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From Bohemian Rhapsody to Born in the USA: The story behind your favorite songs

From Bohemian Rhapsody to Born in the USA: The story behind your favorite songs


Nothing beats hearing your favorite song on the radio. The first keynotes are recognizable enough for you to crank up the volume and transport you to the front row with VIP passes at the Rose Bowl. You know the lyrics by heart and if you don’t, that’s OK. You spit out your own verses. Regardless, listening to your favorite song picks up your mood, whether you’re feeling sour or just feeling bland. So, what made these favorites so great? There’s a story to every great song and you would be pleasantly surprised to discover that the musicians behind them had completely different interpretations during their conception.

1. Hey Jude- The Beatles

Did we need to say it? If you didn’t already know, the Beatles were a band that has unknowingly ruled the world, and all us peasants were glad they did so. Among their No.1 hits such as “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Love Me Do,” and “From Me to You,” none was more endearing than their single, “Hey Jude.” This emotional ballad is a soothing melody with an emotional backstory.

The Beatles Original Vinyl

Gothenburg, Sweden – March 2, 2014: The Beatles musical pop/rock band from England. Vinyl record covers and one black vinyl record with a green apple on the label. Originals from the sixties, old and well used (Getty Images/Martin Wahlborg)

When John Lennon announced his divorce with Cynthia Powell, the news hit hard for their young son Julian Lennon. “Hey Jude” was written by Paul McCartney who was fairly close to the Julian and thought the song could ease his sorrow, “I was on the way to see him after John and Cynthia got divorced, and because I was good friends with [Julian], it came into my mind: ‘Hey, Jules, don’t make it bad,’” said McCartney during an interview. The song became a hit.

2. It had a different title

Originally called “Hey Jules” McCartney changed the name to “Jude.” He heard the name in a musical called Carousel and he thought, “I think: ‘Jude is dead’ or something like that.” Though he changed the name, he did not realize at the time that Jude means ‘Jew’ in German. That caused a bit of confusion and stirred some pots; some took it as an anti-Semitic message.

John Lennon with his son and wife

10th December 1968: British musicians Eric Clapton, John Lennon (1940 – 1980) – with his wife, artist Yoko Ono and his son Julian – and Brian Jones (1942 – 1969) pictured at a press conference at Internal Studios in Stonebridge Park, Wembley, for the Rolling Stones’ Rock & Roll Circus project. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

As a promotion stunt, “Hey Jude” was painted on the glass window of a boutique and then had a brick thrown through it. Regardless of the confusion, the single spent 19 weeks on the ‘Hot 100,’ which was longer than any other Beatles song at the time. Billboard reported that even Lennon, who was always critical of McCartney’s songs, thought his ballad was a complete masterpiece. He should: after all, it was written for his son. It put McCartney on track to become one of the richest singers of all time.

3. Don’t Stop Believing – Journey

You hear it at every wedding, at every bar (both karaoke and pub), and occasionally at your favorite sport’s event. “Don’t Stop Believin’” has been an American classic since it’s debut in Journey’s seventh album, Escape, and it never really went away. It’s a song of encouragement, that pushes you to overcome all obstacles regardless of the challenge. Like all good record-shattering songs, the track has a heartwarming story.

Photo of Neal SCHON and Ross VALORY and JOURNEY and Steve SMITH and Gregg ROLIE and Steve PERRY

UNSPECIFIED – JANUARY 01: (AUSTRALIA OUT) Photo of Neal SCHON and Ross VALORY and JOURNEY and Steve SMITH and Gregg ROLIE and Steve PERRY; L-R (back): Steve Smith, Gregg Rolie, Ross Valory, (front): Neal Schon, Steve Perry – posed, group shot (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)

According to the Huffington Post, keyboardist Jonathan Cain tells the story of how the song came to be in his memoir, Don’t Stop Believin’: The Man, the Band and the Song That Inspired Generations, Cain dishes how he was just an aspiring musician in the 1970s and left his hometown in Chicago to chase after a dream, hoping to get his “big break.” Unfortunately, things didn’t go exactly to plan.

