Here are the final 10 states alphabetically. The task—pick a favorite song that references the state or a place in the state. It must be a clear geographical reference — you can’t pick “Fly Me To The Moon” because there happens to be a Moon, Pennsylvania. Common sense rules still apply. This is the end!
What would you have picked??
South Dakota: Rocky Raccoon – The Beatles (1968)
From the White Album, Rocky Raccoon was from Minnesota on one earlier take. He wound up being from the “Black Mountain Hills of Dakota.” Safe to assume that’s the “Black Hills,” indicating South Dakota. Five of 10 participants selected “Rocky Raccoon” for South Dakota. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sif7Br-K1mI
Tennessee: Dixie Chicken – Little Feat (1972/1973)
A lot of choices for Tennessee and at one point I was going to use “Honky Tonk Women.” I decided on “Dixie Chicken,” Little Feat’s signature song from the album of the same name. Although it never charted, “Dixie Chicken” has had staying power and has been covered by many bar bands. From “The Midnight Special:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3z-GwdaKrn8
Texas: El Paso – Marty Robbins (1959/1959-60)
Perhaps the greatest story song of all time. Marty Robbins wrote and recorded “El Paso” in the Fall of 1959 for his Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs album. It became a major country and pop hit and was the first number one pop song of the 1960s. Here is a live version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ir0vUqGmUCU
Utah: Cell Block Tango – Chicago cast (original – 1975)
Found a few Utah songs but not many stand out for me. The “Cell Block Tango” from Chicago mentions Ezekiel Young from Salt Lake City. He’s the guy who can’t hold his arsenic. I guess he had it coming. Here is the movie version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrrz54UtkCc
Vermont: Moonlight In Vermont – Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong (1956)
The song is a pretty clear winner–picking the artist is trickier, as many greats have covered this song. It was written by John Blackburn and Karl Suesdorff and originally recorded by Margaret Whiting in 1944. This version is from the 1956 album, Ella & Louis. Seven of eight participants chose this song, but many different versions were chosen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esynsha53A8
Virginia: Who’ll Stop The Rain – Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969/1970)
CCR was cranking out the hits between 1969 and 1971, but famously never had a number one song. “Who’ll Stop The Rain” and its B-side “Travelin’ Band” spent two weeks at number two in March 1970, one of five CCR records to peak at #2. This one had the great misfortune of being released at the same time of one of the greatest singles of all time, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Written about Fogerty’s trip to Woodstock. Here’s John Fogerty solo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAgFR_wmLiY
Washington: Rock’n Me – Steve Miller (1976)
Could have gone Perry Como or a few other ways, but nothing grabbed me that much. The Tacoma reference wins it for Steve Miller. I’ve always wondered why the girls are warm in Northern California–some of those coastal towns are cold. Spent a week at #1 in November 1976. A live version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5V7JKYaYeuM
West Virginia: Take Me Home, Country Roads – John Denver (1970/1971)
Easiest choice of the whole exercise. West Virginia even slapped “Almost Heaven” on its license plates. Released in April 1971, it took until late August to peak at #2 behind “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart.” Here’s an unusual cover by Hermes House Band from 2001 that was a top 10 hit in the U.K. and other locations (my choice remains the John Denver version). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVz_IJoyO6Y
Wisconsin: The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald – Gordon Lightfoot (1975/1976)
“The ship was the pride of the American side.” Canadian Gordon Lightfoot wrote of the tragedy of the ship coming back from a mill in Wisconsin. “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” was hitting its peak one year after the tragedy. Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s The Night” denied Lightfoot another number one hit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKJNBxDCMIs
Wyoming: The Beaches Of Cheyenne – Garth Brooks (1995/1996)
Garth Brooks was on fire in the 1990s, after Billboard’s soundscan technology revealed he was more popular than anyone had ever realized. The third single from Fresh Horses was a tragic song that hit number one on the country chart in March 1996. It’s hard to find Brooks on YouTube, but here’s a live performance that hasn’t yet been taken down. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiJWl9cFgJI
So that’s it. Thoughts or comments??