Monday, August 25, 2008

State songs

I was looking over the List of U.S. State Songs, because, well, I'm a weird kinda guy.

I have to say, I'm not sure I understand the point of these. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has seven songs given some official recognition. I've never heard or heard of even one of them.

Washington, my home state, has three listed, but only two that have official status, the third, Louie Louie, was part of campaign to be state song, and later had some push to be "State Rock Song", but, as I recall it, that was never actually made official. So, we're left with Washington, My Home, a song that I don't believe I've ever heard in my life. If they play it instrumentally at gubernatorial events, then I probably have a couple of times without knowing it.

I don't care exactly, but looking at the list, I know less than a dozen of these songs, I think, and I don't think I'm ignorant on these things. What exactly is the point of having some song that no one has ever heard and never will hear ratified as the "official state song"? It seems like one of those pointless, tax wasting indulgences that state legislatures take up to fill their hours instead of doing something useful, doesn't it? I know, most of these were declared decades and decades ago, so who cares? Well, nobody. Not even me, but still...

As a footnote, Richard Berry, who wrote "Louie Louie", was from Louisiana, the lyrics refer explicitly to Jamaica, the most famous version is by The Kingsman, who are from Portland, Oregon.

I recall that Ross Shafer, who led the campaign, such as it was, to make it state song, did indeed have some amusing "reasons", or excuses, why it should be the state song. I will stand by the facts that The Wailers, who were the first to turn the song into an R&B powerhouse, and The Sonics, who recorded easily the best version, both hail from the mighty city of Tacoma. That works for me!

And Tennessee officially ratifying Rocky Top as one of their seven official songs, makes them arguably the coolest of all the time wasters. Sing it with me, "Corn won't grow at all on Rocky Top, dirt's too rocky by far. That's why all the folks on Rocky Top get their corn from a jar..."


Adam Ross said...

It makes about as much sense as Michigan being the Wolverine State, even though no creatures by that name call it home, or Idaho being the Gem State since there are no "gems" mined in the state. Utah has to be the worst -- the Bee Hive State? Maybe Arizona could be the Iced Tea State.

Neil Sarver said...

Washington gets off easy there. We do have plenty of Evergreens as well as plenty of ever green, so our name applies.

Bee Hive State works for me, since I'd like to stay out of "The Bee Hive State" and I'd like to stay out of Utah. It makes sense.

They are another that must seem like a good way to waste time and seem like you're celebrating your state and its constituants, if you're in the legislature. Most of the ones on the Washington State Symbols are moderately sane. Somehow the state gem being petrified wood seems appropriate on a whole variety of levels...

Further footnotes to the song topic:

1) The song title that makes me laugh hardest is Here We Have Idaho. It works for me.

2) I suppose a whole good list of "state rock songs" could be conceived, but the one that stands out is Massachusetts, which has ever other kind of song known to man. As such, I nominate Roadrunner by The Modern Lovers. Please, dedicated lawmakers of Massachusetts, waste a little extra time and make that one happen.

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