4. His father solidified his fate

After feeling like the world was against him, Cain called home after his dog was hit by a car. He phoned home and asked his father for a loan, “I was in Hollywood…I had called him for some money, for another loan. And I hated calling my dad for a loan. I said, ‘Dad, should I just give up on this thing and come home?” His father’s unexpected response would change the fate of karaoke nights everywhere forever.

Journey In New York

American rock group Journey, New York, June 1979. Left to right: guitarist Neal Schon, drummer Steve Smith, singer Steve Perry, bassist Ross Valory and keyboard player/singer Gregg Rolie. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

After holding his breath, his father responded, “No, no, don’t come home,” his father said. “Stick to your guns. Don’t stop believin’” Cain wrote the words down in his notebook, the same one where keeps all his song. After that serendipitous moment, he took his words to heart, every word. When joining Journey, Cain proposed the song and magic was conjured. “Don’t Stop Believin’”reached No. 9 on the Billboard singles charts, but it’s the song’s longevity and timelessness that earned it a place on this list.

5. Stairway to Heaven- Led Zepplin

What does rock and roll and Lord of the Rings have in common? That would be Led Zeppelin. What makes the band so unique is its use of Celtic imagery in its lyrics, medieval sound, and iconography. It’s totally Tolkienesque, especially if you listen to their song, “Ramble On,” which, according to the Washington Post, says the first lines are rough translations of the poem written in the Elvish language Quenya.

Early Led Zeppelin

Studio group portrait of Led Zeppelin, London, December 1968. Clockwise from left: John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page. It was the band’s first official photoshoot. (Photo by Dick Barnatt/Redferns)

Mythological and heavy with lore lyrics, its no surprise that their famous song, “Stairway to Heaven” would continue the middle age-sound. The song was written by Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, who he wrote the piece at Headley Grange in Europe. The inspiration behind the awesome track can be found in Italian composer Giovanni Battista Granata’s 16th-century sonata completes with guitar, violin, and strings.

6. A long legal battle

The song, however, did not become popular until long after its conception. When the song was first played in Belfast in 1971 and the audience was not impressed. They were bored of the eight-minute ballad and wanted to hear something they all knew, like “Whole Lotta Love.” Just when the band thought that maybe the jam was a dud, they played “Stairway to Heaven” at the L.A. Forum to a more receptive crowd.

Led Zeppelin File Photos

Led Zeppelin 1975 Jimmy Page Earls Court (Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage)

They received a standing ovation and the band was shocked to see that the song was well-received over-seas considering it was the first time they played it and the first time the crowd has ever heard it. In the end, however, not all was fine and dandy. The band was sued by the band Spirit for copyright infringement, claiming that their song sounded way too like their song “Taurus.” They are still in a legal battle to this day.

7. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction- The Rolling Stones

Tossing and turning on a bad, sleepless night, you just can’t get no satisfaction. At least, that’s what happened to Keith Richards. The No.2 song on the Rolling Stone The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list was conceived when Richards heard the beginning riff to (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction in a dream.

Rolling Stones Live

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – MAY 06: The Rolling Stones perform live on stage at the Forest National in Brussels, Belgium on May 06 1976 as part of their European tour L-R Ron Wood, Charlie Watts, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)

In an interview with the Rolling Stone, Richards had this to say about the song’s inception: “I woke up in the middle of the night. There was a cassette recorder next to the bed and an acoustic guitar. The next morning when I woke up, the tape had gone all the way to the end. So I ran it back, and there’s like thirty seconds of this riff —‘Da-da da-da-da, I can’t get no satisfaction’ — and the rest of the tape is me snoring!”

