I’m participating, well sort of, this was my idea, in an exercise to name your favorite song that references each of the 50 states. Say what? Okay, you can pick one song for each state, but you can’t use a song more than once. So if you use a song like “I’ve Been Everywhere” or “Sweet Little Sixteen,” you can only use it for one state.
Other rules? The name of the state does not have to be mentioned in the lyrics, but there must be a clear reference to a place in the state. You cannot use “Fly Me To The Moon” for Pennsylvania just because there happens to be a Moon, Pennsylvania. Likewise, “White Cliffs Of Dover” is not about a place in Delaware.
Some states are harder than others. The hardest states don’t have a lot of choices. Another category of hard states involves too many choices. In any case, here is my list for the first 10 states, alphabetically.
Alabama: Glory – Common & John Legend (2014/2015)
From the film Selma, this Oscar-winning song was released in December 2014 and peaked at #49 in 2015. Oddly enough, Selma was only nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Picture and Best Original Song. I guess that means the movie was good in spite of acting, directing, screenplay and cinematography. It is a very good song, but I’m not sure how it single-handedly carried Selma. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUZOKvYcx_o
Alaska: North To Alaska – Johnny Horton (1960/1960-61)
From the John Wayne movie of the same name. Johnny Horton had already had an Alaska song with “When It’s Springtime In Alaska (It’s Forty Below)” in 1959. I don’t think he ever lived there, however. “North to Alaska” was released in August 1960. Horton was killed by a drunk driver in a car accident in November of that year, a few weeks before this song peaked at #4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3tAJS0wpRY
Arizona: Get Back – The Beatles with Billy Preston (1969)
I guess I’d rather leave my home in Tucson, Arizona than be on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. The Beatles spent five weeks at #1 with “Get Back” in 1969 with a song in which they shared credit with Billy Preston. Written and sung by Paul McCartney. Here is his 2005 Super Bowl performance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgcW21U1VTs
Arkansas: We’re An American Band – Grand Funk (1973)
“Last night in Little Rock….”
Grand Funk’s first number one hit in 1973 mentioned both Little Rock and Omaha but I’ll use it for Arkansas. Written and sung by Don Brewer and produced by Todd Rundgren. Here’s a live version. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMsIrKjSM6Y
California: (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay – Otis Redding (1967/1968)
Recorded shortly before Redding died in a plane crash, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” became the first posthumous #1 single. It spent four weeks at #1 in spring 1968 and won two Grammys. There are no clips of Redding singing this song, as he never performed or lip synced it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTVjnBo96Ug
Colorado: Rocky Mountain High – John Denver (1972/1973)
John Denver wrote songs about Alaska and West Virginia and became a cult hero in Baltimore when one of his songs became a baseball anthem. Still, Denver is most associated with Colorado, thanks in part to “Rocky Mountain High,” which spent four weeks in the top 10 in late winter 1973. Here is a live version. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=op9ND6-c-Dg
Connecticut: Connnecticut – Judy Garland and Bing Crosby (1945)
There wasn’t much to choose from here. The Ben Folds song (“Kylie From Connecticut”) is okay, but this state is so weak in music references that I actually considered that song by Jesus H. Christ and the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse (google it). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yI5X0jYnIJ4
Delaware: Back In The U.S.A. – Chuck Berry (1959) or Linda Ronstadt (1978)
There’s a reference to Delaware, sort of. The shores of the Delaware Bay are good enough for me. This might have been the toughest day–Connecticut and Delaware are pretty weak. I know the Perry Como song well but I just couldn’t do it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcI8AiCO9cU
Florida: Key Largo – Bertie Higgins (1981/1982)
Treacle alert. I did consider going with “Ice Ice Baby” here but I’ll admit that I’ve always liked this easy listening classic. It spent four weeks in the top 10 in April 1982. Higgins never again cracked the top 40. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25sfPl6FJQ8
Georgia: Midnight Train To Georgia – Gladys Knight and the Pips (1973)
A lot of fine choices for Georgia–Ray Charles, Brook Benton, Charlie Daniels–but this R&B classic wins it for me. Spent two weeks at #1 and four weeks atop the R&B charts in late fall 1973. Here is a live version. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pHhItkhc7o
Any thoughts or better ideas?