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Song of the Day for September 30: James Dean by the Eagles

James Dean was a star when he died in a car crash on September 30, 1955. He then became a superstar.

Dean was 24 when his Porsche, nicknamed the “Little Bastard,” crashed in Cholame, California. His passenger and the driver of the other car survived.

His first movie, “East of Eden,” was already a hit. “Rebel Without a Cause” and “Giant” came out after he died. He was the first person nominated posthumously for Oscars for both “East of Eden” and “Giant.”

The Song of the Day, “James Dean,” ended up on the Eagles’ third album, “On the Border,” in 1974. Jackson Browne, J.D. Souther, Don Henley, and Glenn Frey wrote it. The Eagles originally were going to use it on an album about anti-heroes, but the idea never came together. The song’s lyrics painted Dean as somebody who lived fast and died young, but speed didn’t kill Dean.

It’s true Dean loved racing cars and was on his way to a race in northern California when he died. But witnesses said he wasn’t speeding when another driver struck his car at an intersection. The glare of the setting sun made it difficult to see Dean’s car.

"Little Bastard," Dean’s Porsche, lived on in macabre ways. The car rolled off the back of a truck and crushed a mechanic’s legs. The engine, transmission, and tires were placed into cars that later were involved in deadly crashes. A truck carrying the Porsche’s chassis skidded off the road, killing its driver. And the passenger who survived Dean’s crash had survivor’s guilt. He tried to kill himself twice in the 1960s. He stabbed his wife 14 times in an attempted murder-suicide. He finally died in a drunken driving accident in 1981.