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Song Stories

“Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”

Beyonce | 2008

Drawing from her then-secret marriage to Jay-Z, Beyonce’s megahit celebrates female empowerment by calling out men’s unwillingness to commit to relationships. But it was her simple yet stylized black-and-white video that really made a splash, when her choreographed moves sparked the first ubiquitous dance craze of the internet age, which kicked off when a high-heeled, leotard-wearing Justin Timberlake spoofed the song on Saturday Night Live. A global phenomenon was born, as countless parodies popped up on YouTube. Beyonce has said the inspiration for the routine was Bob Fosse’s 1969 performance of “Mexican Breakfast” on The Ed Sullivan Show. As she herself put it, it is “the most iconic” song and video of her career thus far.

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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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