The United States has 50 states, and no two are the same.
Each state has enjoyed its fair share of official state songs over the years. However, many states also voluntarily adopt unofficial songs to represent themselves.
From artists singing about their birthplaces to songwriters telling wild tales about hard-living cowboys, here is an epic playlist of songs about states that will allow you to travel the whole country!
Table of Contents
- Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd (Alabama)
- The Alaska Song – Lacy J Dalton (Alaska)
- Arizona – Kings of Leon (Arizona)
- Mary Queen of Arkansas – Bruce Springsteen (Arkansas)
- Queen of California – John Mayer (California)
- Colorado Girl – Townes van Zandt (Colorado)
- I Live in Connecticut – Aerosmith (Connecticut)
- Delaware – Perry Como (Delaware)
- Florida – Vic Chesnutt (Florida)
- Midnight Train to Georgia – Gladys Knight and the Pips (Georgia)
- Blue Hawaii – Elvis Presley (Hawaii)
- Idaho – Josh Ritter (Idaho)
- Casimir Pulaski Day – Sufjan Stevens (Illinois)
- (Back Home Again in) Indiana – Louis Armstrong – Indiana
- The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines – Joni Mitchell (Iowa)
- Wichita Lineman – Glenn Campbell (Kansas)
- Man of Constant Sorrow – John Hartford (Kentucky)
- Johnny B Goode – Chuck Berry (Louisiana)
- Going to Maine – Mountain Goats (Maine)
- The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll – Bob Dylan (Maryland)
- Roadrunner – Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers (Massachusetts)
- Dancing in the Street – Martha and the Vandellas (Michigan)
- Stuck Between Stations – The Hold Steady (Minnesota)
- Mississippi Goddam – Nina Simone (Mississippi)
- Missouri – Low (Missouri)
- Montana – Frank Zappa (Montana)
- Nebraska – Bruce Springsteen (Nebraska)
- Viva Las Vegas – Elvis Presley (Nevada)
- New Hampshire – Sonic Youth (New Hampshire)
- Jersey Girl – Tom Waits (New Jersey)
- New Mexico – Johnny Cash (New Mexico)
- Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed (New York)
- Carolina in My Mind – James Taylor (North Carolina)
- North Dakota – Lyle Lovett (North Dakota)
- Ohio – Neil Young (Ohio)
- Oklahoma Hills – Woody Guthrie (Oklahoma)
- Portland, Oregon – Loretta Lynn (Oregon)
- The Weight – The Band (Pennsylvania)
- Rhode Island is Famous for You – Blossom Dearie (Rhode Island)
- From South Carolina – Her Space Holiday (South Carolina)
- South Dakota Morning – Bee Gees (South Dakota)
- Graceland – Paul Simon (Tennessee)
- Headin for the Texas Border – Flamin Groovies (Texas)
- History of Utah – Camper Van Beethoven (Utah)
- Long Vermont Roads – Magnetic Fields (Vermont)
- East Virginia Blues – The Stanley Brothers (Virginia)
- Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle – Nirvana (Washington)
- This Protector – The White Stripes (West Virginia)
- Milwaukee Here I Come – John Prine (Wisconsin)
- The Emperor of Wyoming – Neil Young (Wyoming)
Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd (Alabama)
The boys of Lynyrd Skynyrd might hail from Florida, but that didn’t stop them from writing Alabama’s unofficial anthem, ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’ The mega-hit song stands as a tribute to all the amazing musicians who recorded at the famous Muscle Shoals studio. These players served as a significant inspiration for the southern rock band.
Related: Homesick? Listen to these songs about going home.
The Alaska Song – Lacy J Dalton (Alaska)
Alaska was one of the last states to be added to the US as an official American territory. Its unbridled wilderness continues to attract tons of tourists, and people who move to the wintry state appreciate its wild nature. ‘The Alaska Song’ captures the state’s untamed spirit with moving lyrics and powerful vocal performance.
Related: Take a stroll through nature with some songs about earth.
Arizona – Kings of Leon (Arizona)
‘Arizona’ by Kings of Leon tells the tale of a brothel in the desert. The song’s story is based on fact, with bandmates actually visiting the destination while touring through the southwest. They supposedly didn’t partake in any services, though, and left after only visiting a short while.
