The 20 Best Songs Ever Written About Dallas
The Old 97's are bound to be on this list. But who will be No. 1?
Oh, Dallas. You give us all the feels. Sometimes we love you, sometimes we get tripped up on your oversized ego. But mostly we just love you, and in particular, we dig your music. We're not the only ones, either: Artists from around the world have been inspired to write songs about this city, whether it was because of the skyline, the honky tonks or even just the groupies. (Yes, we said groupies.)
So we've pulled together 20 of our favorite songs about Dallas, songs that are as diverse as the city and the people who live in it: blues, country, hip-hop, punk rock and rock 'n' roll. They're not always pretty, but when you put them all together, they represent something about what makes this place great.
20. Sir Mix-a-Lot, "Jump On It"
Sir Mix-a-Lot is the greatest lyricist of all time. Why? Because when he put out this attempt at a club banger in 1996, he not only kicked everything off with a shout-out to Dallas, Texas, the 214 and the Cowboys, but even fucking Pappadeauxs. The dude pauses mid-song to rhyme about his love for a cajun food restaurant that's a micro-chain in Dallas. I mean, on a good day you can go with Ice Cube to Fat Burger if you want, but if I had the opportunity to grab a meal with a famous rapper, I'd choose splitting blackened opelousas with Mr. Baby Got Back. Jaime-Paul Falcon
19. They Might Be Giants, "Dallas (Trees)"
The legendary, brainy rockers have a catchy little jingle that really has nothing to do with the famed venue. Meant to be a tribute to '70s-era Yes, it's less than a minute long, but its melody easily gets in your head. Talking about walking in a forest, this is something to hum to whenever you walk around the place, hoping to get a good view of an indie rock act or metal band. For those who have had many great experiences at the venue, it's nice to know there's something associated with it other than, "that's the place where Nirvana played and Kurt Cobain got his ass kicked." Eric Grubbs
18. The Rolling Stones, "Rip This Joint"
This isn't a song about Dallas, per se, but its connection to the city is simply too good to overlook. This breakneck band-on-the-run song from the Stones makes a reference to going "Down to New Orleans with the Dixie Dean/ 'Cross to Dallas, Texas with the Butter Queen." The Butter Queen, as it so happens, was a real person -- a groupie from Dallas named Barbara Cope, known to rock stars of the day for her sexual proclivity for, well, butter. She also appeared in the Joe Cocker documentary Mad Dogs & Englishmen, but "Rip This Joint" is her definitive tribute. Jeff Gage
17. Mountain Goats, "Blues in Dallas"
You'd think that with all the name dropping of the Lone Star State in their lyrics, the Mountain Goats would be a Texas band. The Californian folksters have an album titled All Hail West Texas, for God's sake, an album recorded entirely on a boombox that features the simple "Blues in Dallas." An automatic electronic drumbeat, chords courtesy of a cheap Casio, and John Darnielle's trademark whisper delivery culminate in a song that, despite the name, really only has one direct reference to Dallas. Darnielle namechecks Dealey Plaza -- a great location if you're looking to visit Reunion Tower, check out some museums or assassinate a U.S. President. Matt Wood
16. Ben Kweller, "Falling"
Before he was a successful musician, Ben Kweller was a doctor's son from Greenville, Texas. From the first few notes, Dallas is clearly the backdrop of "Falling," even if most of the song is actually just Ben Kweller singing the word "falling" over and over again. It may have taken a backseat in his legacy to "Wasted & Ready," the massive hit single from 2002's Sha Sha, but "Falling" is still the soundtrack of many a Dallasite's angsty teen years. Upon re-listening, it's almost impossible to resist the impulse to paint your nails black and grow out your bangs. Amy McCarthy
15. Chris Ledoux, "Dallas Days and Fort Worth Nights"
On this track from his 1994 album Haywire, one-time rodeo star Chris Ledoux sings about the great divide between Dallas and Fort Worth. Dallas belongs to the business folks, as sung by Ledoux, but like any cowboy stuck in the Big D, he's just waiting to escape to Fort Worth. Us Dallasites know we don't ride horses to work, but it helps when a singer like Ledoux tries to set the record straight and explain the double life possible while living in the metroplex. Paige Skinner
