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Song Stories

“The Letter”

The Box Tops | 1967

On the first run-through, 16-year-old Box Tops frontman Alex Chilton sang this soon-to-be Number One hit "really softly," he later recalled. "The producer came out and said, 'No, man, you gotta sing it hard. Don't be afraid of the microphone.'" Producer Dan Penn then demonstrated, belting out the song, and Chilton followed suit, nailing it. Penn remembers the session differently: "Everybody thinks I coaxed Alex into doing a lot of vocal tricks, but it's not true -- he just had it. The only thing I ever told that young man to do was sing 'aeroplane' instead of 'airplane.' I was just tryin' to make it flow better."

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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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