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Song Stories

“She Works Hard for the Money”

Donna Summer | 1983

While attending a Grammy party at the swank Chasen's restaurant in Hollywood, Summer entered the restroom, where she encountered a sleeping washroom attendant. When Summer asked why she was so tired, the woman, Onetta Johnson, told her she worked two jobs (the other as a waitress). "And my first thought was 'God, she works hard for her money, that lady," Summer said. She wrote that line down on a piece of toilet paper to remember, then got to work on the song at home 20 minutes later. The back cover of Summer's She Works Hard for the Money album features Johnson with Summer.

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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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