Mary Queen of Arkansas – Bruce Springsteen (Arkansas)
In the early ’70s, a movie recounting the scandalous life of infamous historical figure Mary Queen of Scots debuted. After seeing it, Bruce Springsteen became intrigued by the unconventional queen. Some speculate Springsteen related the famous figure to a Mary in his own life when he wrote ‘Mary Queen of Arkansas.’
Related: Check out more songs with Mary in the title.
Queen of California – John Mayer (California)
Laurel Canyon was a famous LA neighborhood that attracted many free-spirited musicians to it, including Neil Young. The area’s boho vibe inspired many songwriters who were trying to come up with new material. John Mayor sings about this beloved area in ‘Queen of California’ as he searches for something to hope for in the song’s story.
Related: Everyone loves Cali! Listen to the best California songs.
Colorado Girl – Townes van Zandt (Colorado)
Though Townes was a Texas native, the time he spent in Colorado had a lasting impact on his life. Not only did he love the mountainous, open space of the terrain, but he also fell in love with a Colorado girl. Though he had to leave, his love kept bringing him back to visit. He penned ‘Colorado Girl’ as a love song for the state and the girl he kept coming back to.
Related: Take a hike with these mountain songs.
I Live in Connecticut – Aerosmith (Connecticut)
‘I Live in Connecticut’ is a short instrumental from Aerosmith’s Pandora’s Box album. Clocking in at just under a minute, it’s a funk-rock number with heavy electric guitar and a groovy drum beat. Many fans like to discuss which future Aerosmith songs contain slightly transformed parts of this instrumental.
Delaware – Perry Como (Delaware)
Perry Como’s lighthearted ‘Delaware’ is full of creative puns related to many US states. He was inspired to write this tune as a followup to his successful ‘Mister and Mississippi’ song that also contained many creative puns. Some of the wordplays he includes in the track are “Della wear,” “Calla ‘phone ya’,” and “taxes.”
Florida – Vic Chesnutt (Florida)
Vic Chesnutt was born in Georgia, so that association could have influenced his writing of ‘Florida’ which offers a creative but critical take on the sunshine state. Though his loyalty to Florida’s northbound neighbor could have been a factor, those closest to the singer had mentioned before he wrote it after one of his friends moved to Florida and passed away unexpectedly.
Related: If you’re heading to Florida, you’ll need this playlist of the best songs about beaches.
Midnight Train to Georgia – Gladys Knight and the Pips (Georgia)
This classic hit was originally named ‘Midnight Plane to Houston.’ But when Whitney Houston’s mother, Cissy, wanted to record the song for her album, they changed a couple of the words in the title to better reflect the R&B genre. So “plane” was changed to “train,” and “Houston” was changed to “Georgia.” Gladys Knight’s version exploded when she released it years later.
Related: Head to our playlist with more train songs.
Blue Hawaii – Elvis Presley (Hawaii)
Elvis Presley took a 1930s song written for a movie called Waikiki Wedding and made it the hit we know and love today. After spending time in Hawaii and falling in love with the laidback tropical lifestyle, he recorded this song as a tribute. The song was the title track to Elvis’ popular movie by the same name.
Related: Take a dip with these songs about the sea.
Idaho – Josh Ritter (Idaho)
The simplicity of ‘Idaho’ allows the listener to focus on the poetic lyrics and moving imagery. The song has an open-ended meaning, with its story representing a love between Ritter and a girl residing in Idaho and the state itself. The lyrics could be interpreted as Ritter confessing his love for Idaho and vowing to return to her.
Casimir Pulaski Day – Sufjan Stevens (Illinois)
Casimir Pulaski Day is celebrated in Illinois every year and honors the great Casimir Pulaski, who was a courageous officer during America’s Revolutionary War. In the song, Stevens sings about the trouble he has coming to terms with losing someone dear to him. The story in the song takes place on this celebratory day.
Related: This song features on our playlist of the best sad songs.
(Back Home Again in) Indiana – Louis Armstrong – Indiana
This historic song was first published in 1917. Though it isn’t Indiana’s official song, many who live there think of it as an unofficial ode to Indiana. Though there are several mainstream songs that reference the Hoosier state, this is one of the most popular.
The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines – Joni Mitchell (Iowa)
Joni Mitchell’s folksy songwriting took everyday moments and made them have great meaning in her lyrics. ‘The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines’ tells a beautiful story about a lucky gambler in Iowa who could strike gold with his money at any time. The protagonist in the song wishes she was that “lucky.”
Related: You’ll love these songs about gold.
