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This song is about people who set their goals so low that they never achieve anything. It is not about Seger personally. He told Creem magazine in a 1986 interview: "A lot of people think I wrote 'Beautiful Loser' about myself. I got the idea for that song from a book of Leonard Cohen poetry by the same name. The song was about underachievers in general. I very rarely write about myself that much. I draw on my own experiences like anyone else, but I'm not what you'd call auteuristic. I'm not like my songs at all. I'm a lot more up person than what I write."
Cohen's book that Seger refers to is called Beautiful Losers.
Seger took almost a year to write this. He played around with many different arrangements of this until he got it right. In a 1994 interview with Music Connection, he explained: "I've never written the lyrics and tried to build the music around that. It's usually a feel or a verse or a chorus, and the lyrics will come after I've decided that a certain pattern or groove or rhythm is cool. Then I'll start singing gibberish over that and just find a lyrical idea that fits the ideas that I started out with.
Other times I'll just sit down and say, 'I wanna write a song called this.' That's how 'Beautiful Loser' happened. I just loved the title, which I got from a book of poetry from Leonard Cohen called Beautiful Losers, with an 's,' and I thought it was a really cool title.
Actually, I wrote three or four songs called 'Beautiful Loser' until I came up with the one that worked. But that's a pretty rare thing."
Glenn Frey, a member of the Eagles and a friend of Seger's, was one of the first people Seger played this for. Frey loved it and helped Seger tweak it before it was released.
Radio stations usually play the live version of this together with "Traveling Man" off the 1976 Live Bullet album. The 2 songs are separate cuts on the CD, but flow together seamlessly.
A regional hit in Michigan, this song gained a much wider audience when it was included on Seger's breakout album, Live Bullet.
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