Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Happy 4th of July!

(It is July 5th here in Japan, but in the US, it is still Independence Day, the 4th of July).  I saw this list of state songs for the 50 states of the USA in the Travel section of The Guardian a long time ago and saved it.  I came across the list recently and thought it would be good for today. How many of these songs do you know? Which of these states have you visited?

1. Alabama

Lynyrd Skynrd — Sweet Home Alabama
The Skynrd's 1974 riposte to Neil Young's Alabama is a tribute to Muscle Shoals (an Alabama city famous for its music), blue skies and the Swampers (session musicians), and a prime example of Southern Rock. 

2. Alaska

Lacy J Dalton — The Alaska Song
Dalton was the protegee of folk singer Karen Dalton, and this tune sees her heading up to Alaska to have some fun dancing under the midnight sun.

3. Arizona

Kings of Leon — Arizona
From the album Because of the Times, this is a sterling driving song which, despite the title, somehow fails to mention Arizona.

4. Arkansas

Bruce Springsteen — Mary Queen of Arkansas
One of the treasures of Greetings From Asbury Park, this is a tale of white skin and acrobats.

5. California

The Beach Boys — California Girls
It is a scientific fact that the music of the Beach Boys sounds like California. This is a hit from 1965.

6. Colorado

Townes van Zandt — Colorado Girl
The much-overlooked TVZ's pledge to go out to Denver to "See if I can't find/That lovin' Colorado girl of mine."

7. Connecticut

Aerosmith — I Live in Connecticut
One of America's premier rock bands, none of whom live in Connecticut.

8. Delaware

Perry Como — Delaware
Como's "hilarious" play on state names sees him asking not only "What did Della wear, boy?" but providing the response "She wore a bran New Jersey."

9. Florida

Vic Chesnutt — Florida
From Chesnutt's 1991 album West of Rome, this "tribute" to Florida: "Florida, Florida, there's no more perfect place to retire from life."

10. Georgia

Gladys Knight and the Pips — Midnight Train to Georgia
Heart-wrenching tale from 1973 of a man who finds LA too much and heads back home to Georgia, with his woman hot on his heels.

11. Hawaii

Elvis Presley — Blue Hawaii
Appears in the Elvis vehicle of the same name, and boasts the promise that "Dreams come true/In blue Hawaii."

12. Idaho

Josh Ritter — Idaho
From Ritter's 2006 record The Animal Years, this tribute to his home state: "The only ghost I'm haunted by/Idaho, Idaho."

13. Illinois

Sufjan Stevens — Casimir Pulaski Day
A few years ago, Stevens announced his intention to record an album for every state in America. This marvellous song is from his last, which covered Illinois. 

14. Indiana

Louis Armstrong — (Back Home Again in) Indiana
Originally composed in 1917, (Back Home Again in) Indiana went on to become a jazz standard. For many years, Armstrong opened every public appearance with this track.

15. Iowa

Joni Mitchell — The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines
From Mingus, Mitchell's 1979 collaboration with Charles Mingus, a story of a dry cleaner from Iowa who, to the disgruntlement of our narrator, is enjoying a lucky run on the slot machines: "Des Moines was stacking the chips/ Raking off the tables/ Ringing the bandit's bells."

16 Kansas

Glenn Campbell — Wichita Lineman
Campbell's rendition of composer Jimmy Webb's tale of a telephone lineman driving through Kansas and pining for a distant lover, contains one of the most affecting lyrics ever: "And I need you more than want you/ And I want you for all time." 

17. Kentucky

John Hartford — Man of Constant Sorrow
Traditional song written by Dick Burnett, a blind fiddler from Kentucky and immortalised in the Coen brothers' movie O Brother Where Art Thou. It has been covered many times, including this version by Mr Hartford. It is the tale of a man beleagured by trouble who must "bid farewell to old Kentucky/ The place where I was born and raised."

18. Louisiana

Chuck Berry — Johnny B Goode                                                                              Sometimes referred to as a musical version of the American Dream, Berry's 1958 hit tells the story of a poor boy from Louisiana who done good just by playing a guitar. Opens with one of the most rip-roaring guitar riffs ever.

19. Maine

Mountain Goats — Going to Maine
Going to Maine is part of the Mountain Goats' long-running "Going to…" series, and features an adulterous couple contemplating flight to the East Coast. 

20 Maryland

Bob Dylan — The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Dylan's 1963 song covers the real life murder of a barmaid at a hotel in Baltimore, Maryland, for which the wealthy culprit received a mere six-month jail sentence.

21. Massachusetts

Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers — Roadrunner
Richman frequently paid musical homage to his native New England, and there is no finer example than this tale of driving the roads around Boston at night. 

22. Michigan

Martha [Reeves] and the Vandellas — Dancing in the Street 
One of the most famous songs in Motown's rich history, this was released in 1964 to became both a dancefloor filler and a civil rights anthem. The song is a roll-call of American cities, including Chicago, New Orleans and New York City, but urges us not to forget Detroit, "the Motor City".

23. Minnesota

The Hold Steady — Stuck Between Stations
Tales of drinking, dancing and making out in Minneapolis: "These twin city kisses/ Sound like clicks and hisses/ And we all come down and drown in the Mississippi River."

24. Mississippi

Robert Johnson — Cross Road Blues
Legend holds that Johnson sold his soul to the devil, in exchange for his masterful guitar-playing, at a crossroads in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He died aged 27 at another crossroads in Greenwood, Mississippi. His playing epitomises the Delta blues: down-home and rhythmic, with a characteristic slide guitar.

25. Missouri

Low — Missouri
Minimalist band in fact hailing from Duluth, Minnesota. This track appears on their 1999 album, Secret Name, and repeatedly opines "Oh Missouri."

