Rhode Island is Famous for This Song: The 52 State Pick-up Mix, Part 1.
This past summer on a road trip, I memorized the nicknames of all fifty states (The Garden State, The Sunshine State, The Peace Garden State, etc.). I didn’t set out to do it, my brain automatically picked them up when passing the time with road atlas games with my girlfriend. While making a mix recently, I was thinking of songs with states in the title – a different smaller group than city name songs (also a great genre) — and while I’m not trying to pull a Sufjan Stevens, I decided to challenge myself to make a 52 song playlist (the Capitol and Puerto Rico need songs, too!) that would best capture the essence of all the states of America, but also be a slamming mix. For some regions, the answer will be easy; other states will require more work, either because the selection of good songs will be vast and varied (New York, California), or I’m gonna have to do some real research on local music and/or some fcking hipstery hipster band song titles (South Dakota, New Hampshire). Liberties will be taken, so I won’t even promise they won’t, but I will always strive to hit that sweet spot of regional accuracy crossed with head-bobbing, heart-warming, toe-tapping, hips-shaking goodness. In other words, I don’t want a novelty playlist, I want a good one. I’ll explain why the track was chosen (and fully expect to hear other cases for other songs made by you, too.)
This week’s intro has two tracks, but the rest of the installments will have five songs, posted every Saturday for the next ten weeks. Happy listening!
Rhode Island Is Famous For You
This song mentioning “the ocean state” is what inspired the idea: a bright ditty of an adoration song that lists various states and what they are known for, devolving into much sweet punning by the end. I’m already bending my own rules because this song isn’t really about Rhode Island, it’s about all these other states, but….it’s Blossom Dearie. Ms. Dearie passed almost two years ago, and I still get a little sad about it when her songs pop up in my life. And while this song doesn’t speak to the landscape, people, or history of the state, it gives natives the best pep talk ever. Hell, I almost wish I was one. Don’t let them ride Rhode Island!
Moonlight in Vermont
For the Green Mountain state, it was not a question of which song about Vermont do I use, but which version of this standard jazz song would I choose. Initially it was Bobby Womack’s version, then it was Billie Holiday’s version (the first one I knew), but in the end, I went with Betty Carter singing, because her voice resonates in my ear canals, down through my bones, and rattles my heart. I sigh, and then I think about how some people don’t even know who she is, and that should change.
Next week: the duality of the South.