July 4, 2016

Songs that give shout-outs to different regions across America

I've been thinking about what classic songs could be used as "Make America Great Again" anthems, and settled on "In America" by the Charlie Daniels Band (1980). The line about "just try and lay your hand on a Pittsburgh Steelers fan" will be especially relevant this election, with Trump's focus on the Rust Belt.

Back when we had a more cohesive nation, songs like this at least mentioned various places around the country, and often provided some local flavor from each one. As our country has become more fragmented, you don't hear that anymore, a topic I touched on in this old post:

There are plenty of newer songs on the "America" theme list, although I doubt they kick as much ass as "Living in America" by James Brown, from the Rocky IV soundtrack. What's really fallen off a cliff are songs that highlight several regions specifically, not just an overall American theme, nor boasting about why your state is better than everyone else's. That's a sign of regional fragmentation.

"California Girls" (the Beach Boys or the David Lee Roth version), "Dancing in the Street" (the original or the Jagger / Bowie cover), and "The Heart of Rock & Roll" are the only ones that run a tour across the whole country. One of the songs from Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet album has a fade-out that calls out a bunch of places -- Detroit, southern New Jersey -- but I can't remember which one, and lyrics websites don't say either.

There's also no more songs about red states, the last major one being "If You're Gonna Play in Texas" by Alabama, another triumph from that peak year in music, 1984.

If there's another song like "In America" during the Trump administration, it will probably have to refer to states or regions rather than cities, which have become so uniformly pro-Democrat since 1980.

A look around the county-level electoral map of Reagan vs. Carter reveals some notable exceptions from our point-of-view. Of course, most of the Northern industrial cities voted Democrat, but then so did a lot of the rural South -- that was the old New Deal coalition, no longer strong enough in numbers in 1980. And then there were quite a few big cities that voted for Reagan -- Indianapolis, Columbus, Cincinnati, Seattle, and Los Angeles. Also funny to see suburban DC voting Republican, on both the Maryland and Virginia sides.

The major change, though, is the surrounding metro area turning Democrat, where in 1980 it was usually only the city itself that was deep blue. Make the suburbs great again!


  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cQNkIrg-Tk
    Country Boy Can Survive by Hank Williams Jr.
    A bit, eh, "strong", not sunny at all, but it shouts out to country people around the nation (I love the song in certain moods).

  2. Ha ha!: America by Waylon Jennings. Gotta watch again to see if it fits the bill, but he had a bit of a hippie soul and has the chorus that goes something like:
    And the Red Man is right, to expect a little from you, a promise and then follow through, America.

    It's just a great song from the 80s that seemed to lose out totally as a national anthem to Lee Greenwood's song (also 80s) for Righties. My love for Waylon is absolute :)

  3. " I watch 'em shut the factories down, then the foreigners pull into town and take what's left, for half the pay.."


  4. Wasted In America- Love/Hate

  5. I like the refrain to "City of New Orleans" as performed by Willy Nelson with The Highwaymen:

    "Good morning America,
    how are you
    Said don't you know me,
    I'm your native son"


  6. The story about "Born in the USA" (misinterpreted in much the same way as as Randy Newman's I Love LA) and the 1984 election is pretty funny.

  7. It's good to be home.
    Chuck Berry, Back in the USA

    I knew it first from the Linda Rondstadt cover.

  8. BioCultBeamDelta7/5/16, 1:23 AM

    "40 Hour Week" by Alabama seems like a decent pick.


  9. Huey Lewis and The News for the big win as a band that could always craft upbeat unpretentious rock and roll. The chill fratty dudes from high school you became friends with even if you didn't want to..

  10. Yeah, their early work was a little too "New Wave" for my taste.

  11. Country hit "The Shake" by Neal McCoy from 1997 gave a shout out to a different mix of cities than you would normally hear.

    Gary Indiana (where I doubt too many country fans live)
    Mobile Alabama
    Phoenix Arizona
    Bismarck North Dakota (who must have liked the attention).

  12. If Clinton and the Democrats win this November, this will be the ultimate theme song in America:


  13. Currently, this is America's theme song: LIKE A DEGENERATE.

    (Parody of Lana Del Rey's "Like an American.")


  14. Eduardo the Magnificent7/6/16, 11:26 PM

    Buddy Jewel - Sweet Southern Comfort



You MUST enter a nickname with the "Name/URL" option if you're not signed in. We can't follow who is saying what if everyone is "Anonymous."