Wichita Lineman – Glenn Campbell (Kansas)
A song country music fans still love to this day, this popular classic tune was written by songwriter Jimmy Webb who penned many tracks for Campbell. Webb got the idea for the song one day while he was driving in the rural parts of Kansas and spotted a single lineman working on a telephone pole.
Related: Hear similar songs on our playlist of classic country songs.
Man of Constant Sorrow – John Hartford (Kentucky)
Fictional country group The Soggy Bottomed Boys, created for the hit movie O’ Brother, Where Art Thou? solidified this bluegrassy tune in country music history with their version for the movie. The song’s tale follows a down-and-out southern boy traveling across the southeast by train.
Johnny B Goode – Chuck Berry (Louisiana)
Johnny B. Goode’ was one of Chuck Berry’s biggest songs, and it’s still often covered by blues-rock artists today. It’s lyrically autobiographical, though some facts have been changed. It tells the story of a boy who started with nothing but a guitar and a dream and set out in the world to make something of himself.
Related: Keep your head in the clouds with this playlist of dreaming songs.
Going to Maine – Mountain Goats (Maine)
Mountain Goats songwriter John Darnielle wrote his song ‘Going to Maine’ before he ever set foot in the state. He grew up in California, and the “east coast” had always been an exotic place to him with customs that didn’t quite make sense. Ultimately, he moved across the country to the mysterious “east coast” and has never looked back.
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll – Bob Dylan (Maryland)
Dylan’s ‘The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll’ tells the real-life story of barmaid Hattie Carroll and her death at the hands of a drunken customer. The customer assaulted Hattie and two others the night he stayed at the hotel she worked at. He was ultimately charged with manslaughter because it was ruled her poor health caused her death more than his abuse.
Related: See our playlist of death songs.
Roadrunner – Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers (Massachusetts)
Written with a romantic slant, ‘Roadrunner’ could be categorized as a type of love song penned for Massachusetts. The lyrics describe driving along popular Route 128 late at night, listening to music, and taking in the state’s beauty. The simple two-chord song appears on their 1976 album The Modern Lovers.
Related: Sweet dreams! Here’s our playlist of night songs.
Dancing in the Street – Martha and the Vandellas (Michigan)
The Wolverine state is known for two major commodities, cars and music. Aside from once being the center of America’s automotive industry, the Motown music movement was front and center in Michigan culture. ‘Dancing in the Street’ was written by several Motown songwriters and is a positive, fun number about having a good time.
Related: Enjoy your day with the best good times songs.
Stuck Between Stations – The Hold Steady (Minnesota)
This moody tune focuses on the thoughts and emotions one goes through when experiencing depression. The early lines of the song make a Jack Kerouac reference when talking about falling out of love. Songwriter Craig Finn was going through a divorce at the time of writing ‘Stuck Between Stations,’ so the theme of failure is present in the song as well.
Related: Head to our playlist of songs about divorce.
Mississippi Goddam – Nina Simone (Mississippi)
Nina Simone’s musical background was in classical piano. Because of this training, she would often write songs from an instrumental perspective while only sometimes adding lyrics. When she did, though, they were powerful. This tune was written at the height of the civil rights movement after activist Medgar Evers was murdered in Mississippi.
Related: Need more songs like this? You’ll like our playlist of songs about history.
Missouri – Low (Missouri)
The lyrics contain multiple references to the Mormon faith, giving this song an intricate spiritual theme. The protagonist grapples with Adam and Eve’s leaving the Garden of Eden. Though it is understood why they left, the protagonist wonders if it was worth it. Missouri is an important location in Mormonism.
Montana – Frank Zappa (Montana)
This offbeat Zappa tune features his unique staple humor intertwined with nonsensical lyrics. The impressive elements of this song deal with his particularly outstanding guitar solo and his mixing of instruments like percussion and saxophone. Though Zappa didn’t consider himself a lead guitarist (he viewed himself more as a composer), ‘Montana’ effectively showcases his skills on the 6-string.
Nebraska – Bruce Springsteen (Nebraska)
Songwriter icon Bruce Springsteen captures the power of current events in his song ‘Nebraska.’ In the late ’70s, he started on the challenging task of bringing to life the horror story of Charles Starkweather in song. In 1958, Starkweather terrorized Nebraska as he traveled around randomly, killing people with the help of his girlfriend. Some Nebraskans thought the rise of rock music was to blame.
