Famous songs about every state
Famous songs about every state
Every state has an ode in song. California’s sandy beaches and green valleys have inspired tracks by Tupac Shakur, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beach Boys, and Johnny Cash. "Empire State of Mind" and "Welcome to New York" are only two of the recent additions to the peck of songs celebrating New York's Big Apple. Country tunes abound with Texas pride.
But all states have songs written about them, and every state has an official state song—except for New Jersey, perhaps because it would force the state to decide between native sons Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi.
In this list, Stacker highlights one famous song about every state. The tracks span all genres, topics, and decades. But they all have one thing in common: celebrating their respective state.
Read on for an interesting list of famous songs written about each state. Though you’ll find plenty of old favorites on this list, you might be surprised by the artists behind songs about Kansas, Washington, and a few others.
You may also like: 30 celebrities you might not know are LGBTQ
Though this classic Southern rock jam is an ode to Alabama, it was actually written by a band from Jacksonville, Florida. Still, that fact doesn’t stop Alabamians from screaming the words at college football games and dive bars every time it comes on.
This Bee Gees song actually mentions several states—Nebraska, Oklahoma, Ohio and Alaska—but focuses on the “road to Alaska” metaphor. The image of Alaska as a faraway, lonely place certainly comes through the song.
The small city of Winslow, Arizona got its moment in the spotlight when the Eagles recorded this hit track in 1972. Any woman in town with a flatbed Ford probably has a special affinity for the classic rock song.
Bruce Springsteen’s narrator croons this folk song to his lover Mary, who is pregnant out of wedlock. By the end of the verse, he’s got a plan to run away together to Mexico—far, far from their home in Arkansas.
The pop star’s jam paints the Golden State in technicolor, with lines like “sun-kissed skin / bikinis on top.” While California isn’t all sandy beaches and tropical palm trees, residents still love singing along to the “West coast represent” sentiment.
You may also like: 71 years of Emmy history
John Denver’s song about a young man finding himself in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains paints an idyllic picture of the wilderness. You can almost see the majestic firs, craigy peaks, trickling streams and silver clouds.
Garland rates Connecticut above Paris, Naples, Montana, and Capri in this love song to the state. She sings wistfully about its quaint villages, green hills, and peaceful lakes in this homesick tune.
It’s all about wordplay in this Perry Como song from 1959. He turns Delaware into a pun on “what did Dell wear,” California into “why did Cali phone ya?” and Minnesota into “she sipped a Minne-soda.”
Jimmy Buffett has become synonymous with beers on the beach, lazing in a lawn chair, and throwing a few back in Margaritaville—the “Floridays” lifestyle, in other words. Even the relaxed melody of this song emphasizes the state’s low-key frame of mind.
“Devil Went Down to Georgia” might be one of the all-time country classics, thanks to the impressive fiddling, rapid-fire wordplay, and toe-tapping melody. The image of the devil crouched on a hickory stump, playing the fiddle so fast that fire shoots out his fingertips is hard to get out of in your mind.
You may also like: Can you answer these real 'Jeopardy!' questions about movies?
A stereotypical Hawaiian vacation of walking barefoot on the beach, learning to surf, and swimming in the ocean comes to life in this ABBA song. The sound of waves crashing in the background only makes the beach vibes stronger.
The state of Idaho doesn’t get a favorable treatment in this 1980 dance rock track. The idea of “living in your own private Idaho / underground like a wild potato” doesn’t exactly sound appealing, after all.
Though this Sufjan Stevens song never mentions the state by name, it comes from his "Illinois" album and gets its name from Casimir Pulaski Day, a local Chicago holiday honoring a Revolutionary War cavalry officer born in Poland. The beautifully melancholy lyrics recall first love, loss, and growing up.
McLaughlin explains his love for Indiana by all the things it’s not: near the ocean, near the mountains, near the city. He finds beauty in what most residents—particularly anxious teenagers—might see as reasons to get out of town.
Meredith Willson's musical "The Music Man" was famously inspired by his childhood in Iowa. The catchy show tune pokes fun at Iowans and their "chip-on-the-shoulder attitude." As a native, Wilson's permitted to make these declarations and ultimately concludes the song in favor of Iowa, encouraging the main character to "give Iowa a try!"
