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Eye-Opening Stories behind Four Iconic ‘70s Songs

Sarasota Orchestra presents these memorable tunes and more at its Outdoor Pops concert.

Presented by Sarasota Orchestra April 21, 2022

On May 6 and 7 at 8:00 p.m., Sarasota Orchestra will team up with the Nashville-based duo Swearingen & Kelli to rock the house at the Orioles’ Ed Smith Stadium for the Orchestra’s annual Outdoor Pops concert. This year, the concert experience features chart-topping tracks from the era when "catch you on the flip side" referred to vinyl records. Behind each tune is at least one incredible story that illuminates more of what makes these ‘70s songs truly iconic. Here are just four fascinating glimpses into those stories: 

Don McLean

Image: David Abbott

1.)  It’s well-known that “American Pie” is about the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. Richardson, Jr., a.k.a “The Big Bopper.” But you might not know that Don McLean was a 13-year-old paperboy in New Rochelle, NY when he learned about “the day the music died’ as he cut into his stack of papers. It was 13 years later in 1972 that McLean rolled out his #1 hit with the opening lyric: “A long, long time ago…” 

“Take It Easy” songwriting partners Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey.

2.) Jackson Browne first penned “Take It Easy,” but he didn’t know how to finish it. His upstairs neighbor at the time, Glenn Frey of the Eagles, collaborated with Browne on the song. It was Frey who came up with the second verse’s cinematic line: "It's a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowing down to take a look at me." Browne turned the song over to Frey, who recorded it with the Eagles – the first single on the Eagles’ first album. Browne and Frey shared writing credits for the song.

Yusuf Islam, photographed when he was known as Cat Stevens.

3.) “Wild World” by Yusuf Islam, the songwriter formerly known as Cat Stevens, is about the artist’s search for peace and happiness in a crazy world. He wrote the song (his first major hit in America) while recovering from tuberculosis, a disease complicated by smoking and fast living. The near-death experience led him to re-examine his life.

Carole King in the recording studio for the Tapestry sessions.

Image: Jim McCrary

4.) Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move” was the first track on her first successful album, Tapestry, which spent nearly six years on album charts. The record’s producers decided to cut King’s original ending to the song, in which she musically suggested an earthquake on the piano with rapidly cascading clusters of notes tumbling to the bottom of the keyboard. In a shocking coincidence, Tapestry was released in 1971 one day after a historic earthquake rocked Los Angeles.

Hear these tunes and a host of other songs whose sound and stories defined an era at Sarasota Orchestra’s Outdoor Pops concert, Iconic Songs of the ‘70s, at Ed Smith Stadium on May 6 and 7, 8:00 p.m. To learn more and purchase tickets, visit Sarasota Orchestra’s website or call the Ed Smith Stadium box office at 941-893-6312.