Viva Las Vegas – Elvis Presley (Nevada)
While Coldplay had their tune ‘Viva la Vida’ long before the band’s inception, Elvis sang ‘Viva Las Vegas.’ Exemplifying the glamorous lifestyle of the sin city in the heart of Nevada, Elvis belted about its allure while also starring in a movie by the same name. The song has served as an excellent advertisement for the destination over the years.
Related: Travel to our playlist of songs about cities.
New Hampshire – Sonic Youth (New Hampshire)
Sonic Youth’s ‘New Hampshire’ captures the nostalgic feeling of trying to make it in the 1970s as a band. Though the song’s title references New Hampshire, the band has discussed before there’s nothing quite like trying to make it in music in New York. Aerosmith band members Steven Tyler and Joe Perry are also referenced in the song.
Jersey Girl – Tom Waits (New Jersey)
Tom Waits wrote ‘Jersey Girl’ in honor of the woman who saved him after a tumultuous relationship, his future wife, Kathleen Brennan. Though Waits’ relationship ended with former girlfriend Rickie Lee Jones, they ended up having to work together on a music project for a Francis Ford Coppola movie. Ouch!
New Mexico – Johnny Cash (New Mexico)
Johnny Cash was considered a country music outlaw, so he captured the harsh, rugged nature of the American southwest well. He often wrote about fearless cowboys and traveling across the barren desert. In ‘New Mexico,’ he tells the story of the early days in the land of enchantment, trying to make a living while working physically demanding jobs.
Related: Yeehaw! Listen to the best cowboy songs.
Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed (New York)
Lou Reed challenged gender roles with his music in many ways, including singing about alternative lifestyles in his songs. In ‘Walk on the Wild Side,’ he chronicles the stories of several characters who are crossdressers in New York. These sex workers would often use ‘Take a Walk on the Wild Side’ as a code when meeting potential clients.
Related: Find this song on our playlist of songs about New York state.
Carolina in My Mind – James Taylor (North Carolina)
In the case of ‘Carolina in My Mind,’ James Taylor is referencing North Carolina. He grew up there, and though he moved away, he always maintained that’s where home was for him. This song is his tribute to his childhood spent there and the beauty the state represents to him and his family.
Related: Listen to the best songs about family.
North Dakota – Lyle Lovett (North Dakota)
Two of the most rugged states in America are North Dakota and Texas. Both have a long history of hard living, and both states are featured in Lyle Lovett’s ‘North Dakota.’ He sings about whiskey-drinking boys of North Dakota and cowboys down in Texas who venture out of their harsh climates and cross borders to learn about love.
Related: Try this playlist of alcohol songs.
Ohio – Neil Young (Ohio)
Neil Young has written quite a few moving protest songs and his ‘Ohio’ is one of them. In the song, he covers the “Tragedy at Kent State’ which took place in the 1970s when the National Guard shot four unarmed protestors at a rally on the campus. While Young read about it in the paper, several students were attending the university at the time who would go on to become widely successful musicians. This list included The Pretenders’ frontwoman, Chrissie Hynde.
Oklahoma Hills – Woody Guthrie (Oklahoma)
Woody Guthrie is a folk music legend and his song ‘Oklahoma Hills’ showcases his story-telling talent. He focuses on the life of a cowboy out in the prairie in the song as he paints a picture of riding his horse across a reservation among oak trees and flowing cotton. As the song continues, the cowboy confesses he’s now far away from his beloved Oklahoma hills as he travels the country, though, in his mind, he’s always home.
Related: Gallop over to the best songs about horses.
Portland, Oregon – Loretta Lynn (Oregon)
Loretta Lynn was born in the hollers of Kentucky, so when she penned ‘Portland, Oregon,’ she wasn’t singing about home. Instead, she wrote it when she was trying to make her husband jealous due to his carrying on with other women. She wrote it but never recorded it until she did a duo album with Jack White, and he found the lyrics filed away.
Related: Don’t envy our playlist of best songs about jealousy.
The Weight – The Band (Pennsylvania)
‘The Weight’ is perhaps The Band’s most well-known song. The lyrics reference a place called “Nazareth,” but not in the biblical sense. Nazareth is a town in Pennsylvania that is the birthplace of Martin Guitars. When songwriter Robbie Robertson wrote the tune in 1951, he played a Martin D-28.
Rhode Island is Famous for You – Blossom Dearie (Rhode Island)
Generally viewed as a song containing a bit of romance, it’s a beloved tune in the state of Rhode Island and was originally written in the ’40s for a musical. It was part of the Inside USA play, which documented each of the 48 states because, at the time, Hawaii and Alaska weren’t yet American territories. Blossom Dearie’s cover of the iconic tune is the most famous rendition.
