Many a music fan is familiar with songs titles featuring a U.S. or international city, but not so much with one of the fifty states. Out of those U.S. states songs are some icon classics that have become synonymous with that state. Five legendary artists have recorded these unique songs. They cover some states from the east and west coasts to the Southern and Midwestern boundaries. Now find out what ten states are featured, their song titles, a little about each song and who has made them famous.
10.) Goin’ Back to Indiana – Jackson 5 (1971)
This cute, lively bubblegum song appeared on their “Third Album”, but was released as a single for their ABC-TV special of the same name. In May 1971 The Jackson 5 returned to Gary, Indiana for a homecoming concert. You can’t help but smile from ear to ear when you hear the young Michael Jackson sing. He was so happy and full of joy when he performed back then, especially on their TV appearances. There are a few instrumental breaks along with some rap from MJ and his brothers.
9.) Blue Hawaii – Elvis Presley (1961)
Many people think “Blue Hawaii” was exclusively recorded by Elvis when in fact it was a big hit for Bing Crosby back in the late 1930s. It has been covered by many other artists, but Elvis’ cover version is by far the most famous of all. The soundtrack album from the film of the same name Elvis starred in remained at number one on the album chart for twenty consecutive weeks. The actress Angela Lansbury played his mother in the film. You really feel like you’re in Hawaii upon listening to his classic song.
8.) Massachusetts – The Bee Gees (1967)
Ironically, The Bee Gees had never been to the state of Massachusetts when they initially recorded the song. It was originally intended for another singing group, but fate had them record it instead. It’s actually one of my favorite early Bee Gees songs before they rode the disco wave later in their career. The Bee Gees said they loved the word of the state and there was something magical about the names of American places.
7.) Kentucky Woman – Neil Diamond (1967)
Early in Neil Diamond’s career he performed with the Dick Clark Caravan tour across the U.S. They mostly performed in high school auditoriums with many screaming female fans. He wrote this song in the back of a limo while en route to his next venue in Kentucky.
6.) Ohio – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (1970)
Based on the real life event at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio where the Ohio National Guard was called in to stop the anti-war protesting rallies that had occurred previously. On that fateful day of May 4, 1970 another Vietnam War protest rally was scheduled to begin at noon. Instead there were shootings by the National Guard who ended up killing four unarmed students and wounding nine others, including one who is permanently paralyzed. CSNY were deeply affected by the tragedy and wrote this song as a tribute.
5.) Nebraska – Bruce Springsteen (1982)
In 1958 a 19-year old Charles Starkweather and his 14-year old girlfriend, Caril Fugate, went on a murder spree killing 11 people in the state of Nebraska. That is what the song is about by The Boss, Bruce Springsteen. He sings it in the folk style arrangement that’s perfectly for telling such a harrowing story in song.
It comes from the album of the same name though this song was never released officially as a single. After those murders many townsfolk thought it was brought on by the rebellious rock music and teenage films that were probably creating new criminals of that era. The film “Badlands” starring Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek was inspired by the real-life event in Nebraska.
4.) California Dreamin’ – Mamas and the Papas (1965)
On a much lighter note, here is a song about living in the cold and snow pining for the warmth of Southern California. John Phillips, the group’s founder and songwriter, and his wife and band member, Michelle Phillips, wrote it together. It has since become this group’s signature song as well as the quintessential song about California. Rolling Stone magazine listed “California Dreamin'” at #89 from their list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It’s one my all time favorite songs, because of its smooth harmonies and easy ability to sing along to.
3.) Georgia on My Mind – Ray Charles (1960)
Originally the song was written by Hoagy Carmichael (music) and Stuart Gorrell (lyrics) in 1930. According to Hoagy Carmichael someone suggested he write a song about Georgia since writing something about the South is usually a winner. Thirty years later Ray Charles recorded the song for his album “The Genius Hits the Road” when it was released in 1960. It became #1 on the Billboard pop chart and #3 on the R&B chart. In 1979 the song became the official state song for the state of Georgia by its state legislature.
2.) Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd (1974)
Of the three songwriters/band members who are credited with their signature song none of them were even from Alabama. The song was written primarily as a source of southern pride when Neil Young, a Canadian folk/rock singer who was formally with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, took pot shots at the state of Alabama for its racism and the South’s history on slavery.
Also, the song is protesting the former Governor of Alabama, George Wallace, who was well known for his stance on segregation and the Watergate scandal that was prevalent at the time the song was written. “Sweet Home Alabama” has a great guitar introduction along with the famous line “Turn it up”, because the guitarist’s instrument had bad pickups which forced him to amp the volume. When he asked to turn it up it stayed on the final recording.
1.) New York New York – Frank Sinatra (1980)
Even if you’re not from the state of New York or New York City you can’t help but like this truly infectious song. Technically, it is about New York City and not about the state of New York. However, the song’s title does sound and looks like a mailing address where it’s stating the city and state, which is why I had to include it. Not only that, it is sung by the legendary singer, Old Blues Eyes and Chairman of the Board – Frank Sinatra.
Martin Scorcese directed the 1977 film “New York, New York” starring Liza Minnelli and Robert DeNiro where this theme song originated from. Liza Minnelli sang it in the film. Later on Frank Sinatra did a cover version of it that he’s since become strongly associated with. Now it is used constantly at various New York events, both major and minor, such as the New York Yankees home games, weddings and bar mitzvahs. Whenever anything takes place in New York on television you are bound to hear Sinatra’s version of “New York, New York.”
You can easily download any of these songs about the U.S. states in their titles from www.amazon.com or at www.iTunes.com. No matter where you are from in the U.S. or around the world these are great songs to listen to anywhere at anytime.
Songs with States in the Title, Askville by Amazon
Broadcast Yourself, YouTube
The Free Encyclopedia, Wikipedia
Song Meanings at Songfacts, Songfacts