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Song Stories

“Umbrella”

Rihanna feat. Jay-Z | 2007

The digital release of “Umbrella” had the biggest debut in the history of iTunes, but it was almost Britney Spears who got to sing this worldwide Number One song, “ella-ella-ella” hook and all. With Spears’ career spiraling out of control at the time, songwriter and co-producer The-Dream said, “We thought, 'Let's save our friend.' ” But Spears' management brushed them off, and then second choice Mary J. Blige also passed on it, much to the unabashed delight of the Bahamian singer born Robyn Rihanna Fenty. “I'm so thankful for it,” she said. “I prayed for this song.”

Find out what Rihanna says would have been her backup career choice.
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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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