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Song Stories

“The Great Pretender”

The Platters | 1955

Heirs to the smooth crooning style of the Ink Spots and the Mills Brothers, the Platters were kings of the 1950s ballad. Tony Williams had tonsillitis when he sang the lead vocal to this smash, bringing additional rawness to his delivery of the forlorn lyric. After battling Dean Martin's "Memories Are Made of This" and Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Sixteen Tons" up the pop charts, "Pretender" becoming the first single by an R&B group to hit Number One. And unlike so many of the popular singing groups of that time, this one featured a woman, Zola Taylor, in the vocal mix. The song had a comeback in 1987 when Freddie Mercury released a solo album with this song as the lead and title track.

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

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