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What Is a State Song?

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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2016
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A state song is one of many official state symbols adopted by most states within the United States. A state song typically encapsulates the wonders, attributes and accomplishments of the state and is often played at state events, sporting events and celebrations. Some states have more than one state song, along with an anthem or waltz, and some even have unofficial or honorary songs as well as their official state songs. The songs are typically approved by the state's governor or legislature.

State songs sometimes include the name of the state in the title, such as Delaware's "Our Delaware," California's "I Love You, California" and Idaho's "Here We Have Idaho." Songs such as Kentucky's "My Old Kentucky Home" and Michigan's "My Michigan" also clearly identify their state. Other state songs, such as Florida's "Old Folks at Home," also known as "Swanee River," do not make the connection quite as obvious.

Some states, such as Ohio and Oklahoma, even have state rock songs. "Hang On Sloopy" by The McCoys is Ohio's state rock song, and "Do You Realize?" by The Flaming Lips is Oklahoma's state rock song. Tennessee has numerous state songs. Between 1926 and 2010, Tennessee adopted "My Homeland, Tennessee," "When It's Iris Time in Tennessee," "My Tennessee" and "The Tennessee Waltz" as state songs. "Rocky Top," "Tennessee," "The Pride of Tennessee" and "Smoky Mountain Rain" were other additions.

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Some state songs are well-known on their own, not just for their official status. Connecticut's state song, "Yankee Doodle," is a well-known folk song dating back to the Seven Years' War. West Virginia adopted three state songs, including "The West Virginia Hills," "This Is My West Virginia" and "West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home." New Mexico has adopted state songs in English, Spanish and a bilingual song.

Inspiration for state songs comes from a variety of sources. Wisconsin's state song "On, Wisconsin!" is the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Badger's fight song. The song's name was the Civil War battle cry of Arthur MacArthur Jr. during the Battle of Chattanooga at Missionary Ridge.

The lyrics of Alaska's state song, "Alaska's Flag," explain the symbolism of elements in the state flag. The flag features the Northern Star and the Big Dipper on a blue background. Alabama's state song was written by Julia Tutwiler, who drew inspiration from German patriotic songs. She felt Alabama residents would take pride in having a state song of their own. Georgia's state song, "Georgia on My Mind," by Stuart Gorrell and Hoagy Carmichael, was also recorded by several music artists, including country music artist Willie Nelson.

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JimmyT
Post 4

I will say that there are all types of state songs if one really digs deep.

Besides what is mentioned in the article there are different kinds of state songs, besides state rock songs in various states.

One that comes immediately to mind is the official youth song of the state of New Jersey, which is "Born to Run' by Bruce Springsteen.

Although the premise is petty, they picked the perfect song to fit the bill as it is a song written and performed by a lifelong New Jersey resident, true to his roots, and depicts life as a young person in the state of New Jersey.

The one unique thing about this song though is in the lyrics it

talks about escaping New Jersey and going to a better place.

Despite this one flaw I feel it is a great song to represent the state and I am wondering if there are other songs in various states out there with similar stories to this particular one?

titans62
Post 3

@jcraig - Although I agree with most state sponsored things, I really feel like state songs are unique simply because of the fact that one can hear the words that are being sung in the song and there is little to interpret to the listener.

Take a state flag for instance and the symbolism depicted. When one looks at a state flag in such a way, they must decide what the creator is trying to depict, while in a state song one only has to decipher the words and they will know immediately what the song is about and the meaning behind it.

I really feel like a state song is one of the few state sponsored things that are needed as opposed to something like a state fish in a landlocked state or a state fossil.

jcraig
Post 2

@stl156 - I understand your frustration, but one also has to realize that once a state song is selected that is the only time, hopefully, that the state will be debating the an official state song, so it is a one time thing that waste little time when one looks at it through a big lense.

However, I will say that I do feel the selections of some of the state songs seem to be a bit ludicrous as a lot of them do nothing to promote the states culture or history and are only selected either because a state song needs to be selected or because it is catchy and people will remember it.

Like any state sponsored thing, a state song needs to reflect the culture and history of the state and make it appear unique when compared to the others and all too often the state song fails in this regard.

stl156
Post 1

I have to be completely honest as far as these types of state sponsored initiatives go. I understand that the politicians are wanting to do something to help bring more people to support the state and add to the state culture, but I really do not understand why a state song is necessary.

I live in a state where they repeat the name of the state over and over and over in the song and in reality it is not a really good song.

Whenever I listen to this song I really have to think that tax dollars from the people that live in the state pay for the people to debate these types of measures and to reject or

approve them.

As far as people saying that these are usually approved for without much opposition, they are dead wrong. If one would look into the books of a lot of state legislatures they will see that state songs are contested just like regular bills and are usually not approved the first time passing through.

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