How Hit Rock, R&B, and Pop Songs Get Made

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In this July 13, 1985 file photo, singer Robert Plant, left, and guitarist Jimmy Page of the British rock band Led Zeppelin perform at the Live Aid concert at Philadelphia's J.F.K. Stadium.
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A few years ago, writer and music historian Marc Myers started a column for the Wall Street Journal, crafting an oral history of how hit songs from the last five decades were created. He went straight to the source, interviewing legendary artists like The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger on how homesickness from constant touring in 1970 inspired him to write "Moonlight Mile." And how Cyndi Lauper painted her emotions about a troubled relationship in "Time After Time."

Myers compiled a few dozen of these tales in a new book, "Anatomy of a Song: The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hits That Changed Rock, R&B and Pop." He talks about the stories behind influential songs like Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man," Gladys Knight & the Pips' "Midnight Train to Georgia," Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," The Clash's "London Calling," and Blondie's "Heart of Glass."