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Song Stories

“White Winter Hymnal”

Fleet Foxes | 2008

Fleet Foxes songwriter Robin Pecknold revealed to Rolling Stone that his songs are "written from personal experience,” including “Hymnal,” which was about a time when his friends ditched him in middle school. The lyrics might have been about childhood past, but the melody came from a familiar source — namely, Walt Disney. “The idea was a song like “Whistle While You Work,” from Snow White, you know?” Pecknold said. “So it started with that very beginning thing, the first kind of like, melody. And then once the verse was done, it just seemed like it lent itself to the repetition, you know?”

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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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