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Song Stories

“Star Spangled Banner”

Jimi Hendrix | 1969

The U.S. national anthem is familiar to most people as a patriotic tune played by military bands, or sung reverently in an operatic style. At Woodstock, Jimi Hendrix reinvented it from top to bottom as a showcase for what could be done with extreme, high-volume electric guitar distortion, his riffs often interpreted as mimicking weapons explosions and bombs dropping from the sky. Asked by Dick Cavett on national television shortly after the festival about whether the version was blasphemous, Hendrix simply stated, "I thought it was beautiful."

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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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