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Music critic tracks down the untold stories behind your favorite songs of the '70s

Chris Isaak
CC BY 2.0
Daryl Hall (back) and John Oates (front) in concert at the O2 Arena, October 28, 2017

Marc Myers' book "Anatomy of 55 More Songs: The Oral History of Top Hits That Changed Rock, Pop, Soul" reveals why it was the 21st of September for Earth, Wind and Fire's hit song and who inspired the heartbreak behind "She's Gone" by Hall & Oates.

Whether you've been at a wedding, party, waiting in line at a grocery store, or flipping through the radio, you've heard these timeless tunes.

Music journalist Marc Myers is following up his 2017 book "Anatomy of a Song" with the new release, "Anatomy of 55 More Songs: The Oral History of Top Hits That Changed Rock, Pop and Soul." The book covers how dozens of famous songs were conceived, written, and recorded.

Here are some of the songs Myers spoke about to Up To Date's Steve Kraske:

  • September” by Earth, Wind and Fire (1978): After talking with Marilyn White, Maurice White's widow, Myers found out September 21 was the day their son Kahbran was supposed to be born.
  • Doctor, My Eyes” by Jackson Browne (1972): There's been some rumors over the years about whether Browne actually had an eye problem. Myers talked to Browne and found the musician's eyes did actually become infected in 1969 due to all the dust in his Echo Park basement apartment — an experience that Browne turned into a metaphor for lost innocence.
  • Sundown” by Gordon Lightfoot (1974): Lightfoot was living with Kathy Smith in their home in Aurora, Ontario, when Smith realized she was bored and wanted to hit the town for drinks with friends. This left Lightfoot feeling mellow and jealous as he watched the sunset outside his home.
  • I’m Not in Love” by 10CC (1975): Despite only having three members in the band, the English rock band was able to record their voices on long strips of tapes and loop it together for a choir-like sound. But the mysterious whisper of "Big boys don't cry, be quiet"? That came from their studio receptionist.
  • Nobody Does It Better” by Carly Simon (1977): The first James Bond theme song written from a woman's perspective — and rating Bond on his performance as a lover.
  • Accidents Will Happen” by Elvis Costello (1979): A song about a man's infidelities, the writing shifts from first person to third person. Myers learned that Costello wanted to pull himself out of the equation, for a journalistic look at someone else who did something "stupid."
  • She’s Gone” by Hall & Oates (1973): Inspired by Oates being stood up by a girl on New Years Eve, this song originally bombed when it came out. Three years after Hall & Oates left Atlantic Records, their old label reissued "She's Gone" and it went to No. 7 on the charts.
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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
As an assistant producer on Up To Date, my goal is to amplify voices of people who serve as pioneers in their respective fields while shedding light on issues that affect underserved communities. I produce daily conversations to uplift and inspire the people of the Kansas City area to make the world a better place. You can reach me at reginalddavid@kcur.org.
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