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Song Stories

“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”

The Band | 1969

One of the of the songs most identified with the Band even though it was never a big hit for them (Joan Baez took it to Number Three two years later), “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” appeared on The Band and as the B side of the “Up on Cripple Creek” single. This ode to a South deeply scarred by the Civil War was written by Canadian Robbie Robertson when the group was living up in Woodstock, New York, although Arkansas native Levon Helm sings lead on it. “I remember taking [Robertson] to the library so he could research the history and geography,” Helm told Rolling Stone.

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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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