You may also like: 50 movies that offer comfort in trying times
This isn’t the Kansas that Dorothy pined for in the Wizard of Oz, that’s for sure. Tech N9ne’s party anthem proudly proclaims that “Kansas girls go crazy,” making it popular among young Kansans.
Diamond’s ode to Kentucky is actually a tribute to the strong woman he fell in love with from that state. Lines like “Kentucky woman / She shines with her own kind of light” makes it a classic love song.
Any native son or daughter coming home to Louisiana after a long absence will resonate with this song. As Strait croons in this ballad, “true love waits down Louisiana way.”
This 2014 track of McGraw’s "Sundown Heaven Town" album doesn’t exactly glorify Maine: It’s a breakup song about ending a long-distance relationship before it begins to save the heartache. Even so, it’s a lovely (if sad) country tune.
Tracy Turnblad sings this happy-go-lucky tune on her way to school in "Hairspray," the 2002 musical inspired by the cult favorite 1988 John Waters film. Cheeky lyrics like “There’s the flasher who lives next door / There’s the bum on his barroom school / They wish me luck on my way to school” make it a favorite among theater fans and Baltimoreons alike.
You may also like: Best Robert De Niro movies
Based in Massachusetts, the Dropkick Murphys wrote an appropriate banger for America's rebellious city in "I'm Shipping Up to Boston." The story goes that the Dropkick Murphys frontman stumbled on forgotten Woody Guthrie lyrics when visiting the late folk singer's archive, which became the basis for the band's biggest commercial success in "I'm Shipping Up to Boston."
Though Eminem never mentions Michigan by name in this song, it’s all about his upbringing in a Warren, Michigan trailer park and his attempt to launch his rap career. The track, which was the lead single on the soundtrack to "8 Mile," became the first rap song to ever win the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2003.
This rap song brags about all the Land of 10,000 Lakes’ selling points: wide open spaces, clean air, drinkable tap water, cheap rent, and safe parks. And when anyone asks you where you’re from, just say “shh” so Minnesota doesn’t get overcrowded with defectors from other states.
This country tune about how a big recording artist still loves her country roots in Mississippi epitomizes the state’s down-home spirit. Southerners who’ve left home for the big city will no doubt empathize with lines like “a Mississippi girl don't change her ways / Just 'cause everybody knows her name.”
Glenn Miller released his take on this minstrel song in 1940 on a 78 record with "Beautiful Ohio" on the other side. "Missouri Waltz" was also packaged on the 1947 album "Glenn Miller Masterpieces, Volume II, " which took Billboard's #1 spot for a week in 1947, and five weeks (one week and another four-week streak) in 1948. By 1949 "Missouri Waltz" was Missouri's state song, marking a meteoric leap from minstrel tune to ragtime melody to marching band hit: It's still played before every home football game by the University of Missouri's Marching Mizzou band.
You may also like: Pride Month: 50 of the best albums by LGBTQ musicians
Peaceful Montana winters—with deep snow drifts, cozy campfires and brisk winds—come to life in this Hank Williams Jr. song. He wistfully wishes for someone special to cuddle up with him in his sleeping bag, and we have to agree that it sounds pretty good.
Lady Gaga only mentions Nebraska a few times in this pop-rock song—she’s singing to her “cool Nebraska guy” and belts out a few bars of “Nebraska, I love ya” late in the song—but it’s still a winner. Sprawling cornfields, dirt roads, and big blue skies also feature prominently in the music video.
Ever wonder the reason why Elvis impersonators became such an integral part of the Vegas scene? It all has to do with this 1963 song that became renowned the world over as a symbol of the city. Though countless other artists have since covered “Viva Las Vegas,” Presley’s rendition is still the most popular.
This Sonic Youth song references New Hampshire boys only once, but it’s still the most popular song about the state. The unusual guitar riffs and unorthodox instruments give the track a particularly interesting sound.
Native Jersey son Bruce Springsteen singing about leaving New York City for the state across the Hudson River fills any Jersey girl (or boy, for that matter) with state pride. Just listen to the audience applaud at the line “cause down the shore everything's all right / you and your baby on a Saturday night” on the live version to see what we mean.
You may also like: Biggest box office bombs of all time
The wild west comes to life in this twangy country song about an outlaw rolling into a ghost town in search of a place to lie low and instead finding love. It doesn’t get more country than the line “north of heaven / south of Santa Fe.”
