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Song Stories

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”

Gil Scott-Heron | 1971

The R&B poet's socially aware signature song pitted the cultural awakening of the Civil Rights era against American consumerism. "The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner," Scott Heron rapped, laying groundwork for the hip-hop emcees who would, in the words of Chuck D, "do what we do and how we do" because of him. First released in 1970 as a spare spoken word piece, the late Scott Heron’s best-known song was reworked as a rhythmic jazz tune featuring musical partner Brian Jackson’s butterfly-like flute. The song was not overtly militant, Scott Heron sometimes argued: "My songs were always about the tone of voice rather than the words," he once said.

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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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