As you all know, I really like music. A few weeks ago, I got the idea in my head to create a massive but well thought-out playlist devoted to songs about America. Specifically, one song for each state. It occurred to me that I’ve got a lot of music, and a lot of that music references certain parts of this country. And it being election time, a time when folks run all across this country talking about its “core decency” and its “values,” I thought it’d be fun to see what I could come up with.
This was no easy task. In part, it’s no easy task because I knew I’d have to buy some new music. I simply don’t have “Wild Planet,” the B-52’s album with “Private Idaho.” But also, you’d be surprised how infrequently people sing about Vermont.
Or do they?
Which brings us to the post at hand. I’ve reached my musical limits. And since I know there’s a few avid music fans who read this blog, I thought I’d put the matter to you. Below is my tentative list. Where I’m missing states, please let me know if there’s a song I just can’t think of that would be apt. And let me know if there’s a better more applicable song out there for any one of these states. As much as I act to the contrary, I don’t really know everything.
Also know that in some cases I opted to chose an artist or band who represents a state rather than a song about that state (such as the Violent Femmes for Wisconsin). Which makes me think I should make a couple different playlists: one for songs about states; one for songs by artists from those states.
Also also, I apparently have a lot of music that references Illinois and/or Chicago, Michigan, and California. These choices haunt me.
Alabama – Stars Fell on Alabama, Billie Holiday
Alaska – Grey Ice Water, Modest Mouse
Arizona – Hotel Arizona, Wilco
Arkansas – Mean Eyed Cat, Johnny Cash
California – California, Joni Mitchell
Colorado – Rocky Mountain High, John Denver
Connecticut – Connecticut’s For F*cking, Jesus H. Christ and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Delaware – Delaware Slide, George Thorogood
Florida – Florida, Modest Mouse
Georgia – Georgia on My Mind, Ray Charles (too obvious?)
Hawaii – Kailua Breeze, Bill Brooks (that’s right, Dana’s uncle!)
Idaho – Private Idaho, The B-52s
Illinois – Via Chicago, Wilco
Indiana – Goin’ Back to Indiana, Jackson 5
Iowa – The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines, Joni Mitchell
Kansas – True Dreams of Wichita, Soul Coughing
Kentucky – Coalminers, Uncle Tupelo
Louisiana – Louisiana Blues, Muddy Waters
Maine – Maine, John Linnell (of They Might Be Giants fame)
Maryland – Raining in Baltimore, Counting Crows
Massachusetts – ???
Michigan – Say Yes! To M!Ch!Gan!, Sufjan Stevens
Minnesota – ???
Mississippi – Mississippi Goddamn, Nina Simone
Missouri – Kansas City, James Brown
Montana – Montana, John Linnell
Nebraska – ???
Nevada – ???
New Hampshire – New Hampshire, Sonic Youth
New Jersey – ??? (for a state that’s produced such a plethora of “American” rock bands, I couldn’t think of a good song to represent the state)
New Mexico – ??? (a lot of songs reference New Mexico — Route 66, Wanted Man by Cash, etc. — but only as they’re passing through. Does anyone stay in New Mexico?)
New York – The Only Living Boy in New York, Simon & Garfunkel
North Carolina – Against The Law, Billy Bragg
North Dakota – ???
Ohio – Ohio, Modest Mouse
Oklahoma – Oklahoma, U.S.A., Yo La Tengo
Oregon – ??? (I was thinking an Elliot Smith song would be most applicable)
Pennsylvania – What They Do, the Roots (maybe not about Pennsylvania, but they’re from Phily)
Rhode Island – Sweet Rhode Island Red, Ike & Tina Turner
South Carolina – Darlington County, Bruce Springsteen
South Dakota – ???
Tennessee – Graceland, Paul Simon
Texas – Houston, Soul Coughing
Utah – Talkin’ Hava Negeilah Blues, Bob Dylan (only because he prefaces this song by calling it a “foreign song I learned in Utah)
Vermont – Moonlight in Vermont (there’s a million versions of this standard by everyone from Mell Torme and Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles)
Virginia – ???
Washington – ???
West Virginia – John Hardy, Uncle Tupelo
Wisconsin – American Music, Violent Femmes
Wyoming – Blame it on the Tetons, Modest Mouse (this might be too much Modest Mouse)