"Great Gig in the Sky" is one of the few Pink Floyd songs to use a female vocal. The band wanted a girl who could sing like she was having an orgasm. Their engineer, Alan Parsons, brought in a singer he knew named Clare Torry who provided the hauntingly beautiful improvised vocal on the song. Thirty years later, she would sue Pink Floyd over rights to the song.
U2's "Angel of Harlem" was written about Billie Holiday, a Jazz singer who moved to Harlem as a teenager in 1928. She had a difficult childhood which affected her life and career, but she went on to play a variety of nightclubs and became famous for her spectacular voice and ability to move her audience to tears. Her final years, however, were tragic. She became addicted to heroine, was swindled out of her earnings, and died of cirrhosis of the liver at age 44 with only $0.70 in the bank. She was arrested on her deathbed, in 1959, as narcotic addiction at that time was considered a crime, not an illness.
Bessie Smith, the greatest of all blues singers, is known as the "Empress of the Blues". A protégé of an earlier blues singer named Ma Rainey, Bessie recorded during the 1920s. Her flair and dramatic style would set the stage for many artists to come, including other transitional favorites from the 1950's, such as Etta James and Dinah Washington. Bessie Smith died at the young age of forty-three in a tragic automobile accident.
"All I Wanna Do" is adapted from the poem "Fun" by Wyn Cooper. Sheryl Crow had written music for the song but was unhappy with her original lyrics. Her producer bought her ten random books of poetry, and Crow adapted "Fun" to accompany the music. Cooper is listed as a co-writer and receives royalties from the song.