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Song Stories

“Tutti-Frutti”

Little Richard | 1955

“I wrote ‘Tutti Frutti’ in the kitchen,” said Little Richard of the bus station in his native Macon, Georgia,where he worked as a dishwasher. One day, the dishes piled up so high he thought he’d never get out of there alive for all the pots and pans; that’s when frustration rubbed up against gospel inspiration and out popped, “Womp-bomp-a-loo-momp a-lop-bomp-bomp.” It was the sound of what he was going to happen if he had to wash one more pan.

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

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