by Amy Gold
Songs with cities in their titles can be found in almost every genre and span a number of generations. That's because hometown pride is something that never goes out of style. Who can resist singing the praises of their home or maybe looking back fondly on a place that somehow captured their heart? And songwriters have been doing it for years.
As far back as "The Sidewalks of New York" and "Meet Me In St. Louis," writers were singing the praises of the towns that they knew well. With wit and whimsy, these songs became unabashed love letters to hometowns large and small, and many became classics passed down from one generation to another.
The musical theater was a particular breeding ground for this type of song. Rogers and Hammerstein sang the praises of "Kansas City" in their immortal musical "Oklahoma," and Meredith Willson fashioned a memorable ditty about "Gary, Indiana" in his turn of the century charmer, "The Music Man." The trend continued through the heyday of the musical and into the 1950s when pop music began to hit the charts.
Nobody can forget Tony Bennett's famous lament, "I Left My Heart In San Francisco," and the Beach Boys got us all dancing to "The Little Old Lady From Pasadena." Even as music morphed with the times, songwriters continued to drawn on the places they knew best for inspiration. Songs cities inspired took on many different forms and still do today.
City-inspired songs have found a particular place in country music. From "Pretty Little Lady From Beaumont, Texas" to "Memphis Belle," many a southern town has found its way onto the country charts. Singing about home and family is about as natural to country music as breathing air is to most of us. They just seem to go together.
The rock era continued the trend with songs like Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom" and "Allentown" by Billy Joel. Of course, the larger cities like New York, Chicago and Boston have had far more written about them than smaller towns, but there are songs out there celebrating a whole range of hometowns.
Even the King himself got in on the act with his valentine to the gambling capital of the country, "Viva Las Vegas." It seems that songs with cities in their titles have almost no boundaries. From the Deep South to the beaches of California, from New England to America's heartland, there are numerous songs that evoke towns big and small.
Paying tribute to your hometown is something that we can all understand and something we all appreciate. It's certainly something that many songwriters have accomplished over the years. The result is a large collection of songs that appeal to the hometown pride in all of us.
(Part 1 of a multipart series by city.)