From South Carolina – Her Space Holiday (South Carolina)
This melancholy tune finds the protagonist thinking of her lover no matter if she’s in South Carolina or California. The lyrics suggest neither are fit for the relationship though they continue to try. By the end of the dark romantic tune, the protagonist focuses on making their final goodbye perfect so they can move on.
Related: Move forward with the best songs about moving on.
South Dakota Morning – Bee Gees (South Dakota)
A lesser-known song from their 1973 album Life In a Tin Can, even many diehard Bee Gees fans weren’t aware of this tune until years after the album’s release. ‘South Dakota Morning’ plays like a ballad, and it features forlorn but beautiful lyrics that leave the listener’s mind turning as the story unfolds. This was a rare style of song for the band, who was most famous for their dance hits.
Graceland – Paul Simon (Tennessee)
Graceland is the famous property Elvis Presley and his family called home in Tennessee. Some of the song deals with Paul Simon’s divorce from his wife, with whom he shares a son. Lyrics reference his son as his “traveling companion.” They took the trip to Graceland during an unbalanced time in Simon’s life, and he viewed it as a way to reconnect with his music and gain inspiration. He has publicly stated before that it’s his favorite song he’s written.
Related: Listen to more great songs about Tennessee.
Headin for the Texas Border – Flamin Groovies (Texas)
Released on their 1970 album Flamingo, the Flamin Groovies sing about taking a trip to Texas. The main character of the story is something of an outlaw. He’s trying to evade the police as he heads toward the Texas border, plotting his escape. While he’s making his way through the state, he shares some wisdom with the locals and toasts his drink to the Lonestar state.
History of Utah – Camper Van Beethoven (Utah)
History of Utah’ is a quirky song about a devilish character named “Old Joe” who is making his way to “Zion.’ Once there, he transforms the place and makes it “just like Las Vegas.” The story continues as it highlights Joe’s antics and the trouble he gets into. Old Joe’s story ultimately becomes a legend around Utah by the song’s end.
Long Vermont Roads – Magnetic Fields (Vermont)
‘Long Vermont Roads’ is pure poetry set to music. Full of beautiful lyrics, the song has a southern gothic feel even though it focuses on locations like Mesa Verde and Missouri. Fans of the song draw different meanings from it. But there is an overall darker message woven through the entirety of the song. The protagonist seems to be professing his love for someone who is having trouble loving him back.
Related: Here’s a list of the best songs about unrequited love.
East Virginia Blues – The Stanley Brothers (Virginia)
The Stanley Brothers tell the story of a man who left his beloved home of east Virginia and traveled to North Carolina to try and win over the girl of his dreams. Even though she doesn’t reciprocate her love, the protagonist stays positive and heads back home. At the end of the song, he reminds her his door will always remain open for her should she decide to join him. Virginia is one of the two states that doesn’t have an official state song. Could this one work?
Related: While you’re waiting, listen to the best songs about waiting for someone.
Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle – Nirvana (Washington)
Frances Farmer was a Seattle native and an infamous actress from the ’30s and ’40s who was notoriously hard to work with and battled substance abuse issues. Due to the times, like many other difficult women, she was put in a mental institution and was given a lobotomy along with shock treatments. Cobain connected with her story due to his own personal and professional struggles.
This Protector – The White Stripes (West Virginia)
West Virginia is often called “coal country,” and Jack White tackles this tough subject in ‘This Protector.’ Due to lyrical references, some West Virginians speculate this song is about an early ’70s coal disaster. The tragedy is known as the Buffalo Creek Disaster. Due to an unforeseen flood, toxic coal waste killed over 100 people and left thousands homeless in a small West Virginia mining town.
Milwaukee Here I Come – John Prine (Wisconsin)
George Jones first recorded this hit with fellow singer Brenda Carter in the mid-’60s. Its popularity has caused several artists to cover it over the years, including John Prine. Other artists who have performed the song include country legends, Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton.
The Emperor of Wyoming – Neil Young (Wyoming)
Appearing on Neil Young’s debut album after his time with Steven Stills’ band Buffalo Springfield, the instrumental offers an early look into his eclectic style. The song plays out instrumentally like an old western tune, and many fans still speculate today about who “the Emperor” is. Some think it’s Young himself. Some believe it is Steven Stills.