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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

“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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