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Song Stories

“Tunic (Song for Karen)”

Sonic Youth | 1990

"Tunic (Song for Karen)" was Sonic Youth's tribute to and elegy for Karen Carpenter, who died from complications related to anorexia. Kim Gordon sang on the track, which described the Carpenters lead singer as saying goodbye to Hollywood, and hello to other dead rock stars like Elvis and Janis Joplin. Thurston Moore wasn't a fan of the Carpenters, but he was intrigued by the subject matter. "Oh, it was crap music," he said, "but was also extremely interesting … They were white bread, middle-class people, and Karen was somebody who was supposed to be perfect. It was a heavy slice of Americana, like the Walton family."

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Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

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