8. Chuck Berry might have inspired the guitarist

As Richards and Jagger recorded the song, Jagger felt that the song’s riff might have been inspired by a line from one of Chuck Berry’s songs. “I think he had this lyric,” Jagger said in an interview with Rolling Stone.“I can’t get no satisfaction, which actually, is a line in a Chuck Berry song called ’30 Days’…I can’t get no satisfaction from the judge…that was just one line, and then I wrote the rest of it. There was no melody really.”

Photo of ROLLING STONES and Charlie WATTS and Mick JAGGER and Keith RICHARDS and Bill WYMAN and Brian JONES

(Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)

When the song completed its recording, the band never thought the song would be an instant hit, but it was. Richards never anticipated that the song would have blown up so much, but the famous track set a new high watermark in the band’s career. They went from being mediocre to a band that shaped rock history. Now that’s satisfying.

9. That Smell- Lynyrd Skynyrd

The band’s last recorded album was the most chilling and serendipitous compilation of songs in the band’s musical career. If you don’t already know the story, there is quite a few urban myths surrounding the death of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s lead vocalist, guitarist, and bass player. Despite premonitions, second sight, and warnings from the universe, the band met its demise when their plane crashed while flying over a wooded area near Gillsburg, Mississippi.

Photo of Leon WILKESON and Ed KING and Gary ROSSINGTON and Billy POWELL and LYNYRD SKYNYRD and Ronnie VAN ZANT and Allen COLLINS

Photo of Leon WILKESON and Ed KING and Gary ROSSINGTON and Billy POWELL and LYNYRD SKYNYRD and Ronnie VAN ZANT and Allen COLLINS; L-R: Leon Wilkeson, Billy Powell, Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington, Bob Burns, Allen Collins, Ed King – posed, group shot (Photo by Gems/Redferns)

Tragedy happens, sure, but when it’s foretold in their own song? That’s just creepy. That Smell was written originally because of a bandmate’s substance abuse. A lot of the band members drank excessively, however, That Smell was written about the guitarist (aka Prince Charming) and was based on true events. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

10. The song foretold their deaths

Apparently, Prince Charming got into multiple car accidents, one of which, was said to have paralyzed him. He had a habit of mixing drugs and alcohol while playing with the band. Aside from the song’s purpose, the most infamous interpretation leads fans to believe that the band foresaw their own demise.

Members of Southern Rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd

Members of Southern Rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd (L-R Leon Wilkeson, Billy Powell, Gary Rossington, Ronnie Van Zant and Allen Collins) pose by their trailer backstage at an outdoor concert in October, 1976 in California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The last song they recorded was “That Smell” in their final album “Street Survivors,” (whose original album cover was complete with flames wrapped around the players in a hellion landscape eerily foreshadowing the plane crash that would claim some of their lives), had changed the interpretation entirely. It was even said that lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant had the second sight. Some of the band members even claim they had nightmares of the plane crashing the night before the incident. Spooky.

11. Dream On- Aerosmith

Before Aerosmith was an iconic band, the musicians weren’t doing so hot. Critically called rip-offs of the Rolling Stones, and poorly promoted, their first album had some pretty measly sales. But there was one song that made all the difference. In fact, it saved the band from being dropped from their record label entirely. Aerosmith’s “Dream On” was written and performed by vocalist Steve Tyler, who said got the inspiration for the song when he was teenager.

Aerosmith on "Midnight Special" June, 1974

(Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)

In his book, Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? Tyler explains that his father was a trained musician. As a boy, Tyler would lie under their piano as their father played, “That’s where I got that ‘Dream On’ cordage,” he wrote. Then, after completing the song, Tyler took the song to the piano. He didn’t exactly get the response he was looking for.

12. It wasn’t a big hit

The song was originally meant to be played on the piano, however, it wasn’t exactly a fan favorite. It wasn’t until two years after its release that it became a sensation and reached #6 in the country’s top hits. For Tyler, the song held a large amount of significance, “It’s about the hunger to be somebody: Dream until your dream come true…this song sums up the s—t you put up with when you’re in a new band.”

Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler

(Photo by Fryderyk Gabowicz/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Though the vocalist was thrilled to hear “Dream On” on the radio, other band members weren’t as excited about its success. Guitarist Joe Perry, at first, wasn’t too crazy about the power ballad,.“Back in those days, you made your mark playing live. And to me, rock n’ roll was all about energy and putting on a show.”

13. In the Air Tonight- Phil Collins

Everybody who’s everybody knows who Phil Collins is. If you haven’t, trust…you have. No song was more iconic than his first single “In the Air Tonight.” The song basically made Phil Collins and shot a spotlight in his direction that brazenly announced his arrival. Granted, he was playing with Genesis at the time, but, it doesn’t lessen the brilliance.

Phil Collins

British singer-songwriter Phil Collins, also drummer and vocalist for progressive rock group Genesis, Rome, Italy, 1986. (Photo by Luciano Viti/Getty Images)

There’s a tame backstory to how the song came about. Collins had confided that he wrote the song during his separation with his first wife, Andrea Bertorelli, in 1980. Their separation led the band to endure a year-long hiatus in 1979. Collins wrote, “I wrote the lyrics spontaneously. I’m not quite sure what the song is about, but there’s a lot of anger, a lot of despair and a lot of frustration.”

14. There may be a darker meaning

Though Collins had described the inspiration for the song as a message of grief and despair to reconcile with his wife, there are other rumors as to what the song is about. According to Smooth Radio, the song was supposedly about a drowning incident, one where Collins watched a man who had assaulted his wife drown before his eyes.

Phil Collins, Tina Turner And Mark Knopfler

Musicians (L-R) Phil Collins, Tina Turner and Mark Knopfler at an event to honor Princess Michael of Kent, England, July 8th 1986. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images)

Where did he drown?  It’s unclear. Another source suggests that Collins wrote the song about a man who watched another man drowned, or when he was a young boy, he saw someone drown. In either case, there seems to be a lot of drowning involved. Maybe it’s just a clever metaphor that represents Collin’s grief when he and his wife’were going through a divorce. Yes…no?

15. American Girl- Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers

Everyone was at a loss when legendary frontman, Tom Petty died at the age of 66 last year. He was loved for his songs such as “Free Fallin’,” “Won’t Back Down,” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” But none was more received than “American Girl.” Upbeat and catchy, the song has touched the hearts of Americans since its release and has remained as a fan-favorite ever since.

Rock star, Tom Petty arrived in Sydney, with his group The Heart Breakers.

Rock star, Tom Petty arrived in Sydney, with his group The Heart Breakers. April 24, 1980. (Photo by Antony Matheus Linsen/Fairfax Media via Getty Images).

So, what is the song about, or, more appropriately, who is the song about? Well, the mystery is a part of the equation. You see, when Petty wrote the song, he didn’t have a specific person in mind. Instead, he had everyone in mind. It could be anyone: you, a friend, a colleague, wife, or daughter. It just depends on how you see the story.

16. People were begging to know who the American Girl was

The song is meant to relate to those who are listening and apply it to their own lives so that they could see their own reflection while listening. Talk about vague. In fact, it was too vague. According to the Washington Post, people were desperate for clues about the song’s meaning. They wanted something.

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers Portrait

LOS ANGELES – JULY 15: Rock group Tom Petty (third from left) and the Heartbreakers pose for a portrait on July 15, 1976 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ed Caraeff/Getty Images)

So, what did the fans do? They made someone up. In the second verse of the song where the protagonist goes out to a balcony where she “could hear cars go by/ Out on 441” fans latched on to the lyrics like a bald eagle’s talons curled around a salmon. Fans figured it was Petty writing about a college suicide in his hometown, but the information, much less the facts, never really substantiated the claim.

