyrics about a drag race with Satan alongside lightning rockabilly guitar licks and bent notes from Cliff Gallup, Gene Vincent's "Race with the Devil" was chosen as the follow-up single to his smash "Be-Bop-A-Lula," but it barely charted. Producer Ken Nelson arranged to have Nashville session musicians on hand if Vincent's band couldn't play well. But as Vincent's manager Sheriff Davis (credited with Gene as co-writer of the song) remembered, "When they heard Cliff go off on all those runs, they turned to each other and went, 'Whaaat! Whaaat!'"

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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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