A Tune That States It All: Songs With States In Their Titles

by Amy Gold

Songs with states names in their titles have been in existence almost as long as the states themselves. It seems when it comes to inspiration, many songwriters look no further than their own home state and everything it represents to them. What better subject to sing about than the place you call your home? From musicals to pop hits, there is no shortage of this particular type of musical tribute.

Each of the 50 states has an official state song, but not all of these actually mention the state’s name in the title. Some, such as “My Old Kentucky Home,” penned by Stephen Foster in 1853, have become standards as well as being designated as state songs. Other official state songs are less well known outside of the state itself and have taken a backseat to more popular hit songs.

Not many people would probably be able to name “I Love You California,” which was designated the official state song in 1951, but most could hum “California Here I Come” or the Beach Boys’ quintessential California surf hit, “California Girls.” Of course, California is one of the lucky states that seems to have a lot of songs written about it.

New York, Georgia and Texas all fall under that category, with everything from “New York, New York” to “Georgia On My Mind” to the classic “Yellow Rose Of Texas” representing them, showing the range of songs states inspire. Other states haven’t been quite as fortunate, though their residents could almost certainly find something worthy of singing about if they really tried.

Songs about states cross over into many different genres, from country to pop to rock. There’s the gentle cadence of “Blue Hawaii” and the gritty, down home sound of “Sweet Home Alabama.” Broadway musicals have inspired some state titled songs, such as “Oklahoma!” and others have grown out of cultural backgrounds or personal experiences particular to the songwriter.

Spanning generations, state inspired songs have been written by the likes of Rogers and Hammerstein, Joni Mitchell and Billy Joel. Whether declaring themselves in a “New York State Of Mind” or enjoying “Moonlight in Vermont,” there always seems to be something that draws these artists home and inspires them to share that feeling with the rest of us.

The use of songs with states in their titles should come as no surprise. Who among us doesn’t like to proudly declare their loyalty or hasn’t experienced the feeling of being far away from home and longing to go back again? These are common human emotions and so they find themselves being expressed in song as so many emotions often are.

Because it’s such a familiar and common thread, it’s no wonder that this type of song has remained so popular over time. We can all relate and are all drawn to that kind of home state pride. So don’t be surprised if you hear someone singing the praises of a particular state. Be it ever so humble, there’s truly no place like home.

(Part 1 of a multipart series by state. Part 2: Alabama)