17. When Doves Cry- Prince

Cue the screaming girls and the put on that royal purple trench coat, because we’re talking about Prince. Famous for his musical drama “Purple Rain,” the musician has captivated his fans with his quiet persona and one-of-a-kind music around the world. He stole the hearts of thousands when the film opened the doors and sneak a peek into his personal life along with his romantic relationships.

Prince Live At The Forum

INGLEWOOD – FEBRUARY 19: Prince performs live at the Fabulous Forum on February 19, 1985 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The album that followed was just as successful as the film, and “When Doves Cry,” was no exception. Though there is speculation to the song’s meaning, sources believe the song taps into his strained relationship with his parents and how it resulted in a strenuous relationship with his romantic interests. The song is an expression of fear of becoming like his parents, who were oppressive and suggests domestic abuse.

18. The dove is a symbol of hope

However, according to Bustle, the song may not all be doom and gloom, but about hope. In the song, crying doves seem to refer to what happens when two people who were once in love start to fight.” However, Bustle speculates that the sound of the mourning doves didn’t represent sadness, but hope. Beyond the crying doves, there is a message of “hope, renewal, and peace.”

Prince singing on stage in the 1980s

Prince – 1980S, Prince – 1980S (Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images)

It’s meant to convey to listeners that, even in tragedy, there is still a glimmer of hope. That there are better days waiting in their future. It’s also reported that the doves weren’t just symbolic. According to Entertainment Weekly, Prince is said to kept live doves in his home in Minnesota. To keep the peace, it’s nice to see a real vision of it. 

19. Hotel California- Eagles

Unless you’re The Dude from The Big Lebowski, then you’re most likely a fan of the Eagles; more specifically, their smash hit “Hotel California.” At least for some of us, “Hotel California” is a song you crank the volume up on high and scream out the lyrics as you drive down the street. It’s just how it goes. The song is a treasure, which is ironic considering the song is about the “excess in America.”

Photo of Glenn FREY and Joe WALSH and Don HENLEY and Don FELDER and EAGLES and Randy MEISNER

UNSPECIFIED – JANUARY 01: Photo of Glenn FREY and Joe WALSH and Don HENLEY and Don FELDER and EAGLES and Randy MEISNER; L-R: Don Felder, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Glenn Frey, Randy Meisner – posed, studio, group shot – Hotel California era (Photo by RB/Redferns)

According to ABC News, the lyrics behind the iconic song stood to signify the “hedonism and self-indulgence of America.” Guitarist Don Henley commented the song was about “the dark underbelly of the American dream and about the excess in America, which is something we knew about.” On top of it’s meaning, the song reportedly had a different name.

20. They viewed California culture differently

Born out of the Midwest, the band had no idea what to expect when coming out to star-studded L.A., “We were all middle-class kids from the Midwest,” Henley said. “Hotel California was our interpretation of the high life in L.A.” Who doesn’t think the same when visiting Tinsel Town? They were so consumed by culture shock that the band decided to change the name of the song.

Rock Band The Eagles in Desert Valley

(Photo by Henry Diltz/Corbis via Getty Images)

In 2003 it was noted that “Hotel California” was originally named “Mexican Reggae.” Thank goodness it was changed; however, we can see the Spanish influence in the song that may attribute to its original name. In the end, we’re all sure the imagery of “mirrors on the ceiling/the pink champagne on ice screamed California west coast than livid Mexican Reggae.”

21. Bohemian Rhapsody Queen

Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening! Who hasn’t heard Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody?” It is hard to miss. Over 40 years later, Queen’s six-minute song has been cherished and treasured since its release in 1975. So, what was it that made the bold and disjointed rock ballad that made Queen’s famous hit so popular? Freddie Mercury was the sole writer of the song and has reportedly been writing it since 1968 while studying at London’s Ealing Art College.