26. Montana

Frank Zappa — Montana

In which Mr Zappa claims "I might be movin' to Montana soon/ Just to raise me up a crop of Dental Floss." He never did.

27. Nebraska

Bruce Springsteen — Nebraska
The Boss's unsettling tale of the killing spree of Charles Starkweather, inspired by Terrence Malick's film Badlands: "From the town of Lincoln, Nebraska, with a sawed-off .410 on my lap." It appears on Springsteen's 1982 album of the same name.

28. Nevada

Phil Cody — Viva Las Vegas
This pared-down version of the Elvis classic, makes for something altogether more unsettling.

29. New Hampshire

Sonic Youth — New Hampshire
"B.B. King just turns on The New Hampshire boys". Apparently.

30. New Jersey

Tom Waits — Jersey Girl
Waits is famous for his growl of a voice, and musical experimentation that encompasses vaudeville, blues and jazz. This song is about the sweet joy of being in love with a girl from New Jersey, and has been covered by Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi.

31. New Mexico

Johnny Cash — New Mexico
In which a cow puncher kindly invites Mr Cash to spend a pleasant summer in New Mexico, only to encounter a troublesome time with hail storms, thistles and Indians.

32. New York

Lou Reed — Walk on the Wild Side
Reed's 1972 hit, with its Warholian cast, conjures up all that is weird and wonderful about New York City. 

33. North Carolina

James Taylor — Carolina in My Mind
Taylor was raised in North Carolina, and this track is from his 1968 debut album recorded in the depths of heroin addiction. "Can't you see the sunshine," he wonders. "Can't you just feel the moonshine."

34 North Dakota

Lyle Lovett — North Dakota
Lovett's cowboy tale of guns and the boys of North Dakota who apparently "drink whisky for their fun".

35. Ohio

Modest Mouse — Ohio

Concerning a roadtrip through Ohio, declares "this place is flatter than it seems." From the aptly-titled album This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About

36. Oklahoma

Woody Guthrie — Oklahoma Hills
Legendary folk singer Guthrie's tribute to his home state, pining for the oak, the blackjack trees and the "playful Prairie breeze" of Oklahoma.

37. Oregon

Loretta Lynn — Portland, Oregon
Sweet, drunkardly duet with Jack White, from Lynn's Van Lear Rose album, asking the question: "Well Portland Oregon and sloe gin fizz/ If that ain't love then tell me what is." 

38. Pennsylvania

The Band — The Weight
Few songs sound more like late 1960's America than The Weight — The Band's story of a traveller to Nazareth, Pennsylvania.

39. Rhode Island

Blossom Dearie — Rhode Island is Famous for You
Dearie's 1960 recording lists claims to fame of various states (Georgia — peaches; Idaho —potatoes) before concluding, rather charmingly, that "little ol' Rhode Island is famous for you."

40. South Carolina

Her Space Holiday — From South Carolina
Moving pledge to someone with dyed black hair, to always be there all the way from South Carolina to San Francisco. What more could you ask for, really?

41. South Dakota

Bee Gees — South Dakota Morning
According to the brothers Gibb, a South Dakota Morning consists of sunshine, rain and eagles.

42. Tennessee

Paul Simon — Graceland
From Mrs Robinson to American Tune, Paul Simon has a rarely-rivalled gift for cataloguing American life — this song relates the story of travelling to Memphis to see the home of Elvis.

43. Texas

Flamin Groovies — Headin for the Texas Border
Blues rock standard more recently covered by the Raconteurs.

44. Utah

Camper Van Beethoven — History of Utah

Californian band's not altogether comprehensive history of the 45th state.

45. Vermont

Magnetic Fields — Long Vermont Roads
Not altogether complimentary song which boasts the lyric: "Your eyes are long Vermont roads/ With a tacky song on the radio." Charming.

46. Virginia

The Stanley Brothers — East Virginia Blues
Bluegrass tale of leaving Virginia to woo a fair maiden in North Carolina.

47. Washington

Nirvana — Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle
Perhaps the most famous act out of Seattle in its grunge heyday, Nirvana penned this song for the actress and Seattle native Frances Farmer, who in the 1940s was accused of being both a Communist and an atheist. It appears on their 1993 record In Utero.

48. West Virginia

The White Stripes — This Protector
Brief, glowering tune from the band's 2001 album White Blood Cells contains the lyric: "300 people living out in West Virginia/ Have no idea of all these thoughts that lie within you."

49. Wisconsin

John Prine — Milwaukee Here I Come
In which the marvellous Mr Prine heads from Nashville to Milwaukee, pledging "I'm gonna leave this town 'til you decide/ Which one you want the most/ Me or Jerry Lee."

50. Wyoming

John Denver — Song of Wyoming
A story of a man so homesick for Wyoming he hears the coyote and the canyon cottonwood singing its song.


kiwikid said...

I enjoyed reading your comments there Pamela, off now to explore some of the songs, some I have heard of others not.

Julie Fukuda said...

No "Take me home, country roads"?

Toki said...

The results confirmed by me and my husband are as follows.

※A song that I and my husband knew.
My husband→10

※States I've been to.
My husband→1

※I know the band and people who are singing, but I don't know the song title.(The title and the song do not connect)
Me→A bit.
My husband→Many

Thank you for very interesting topic.

Leonore Winterer said...

I know a handful of these songs, but only have been to one state!

jacaranda said...

Wonderful, I didn’t realise there was a song relating to each state.

Queeniepatch said...

I suppose I would recognize some of the songs if I heard them, but just reading the titles I am only confident about Paul Simon's Graceland and Elvis's Blue Hawaii.
Maybe it is because I have never been to the US!