Do you know that Billy Joel song, New York State of Mind? When you think about it, there are a lot of songs about New York. There's that Broadway song, New York, New York, No Sleep 'til Brooklyn... the list is practically endless.
California, too. California Girls, L.A. Woman, Hotel California, and on and on. It makes sense that New York and California have the most songs. They have a certain stature in American culture, and are also very populous places with an interesting history. In many respects, they are more than states, they are symbols.
But what about my state, Washington? Does Washington have any songs? At the moment I can only think of Jet City Woman by Queensryche, and I'm only being honest when I say that Queensryche is no Billy Joel, Beach Boys, or Beastie Boys.
But maybe the comparison isn't fair. New York is, after all, a city and a state. And California is bigger than Washington, with a longer history and more varied climate. And perhaps, given time, Washington will capture the imagination the way New York and California do. Perhaps more interesting things will happen there, and these interesting things will serve as inspiration for future pop hits.
It makes me a little sad to think of Washington with only a single song to its credit. It's even sadder because the "Jet City" described in Queensryche's song doesn't really exist anymore. Boeing moved most its 747 production further north (to the city of Everett), or else out of the state entirely. Seattle, once defined as the Jet City, is now more closely aligned with Starbucks and Microsoft. And who ever wrote any good rock songs about coffee? Or computer operating systems?
You might think with all of Seattle's suicidally-inclined grunge bands someone could have written a good anthem for the rest of the state to rally behind. But those bands were perhaps too inwardly-directed for that. Instead, all we've got is songs like Outshined, Even Flow, Smells Like Teen Spirit, and Man in the Box. None of these songs make you think of anywhere in Washington, and even if they did you probably wouldn't be thinking of those places in a good way.
Further back? Heart? No, no Washington-related songs that I can think of. The Sonics? Nothing there. Jimi Hendrix? No, probably taking too much LSD to immortalize the state he came from. Google reminded me of Sir Mix-a-Lot's Posse on Broadway*, and also Bing Crosby's Black Ball Ferry Line, but the first sounds incredibly dated now, and the second is so obscure that today was the first time I ever heard it.
Maybe we should blame Loretta Lynn. Despite having lived in Washington for several years, she spent all her time writing songs about Kentucky, and other women trying to steal her man. If only she had memorialized us in song! Maybe... "Spokane Shuffle?" "You Ain't Woman Enough (to Live in Blaine)?"**
Washington does have, however, an official state song. And no, it wasn't written by Nirvana or the Screaming Trees. The lyrics are as follows:
This is my country, God gave it to me,
I will protect it, ever keep it free.
Small towns and cities rest here in the sun,
Filled with our laughter, "Thy will be done."
Washington my home;
Wherever I may roam;
This is my land, my native land,
Washington, my home.
Our verdant forest green,
Caressed by silvery stream,
From mountain peak to fields of wheat.
Washington, my home.
There's peace you feel and understand
In this, our own beloved land.
We greet the day with head held high,
And forward ever is our cry.
We'll happy ever be
As people always free.
For you and me a destiny;
Washington my home.
Ok, it's over. You can stop crying now. I know you got all choked up at "verdant forest green," but it's over. It's alright. It happens.
But hey, Wherever I May Roam is a Metallica song***, right? Maybe that could be our state song! That would be super cool. It is, after all, hard to get anything to rhyme with words like "Washington," "Seattle," or even "Wenatchee," so maybe a song by a band from California is the best we're ever going to get.
Anything would be better than Queensryche.
1. a. The World
1. b. The United States and the Rest of North America
1. d. My City
1. e. My Neighborhood
*No, not that Broadway. Broadway's the main street through Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. That "23rd and Jackson" line always makes me smile. Used to work near there!
**She lived in Blaine and Custer, Washington for 7 years. Fun Fact: Crystal Gayle is her sister!
***This and Enter Sandman are the only songs on the Black album that I like. They were WAY better before that.