Photo of Freddie MERCURY and QUEEN

UNITED KINGDOM – AUGUST 09: KNEBWORTH Photo of Freddie MERCURY and QUEEN, Freddie Mercury performing live on stage. Roger Taylor is in the background. (Photo by Suzie Gibbons/Redferns)

Mental Floss reports his creation of the opening line “Mama, just killed a man” was born during his college days, though there weren’t any lyrics. He referred to his work in progress as “The Cowboy Song” because of a supposed “Old West” feel. Once Queen was established, Mercury went all-out. When the song was completed, his music producer was floored.

22. It was a red-letter day

Mercury had Bohemian Rhapsody written and ready to go, all he needed to do was record. In total, the band spent three weeks perfecting the song, all under a single microphone. One week was specifically dedicated to the operatic section. Only Mercury knew how the song would pan out, everyone else? Left in the dark until the band’s producer Roy Thomas Baker listened to the entire song.

Queen concert At Wembley Stadium

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – JULY 11: Freddie Mercury at the Queen concert at Wembley stadium during the Magic tour on July 11, 1986 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images) 170612F1

He quotes on BBC America, “Nobody really knew how it was going to sound as a whole six-minute song until it was put together…Something told me that this was a red-letter day, and it really was.” The song was a hit and actually enjoyed a second surge in popularity after its appearance in the Mike Meyers movie, Wayne’s World.

23. Pet Semetary- The Ramones

The Ramones have made their mark in Rock n’ Roll history, there is no doubt about that. With hits such as “I Want to be Sedated,” and “Blitzkrieg Pop,” the story behind “Pet Sematary” will surely send shivers down your spine. A homage to Stephen King’s best-seller, the song was created after long time fan, Stephen King invited the leather-clad rock stars to his Maine.

Photo of Ramones

UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1970: Photo of Ramones Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Afterwards, the band met up with the king of literary horror and bada-bing, bada-boom, “Pet Sematary” was born. There’s just one blip: The story about its creation differs on both King and Marky Ramone’s side of the story. You’ll never believe the tall tales the two confessed. They opened for Cheap Trick and played in one of the arenas in Bangor.

24. “Pet Sematary” wasn’t created from Steven King’s basement

There are two sides to the conception of “Pet Semetary.” In Marky Ramone’s memoir, Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life as a Ramone, Ramones writes about the day he and the band visited Stephen’s home in Maine. “He served us a big dinner in the basement,” Marky wrote. “But the real treat was the memorabilia, mostly from sci-fi and horror movies.”

Bill Adler Marky Ramone And Debbie Harry

(MANDATORY CREDIT Ebet Roberts/Redferns) Def Jam Publicist Bill Adler, Marky Ramone of the Ramones and Debbie Harry of Blondie at a Rainforest Alliance recording session at RCA Studio in New York City on April 2, 1989. (Bill Adler on left) (Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns)

It was noted by Ramones that King gifted band member Dee Dee a copy of “Pet Semetary” and inspired the band to create the song. However, King has a different story. He claims that they never went to his house. Instead, they all convened at a fancy restaurant where the black leather-clad stars showed up a little worse for wear. King might have mentioned his novel and perhaps a song but doesn’t recall anything else. At the end of the day, when the memoir was pushed for publication, King stayed silent. He preferred the legend over the truth and thought it should stay that way.

25. Billie Jean- Michael Jackson

The King of Pop lives on in his music. A success since his days with the Jackson Five, Michael Jackson is a worldwide celebrity, celebrated for his music and message for peace. He’s a name you cannot ignore or forget, and no song was as unforgettable as “Billie Jean.” That song is a for sure head bobber, and our mother’s absolute favorite right next to “Bad” and “Thriller.”

Michael Jackson - File Photos By Kevin Mazur

VARIOUS, VARIOUS – JUNE 25: Michael Jackson performs in concert circa 1986. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

The moon walking sensation was inspired to write the song out of a scandal, one that pushed him further into solidarity. Sources claim that Jackson wrote the song to directly respond to a woman, a fan, who claims that she and Jackson had a child together. Though he rarely spoke about the woman, he felt the song was the best way to reach her. The consequences hit hard for Michael.