14. Drake, "9 A.M. in Dallas"
Is this song about Dallas actually about Dallas? No. Not exactly. But "9 A.M. in Dallas" was written at 9 a.m., in Dallas, hence its title. Drake even goes as far as putting coordinates on the cover art for this song: 32 47 0 N 96 48 0 W. So, yeah. "9 A.M. in Dallas" was originally supposed to be on Drake's debut, Thank Me Later, but ended up as a buzz single for the album. Now it just lives on as a deep cut where a young Drake drops some of his best bars. And guess where he wrote them? Dallas. H. Drew Blackburn
13. ZZ Top, "Tush"
Does your beer commercial need to grab attention? Does your coming-of-age story about nerds trying to lose their virginity need a track for when they stumble into a bar with fake IDs? Are you trying to show that the time period is the '80s, or that a character is sort of sleazy and stuck in the '80s? Well, ZZ Top has the riff heavy song for you. See, if you've been bad or good in either Dallas, Texas or Hollywood, you can head downtown and look for some tush. (Dusty Hill should know, after all.) You might even find it, as long as you don't ask for too much. Jaime-Paul Falcon
12. Lee Ann Womack, "If You're Ever Down in Dallas"
Whether she's hinting at a possible one-night stand or just a drinking buddy, Lee Ann Womack's "If You're Ever Down in Dallas" is a great lost love song. With the line, "I can take you all the places a fool goes to forget," she reminds us of all of our favorite Dallas honky tonk bars where the booze is cheap, and you hopefully won't remember the night before. Paige Skinner
11. The Shelton Brothers, "Deep Elem Blues"
The Grateful Dead never recorded "Deep Elem Blues," but the song was a staple of the band's live set from the '60s all the way up through the '80s. The Dead probably didn't know much about Deep Ellum and there is no evidence that they ever performed the song in Dallas or even Texas. But "Deep Elm Blues" is based on an American traditional song. The Georgia Crackers first recorded the tune in 1927 with the title "The Georgia Black Bottom," using a generic name to describe a red light district. In 1933, The Shelton Brothers recorded their definitive take on the song "Deep Elem Blues," which gives the song a name and place: Dallas. Jeremy Hallock
10. Silver Jews, "Dallas"
Listen, it's not hard to hate your hometown, and it's even easier to hate Dallas. What with the segregation, the drastic economic indiversity, the sprawl that makes the suburban hellscape almost inescapable, the affluenza and the self importance. So, when Silver Jews frontman David Berman wrote about his hometown, he didn't hold back. He ripped into churches on cul-de-sacs, the shopping culture, and those evil lights of downtown. Some might find it harsh, and they should try to make it a point to leave town, and live another place for awhile. Maybe then they'll understand where Berman was coming from, or they might still think he's an asshole for putting the city on blast. Jaime-Paul Falcon
9. Johnny Winter "Dallas"
If you want to hear all the worst things about Dallas, look no further than this cut from Johnny Winter's self-titled debut. A native of the Houston area, Winter must have enjoyed taking jabs at Dallas, a city apparently full of violent rednecks and "people looking for trouble." (To his credit, Winter claims "there's so much shit in Texas, you're bound to step in some," so it's not just about Dallas.) But aside from the great one-liners, this is just a nitty-gritty acoustic blues song with a gutsy vocal and some mean slide guitar. Works for us. Jeff Gage
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8. Gene Autry "Dallas County Jail Blues"
Having "blues" in the title almost guarantees that a song will be devastatingly sad, but this Gene Autry classic is particularly depressing. The song is told from the perspective of an inmate in the Dallas County Jail, who finds himself incarcerated after a particularly wild night at a "booger rooger." He wonders whether he'll end up in the "'lectric chair," a very real concern for a convict in 1930s Texas. The grainy quality of the recording only adds to the eeriness of the story. Of course, Autry also notes there's blues all around in the Dallas County Jail, which is just as true today as it was back then. Amy McCarthy
7. The Tah Dahs, "Dallas"