Nearly every New York City neighborhood gets a shoutout in this beloved Jay-Z song about his hometown. What Alicia Keys sings is true: “These streets will make you feel brand new / these lights will inspire you.”
James Taylor fondly recalls better times in North Carolina in this sweet ode to the state. Since the singer-songwriter spent much of his childhood there, it’s easy to see why he has such happy memories in North Carolina.
Frank Sinatra has a bit of a situation on his hands in this song: He has two lovers waiting for him, in both North and South Dakota. As the song goes on, he remembers there’s actually another girl in Minnesota and Texas—how could he possibly choose?
The National may have formed in Brooklyn, but the band is composed of Ohio natives. Their single "Bloodbuzz Ohio" marries lyrics about love with a chronicle about the hardship of their home state coming out of the 2008 economic recession, with lyrics like "I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees / I never married but Ohio don't remember me" and "I still owe money to the money to the money I owe / I never thought about love when I thought about home" painting a somber, wistful picture of remembering home.
You may also like: 100 best films of the 21st century, according to critics
Miranda Lambert tells a classic story of long-lost love in this folk song. After searching and searching for her love, she begs him to meet her under the lightning-torn Oklahoma sky.
Johnny Cash runs away from his job pulling hay in Iowa to cut lumber in the Pacific Northwest in this song. His romanticized version of lumberjacking includes felling trees with his boys in the woods, living it up in Eugene on Saturday night, then repeating the cycle again until the next weekend.
This Billy Joel song chronicles the loss of factory jobs and the death of the American dream for an entire generation of American workers. Restlessness, anger, and unfulfilled promises shine through the lyrics.
Other states have a famed cash crop: Kentucky has whiskey, Arizona has copper, Georgia has peaches, and so on. But Rhode Island? It’s famous for you, as Blossom Dearie croons in this sweet song.
Josh Turner proclaims that his deep baritone voice only sings the songs of South Carolina, his one true home, in this country song. Visions of “palmetto trees swaying in that Atlantic breeze” and idyllic small town life come to mind.
You may also like: Best-selling book series of all time
As one of the few states left with truly wide open spaces, it’s not hard to imagine the eagle flying over South Dakota, like the Bee Gees sing about on this track. It’s a lovely ode to solitude, nature and the Mount Rushmore State.
Chris Stapleton’s bluesy tune about getting drunk on love as “smooth as Tennessee whiskey … as sweet as strawberry wine” is just so easy to sing along to. Listen to it while sipping some Jack Daniels for the ultimate effect.
George Strait reminisces on a string of failed relationships in Texas, prompting him to hang his hat in Tennessee.
This Randy Newman song is actually lines of dialogue between state delegates on the floor of Congress. The delegate from Kansas asks for funding for a firehouse in Topeka, while the delegate from Utah requests irrigation for the state’s deserts. The song ends with the line “we got to tell this country about Utah / cause nobody seems to know.”
Frank Sinatra makes this list yet again with his swoon-worthy ballad about falling leaves, a tall sycamore and moonlight falling on a stream in Vermont. The images of snowy ski trails warbling meadowlarks are almost enough to make you want to move there—or at least plan a trip.
You may also like: Ranking The Best Years in Movie History
The Rolling Stones personify Virginia as a sweet “honey child” in this little ditty about the state. Though California might have the wine, as Mick Jagger sings, it’s all about sweet, sweet Virginia.
Before he became infamous for “Baby Got Back,” Sir Mix-a-Lot rapped about the party scene in his hometown of Seattle in “Posse on Broadway.” He gives shout outs to Mt. Rainier and local Seattle hotspots on the track.
Even though her father warns her to never be a miner, Emmylou Harris still romanticizes the green, rolling hills of West Virginia. Although she plans to move away to some big city, Harris knows she’ll always come back to her country home.
The tone of Bon Iver’s “Wisconsin” evokes the feeling of an icy, midwest winter—probably not unlike how it feels to be standing out in the snow in Wisconsin, just like the lyrics describe. Justin Vernon is from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where he holed up in a cabin to record "For Emma, Forever Ago" over one cold Wisconsin winter.
The “Song of Wyoming” that Denver refers to in this ballad is the sound of the prairie: bird calls, the wind fluttering through cottonwood trees, and a coyote howling, all mingling together to form a natural tune. It’s a lonesome song, fit for a solo cowboy riding through the country at night.
You may also like: Exploring minority representation in the biggest box office winners ever