26. He wanted to set the record straight

The woman in question accused Jackson that he was the father to one of her twins, which raises brow over her accusations. To think twins could have two different fathers? Who knew! So, to combat against the allegations, Michael wrote the song to set the record straight and became one of the biggest musicals disses in musical history.

Michael Jackson performs in concert circa 1995

Michael Jackson performs in concert circa 1995. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

At first, Jackson wanted to call the song “Not My Lover,” but felt the title would confuse his audience with tennis start Billie Jean King. What’s even better? He felt that the song would be an instant hit, “I knew it was going to be big while I was writing it,” Michael said in his memoir. “I was really absorbed into the song.” History in the making.

27. Ball and Chain- Janis Joplin

How can we not put Janis Joplin on this list? The woman was a formidable musician who’s throaty and gravely voice will forever shake the banisters of our hearts. A powerful blue singer, she made you feel hurt, love, and redemption in her music. None was more moving and jaw-dropping than her performance while singing “Ball and Chain.”

American singer and songwriter Janis Joplin

American singer and songwriter Janis Joplin (1943 – 1970) in concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London, 21st April 1969. (Photo by Estate Of Keith Morris/Redferns/Getty Images)

Originally sung by Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, the song was written about shackled inmates whose heavy weight is to keep them from escaping, but Joplin’s interpretation of the song and performance solidified her reputation as an iconic singer. She sang the bluesy cover at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and twisted the meaning into one of love, pain, and heartbreak.

28. She wanted to transcend the song

According to, the performer went into a musical rapture, adding lines into the song such as “Love is such a pain, love is such a pain,” and sold the idea that love was nothing more than a vice grip and a heavy burden. Joplin later explained that she wanted to communicate a higher level of emotion, that she wanted to “transcend” the song. Hell, it worked.

Janis Joplin Performing in Concert

Janis Joplin and her final group, the Full Tilt Boogie Band, perform at the Festival for Peace at Shea Stadium.

If you happen to watch her performance, you’ll notice how the crowd quiets and is in complete awe abiding silence as she punches the stadium with her voice. Unfortunately, the young singer wouldn’t make it to thirty and continue to make more stunning performances. She died at the age of twenty-seven leaving behind her music and her legacy.

29. Born in the USA-Bruce Springsteen

A lot of people confuse Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” as the most patriotic song made in America; truth is…. it’s the very opposite. If anyone bothered to listen closely to the lyrics, they would find a social commentary on soldiers who were forced to fight in the Vietnam war and returned to a post-war era of struggle and shame.

Bruce Springsteen Portrait Session 1984

LOS ANGELES – DECEMBER 1984: Rock and roll legend Bruce Springsteen poses for a portrait in December 1984 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty Images)

It’s a commentary on the broken American system, how the government sees its citizens as, quoted by the Daily Beast, “disposable cogs in a war machine.” However, it’s clear that politicians didn’t exactly get the message. Republican columnist Bernie Goldberg praised Springsteen on his American revival and was a perfect example of how, if Americans worked hard enough, “like Springsteen himself,” they could push for the American dream again.

30. He wanted to write American music

In a 2005 NPR interview, Springsteen commented on his choice in creating “Born in the USA.” Springsteen quotes, “I make American Music, and I write about the place I live and who I am in my lifetime. Those are the things I’m going to struggle for and fight for.” The song sat at number two on the Billboard charts upon its release, and since has caused confusion to political leaders, including Ronald Reagan.

Photo of Bruce SPRINGSTEEN and Clarence CLEMONS

(Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns)

He stated that it was songs like Bruce Springsteen’s hit that helps Americans realize the American dream and that it “…make those dreams come true.” Regardless, whether you interpret the song as patriotic or unpatriotic, the song is an honest commentary during a political clench that encompasses, not just America’s glory, but it’s darker side as well.