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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

“Vicious”

Lou Reed | 1972

Opening Lou Reed's 1972 solo album, the hard-riffing "Vicious" actually traces its origin back to Reed's days with the Velvet Underground. Picking up bits and pieces of songs from the people and places around him, and filing his notes for later use, Reed said it was Andy Warhol who provided fuel for the song. "He said, 'Why don't you write a song called 'Vicious,'" Reed told Rolling Stone in 1989. "And I said, 'What kind of vicious?' 'Oh, you know, vicious like I hit you with a flower.' And I wrote it down literally."

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