by Amy Gold
Alabama songs are easier to come by than you might think. Almost no other state in the union has been celebrated musically to such an extent. There have been a number of anthems written in celebration of this Southern gem, and it has even had a country music group named for it. One thing is certain. The residents of Alabama are a loyal and sentimental group, and it shows in their music.
Some of the earliest songs about Alabama came from the likes of John Coltrane and Billie Holiday. Tunes such as "Stars Fell On Alabama," "Alabamy Bound," and "Alabam'" have a sweet, sentimental feel that makes the listener think of sultry summer days and shady trees It is a lush, traditional view of the South at its very best.
Another early Alabama song is "Alabama Song," which was written in 1927 by Berthold Brecht and has been re-recorded under several names, including "Moon Over Alabama" and "Whiskey Bar." As "Whiskey Bar," it was covered by the likes of David Bowie and The Doors, giving this old classic a whole new feel. It resurfaced again in 2003 when it was covered live by Marilyn Manson during a concert in Berlin.
Of course, most songs about Alabama have a distinctly country flair, but the state has been home to a wide variety of musicians, from R&B to pop. The Muscle Shoals Sound Studio was formed in Muscle Shoals, Alabama in 1969 when four session musicians decided to go out on their own. It has since been home to such diverse acts as Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones. It may not carry the impact of Nashville or Branson, but Muscle Shoals put Alabama on the map and countless artists, old and new, have kept her there for generations.
The musical output of Alabama may be diverse, but when it comes to the sound of an Alabama song, down home country will usually take the lead. From Hank Williams' "Alabama Waltz" to Alan Jackson's "Midnight in Montgomery," there is no shortage of country and country-pop tributes to the state known as "The Heart of Dixie."
Southern comfort aside, songs about Alabama have taken many interesting turns, including Neil Young's "Alabama" and The Grateful Dead's "Alabama Getaway." Needless to say, no discussion of the music of and about Alabama could be complete without mention of arguably the best known and most loved Alabama song of all. That would be Lynyrd Skynrd's classic "Sweet Home Alabama." It has become one of the most covered songs of all time and was very nearly declared the official state song.
Alabama's rich musical history has stood the test of time, and the southern style of Alabama is one that tends to stick with you. Once you've experienced it, there is no going back. It has proved a source of inspiration for a number of musicians, resulting in one of the richest catalogs ever connected to a single state. Sweet home indeed, and her musical children just can't help coming back!
- Alabam' - Arthur Collins and Byron Harlan
(This song was from the Broadway musical, " Broken Idol.")
- Alabama Jubilee - Arthur Collins and Byron Harlan
(This pop standard later also charted for Red Foley (1951) and the Ferko String Band (1955). Roy Clark's instrumental version of this song won the Grammy in 1983.)
- Alabama Moon - Hawaiian Trio
- Alabamy Bound - Blossom Seeley
(This Tin Pan Alley song was also hit for Isham Jones in 1925 and it later charted for the Mulcays in 1954. This tune was also famously covered by Al Jolson.)
- Stars Fell on Alabama - Guy Lombardo
(This jazz standard, which topped the charts for Guy Lombardo in 1934, and was also a hit for Richard Himber that same year. It has also been covered numerous times over the years by more than 100 artists including Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, John Coltrane, and Billie Holiday.)
- Alabama Waltz - Hank Williams
- Alabam - Cowboy Copas
(This song topped the Country Charts for Cowboy Copas in 1960 and also became a hit on the Pop/Rock charts for Pat Boone that same year. "Alabam" later became a minor hit for Guy Mitchell on the Country charts in 1968.)
- Alabama Song (Whisky Bar) - The Doors
(This song is included on The Doors 1967 debut album, "The Doors." David Bowie also recorded this song in 1980 as a single.)
- Alabama - Neil Young
(This song is included on Neil Young's 1972 album, "Harvest.")
- Alabama Wild Man - Jerry Reed
- Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd
- Alabama Getaway - Grateful Dead
- Midnight in Montgomery - Alan Jackson
(This song reached #3 on the Country Charts.)