“At Last” is a classic by Etta James, and it is also how I feel about coming to the end of this nationwide journey. I must say that it was a little tougher than I had anticipated. However, the last ten states are in the que and ready to go.
South Dakota – Not only did I find a song with South Dakota in the title, but I also found one with my favorite South Dakota town in the title. “Deadwood, South Dakota” by Nanci Griffith takes its inspiration from the old mining camp in the Black Hills. There is a lot of history about this town, but I will only mention one tidbit. This is where Wild Bill Hickok was killed while playing poker and holding Ace’s and 8′s, the Dead Man’s Hand.
Tennessee - My state. The state that inspired me to take up the mantle of discovering the music of the states. I still have no idea how many songs have Tennessee in their title. The combination of the music industry and the easy ability to rhyme something with the state’s name created myriad possibilities. I had a hard time choosing the right one, but finally settled on a song that was written about my hometown. Ron Sexsmith has never been here but still wrote a song called “Lebanon, Tennessee”.
Texas – Another state that finds itself chronicled in song, Texas has been source material for songwriters since it first claimed independence from Mexico. However, this time we are going with anything remotely Country & Western. We are going with Chris Rea, one of my favorite singers from the 1980s, and his recording of “Texas”.
Utah – Going in, I figured the Mormon Tabernacle Choir had a song about Utah. I was wrong. Nobody has a song about Utah except Marty Robbins. He loved songs about western places and recorded “The Red Hills of Utah”.
Vermont – “Moonlight in Vermont” has been sung my numerous artists. During my search, I found versions by Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, Percy Faith, Bobby Womack, Mel Torme…heck, the list goes on and one. With that type of popularity, credit must be given to the writers, John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf. After listening to several renditions, “The State of Music” panel goes with the version recorded by – drumroll – Frank Sinatra.
Virginia – Of all the songs I discovered while completing this task, I am more proud of this one than any other. “East Virginia Blues” was recorded by the Carter Family. I’m not talking about the Carter Family with Mother Maybelle and her children, which included June Carter Cash. I am talking about the original group started by A.P. Carter. There is a great story there that predates anything that happened in Nashville.
Washington – It’s been mentioned a couple of times that to qualify a song does not have to be about a state. It only needs to have its name in the title. Washington lends itself to this because there is also a president and a famous city with the same name. A bunch of songs use Washington, but I went with one about the park in New York City that is named after the president. Not very stately, I reckon. “Washington Square” is an instrumental recorded by The Village Stompers.
West Virginia – “Country Roads Take Me Home” does not count. Not only is the state name not in the title, but John Denver spends the whole time describing the Virginia without a direction in front of it. I picked “West Virginia Underground” by Taylor Made.
Wisconsin - Finding a song for this state was a pain in the ass. Everywhere I turned there was state songs, fight songs and nothing remotely artistic. Finally, I came upon Bon Iver and the aptly names “Wisconsin”.
Wyoming – John Denver recorded a lot of songs about states without naming his songs after them. In the end, literally, I found one called “Song of Wyoming” about the wide open spaces and natural wonders of the West. Of course, he had a bunch of songs about the same topics. This one just happened to fit in the list.
50 states. 50 songs. 50 different artists (I think). I tried to vary the genres as much as possible, and, despite a little complaining, I actually liked the search. Also, I found some new stuff that I may listen to again. I hope you guys liked the list as much as I liked putting it together. If you want to catch up on the complete version, then check out parts – one, two, three and four.