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Song Stories

“Upside Down”

Diana Ross | 1980

After an absence of almost five years from the Top Ten, Diana Ross reasserted her superstardom with a vengeance on the chart-topping "Upside Down," whose irregular thumping rhythms and lusty vocals bridged funk and disco. The track was written and produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of Chic, though Ross had the album from which it came remixed to make her vocals more prominent. "I was furious and got on the phone right away and called Motown," Rodgers said. "Then I had to say, 'Hey! I know where they're coming from. I understand what they're doing.'"

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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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