The majority of the lyrics on the Tah Dahs' "Dallas" could apply to any town, but somehow it seems to perfectly reflect life in Dallas. The key line, "I want to sleep with someone who hasn't slept with somebody that I already know" is all too familiar to those who've tried dating while being involved in the music scene. Think this is a big town? Well, take the number of people active in the music scene, divide it by three, and that number gets really, really small. You will know a given person within a couple of degrees at least, and chances are good he or she has played in the Polyphonic Spree at some point. Eric Grubbs
6. Ray Wylie Hubbard, "Dallas After Midnight"
Having attended W.H. Adamson High School in Oak Cliff in the 1950's, Ray Wylie Hubbard certainly knows a thing or two about the late-night happenings of Dallas. On his stellar 2005 LP, Delirium Tremelos, Hubbard teamed up with another former Dallas student, SMU alumnus Jack Ingram, to weave a somber tale of breaking bad and paying the consequences. The song's deliberate pace gives the listener time to think about the duo's crimes, especially when Hubbard confesses, "It's hard to live in Dallas when you're white trash and poor." Kelly Dearmore
5. Big Tuck, "Welcome to Dallas"
Of all the songs about Dallas, few hit as hard as Big Tuck's hometown banger "Welcome to Dallas." Big Tuck gets real over the hard-hitting, bass-heavy instrumental, dropping lines like, "We're so for real here, presidents get killed here." A member of the Dirty South Rydaz (DSR), Tuck is a South Dallas native and Lincoln High School grad. "Welcome to Dallas," arguably one of our city's best rap songs, was the second track on Tha Absolute Truth, Tuck's 2006 album, which featured Chamillionaire, Paul Wall and Erykah Badu. As Tuck sums it up in the song, "Never been to Dallas/Then you ain't been to Texas." Mac McCann
4. Old 97's, "St. Ignatius"
Featured on their now two-decade-old debut, Hitchhike to Rhome, "St. Ignatius" may very well be the quintessential Old 97's tune. Ken Bethea's twangy surf-rock-meets-honky-tonk guitar pairs great with Rhett Miller's mentions of Plato and Dallas points-of-reference such as Elm and Main Streets, where he could be found "tanked up." It can be argued that combinations like those have served the group well and provided them an identity beyond that of just another "alt-country" band. In a recent post on the band's Facebook page, Bethea detailed that it was this very song that convinced him Miller was legit and "changed my life." Kelly Dearmore
3. Waylon Jennings, "Bob Wills is Still the King"
In 1975, legendary Lubbock native Waylon Jennings offered up a tune he had written as he was on a plane "between Dallas and Austin, going to El Paso." In the midst of the Outlaw Country craze, Waylon, Willie and the Boys were the rulers of the country music world. But even a badass like Jennings knew what was up; the line "It don't matter who's in Austin" is enough in itself to get this song on the list, and he had good reason for saying it. That's because Bob Wills -- Jennings' first honky tonk hero, noted Texas swing originator and owner of the infamous Longhorn Ballroom - was here in Dallas. Kelly Dearmore
2. Butthole Surfers, "Pepper"
The Butthole Surfers are a Texas special. Throughout the '80s, they made albums with names like Rembrant Pussyhorse and Locust Abortion Technician. And at that point in their career, they had it all: a van, pizza, a dog named Mark Farner from Grand Funk Railroad and a tour with R.E.M. (Well, they actually stalked R.E.M, but who wouldn't, right?) Then, after the rise of grunge in the early '90s, they released the psycho-pop drenched Electriclarryland and with it, their unlikely radio hit "Pepper." Awash in all the typical Butthole weirdness, Gibby Hanes relates, "Tommy played piano like a kid out in the rain/Then he lost his leg in Dallas, he was dancing with a train." Pablo Arauz
1. The Flatlanders, "Dallas"
Are we homers for picking this as the No. 1 song on the list? Probably. But who cares! There may be no more iconic image of the city than when Jimmie Dale Gilmore sings, "Did you ever see Dallas from a DC9 at night?" Much like the history of the song itself, which was a complete flop upon its release in 1972 before going on to be considered a classic, that image is fraught with contradictions: Dallas is a gem, but it's also cruel and garish, a "woman who'll walk on you when you're down" or "a rich man with a death wish in his eye." Which is just the thing: When you love it and even when you hate it, you have to admit it's a hell of a city. Jeff Gage
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