Songs About Places (Part 1)
Do you know the way to San Jose? That’s the question posed by Dionne Warwick in the 1968 song of the same title. Written by Burt Bacharach, the single went on to top charts in France, Italy, South Africa, Australia, Germany, Brazil and Mexico. It also became an unofficial anthem of sorts for the city of San Jose, California.
Songs about places are quite common. Today, I’ve compiled a list of what I consider to be some of the more popular ones along with a few I remember from my teenage years in the 80s. (Stay tuned for more tomorrow.)
- “New York, New York”: Frank Sinatra made this song—also known as the “Theme from New York, New York”—famous even though it was written for and performed in the Martin Scorsese film by Liza Minnelli. Although it’s one of the most recognizable “place songs,” it’s far from the only song written about the Big Apple. Other New York songs include “Englishman in New York” performed by Sting, “Gotham City” by R. Kelly, “Harlem” by Duke Ellington, and “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel.
- “I Love LA”: Of course, there are countless songs about Los Angeles, but the lively lyrics and tune of “I Love LA” make this a perennial favorite. Written and recorded by Randy Newman, the song has been frequently parodied in songs like “I Love D.C.” (Washington D.C.) and “I Love D.M.” (Des Moines, Iowa). Other Los Angeles area songs include “Beverly Hills” by Weezer, “Hollywood Nights” by Bob Seger, and “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” by Billy Joel, Bette Midler and Ronnie Spector.
- “Sweet Home Alabama”: This 1974 song by the band Lynyrd Skynyrd celebrates the state of Alabama. It is played at every home football game for the University of Alabama, and the phrase “sweet home Alabama” has been used as an official slogan on the state’s license plates.
- “Georgia on My Mind”: Sticking to the Southern theme, “Georgia on My Mind” definitely deserves mention. After all, it’s the official song of the state of Georgia. While it is associated with Ray Charles, who released his version in 1960, the song was originally popularized by Frankie Trumbauer in 1931.
- “Viva Las Vegas”: It has become the unofficial anthem for Las Vegas. “Viva Las Vegas” was written for the 1964 romantic musical movie of the same name, which starred Elvis Presley (who, of course, performed it in the movie) and actress Ann-Margret.
- “El Paso”: First released in 1959 by singer-songwriter Marty Robbins, “El Paso” tells the tale of a cowboy who falls in love with a young Mexican woman in El Paso, Texas. Robbins followed up his hit with a retelling from the woman’s perspective (“Feleena”) and “El Paso City,” a reworking of the original.
- “Route 66”: The song that encourages listeners to “get their kicks” on Route 66, the infamous and now defunct highway, was composed by Bobby Troup in 1946 and recorded later that year by Nat King Cole. Since, it has been covered by Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, Depeche Mode, John Mayer and Glenn Frey.
Tomorrow, I’ll throw some international locales that have been the subject of popular songs. In the meantime, what are your favorite songs about places?
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