As Texans, we're duty-bound to say that it is the best state in the union. As music critics, however, we have an even bigger obligation to say that our official state song (“Texas, Our Texas”) is truly terrible.
We’ll give our dear Texan readers the requisite space to lash out for targeting what we’re inclined to view as one of the state’s many sacred cows, but there’s a 90% chance you haven’t even heard the song or wouldn’t even be able to recite one of its lyrics upon request. The reason for this is simple: The song is forgettable.
In wholesale cornball fashion, the song even rhymes “state” with “great,” which amounts to the state song equivalent of rhyming “love” with “above.” While, yes, this far-fetched posturing is catchy and flattering in comparison with more forthright lyrics such as, “Your state constitution has 690 amendments, and a lot of them don’t mean anything,” or “You were the defendant in the Supreme Court case that declared anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional,” it still doesn’t properly capture our essence or do justice to our rich cultural exports.
When the Texas Legislature gets back into session next year, it needs to pass a resolution enshrining another official state song. Ernest Tubb’s “Waltz Across Texas” or Terry Strafford’s “Amarillo By Morning” would perfectly suffice as an official song, and if any official songs specific to genres are up for grabs, we should maybe even consider declaring Gene Autry’s “Here Comes Santa Claus” the official holiday song of Texas.
Whatever other contenders you’d rather pursue, the fact remains that there’s a lot of room for improvement on this front. Below are five of the best official songs from other states that we can learn from.
Jimmie Davis, “You Are My Sunshine”
(One of two official state songs of Louisiana, 1977-present)
Admittedly, this song is a bit of a flex, as songwriter Jimmie Davis went on to become the governor of Louisiana five years after the release of “You Are My Sunshine” in 1939, but this recording is nonetheless immortal and culturally significant. The state Legislature could have perhaps opted for one of Louis Armstrong’s many hits instead, but New Orleans named its airport after him in 2001, so we’ll consider this a wash.
Osborne Brothers, “Rocky Top”
(One of 10 official state songs of Tennessee, 1982-present)
Next to Kentucky, Tennessee is one of America’s biggest bluegrass hotbeds, and few songs embody the genre’s nexus with country music better than the Osborne Brothers’ version of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant’s 1967 hit “Rocky Top.” Nashville tends to get the most love and attention in country music, but “Rocky Top” pays tribute to the rural fixtures of Gatlinburg and proves that Tennessee’s culture isn’t merely confined to one city.
John Denver, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”
(One of four official state songs of West Virginia, 2014-present)
Fun fact: West Virginia didn’t even exist until John Denver released this song in 1971. He literally sang the state into existence, because that’s how infectious the hook is.
The Flaming Lips, “Do You Realize??”
(official rock song of Oklahoma, 2009-2013)
The Flaming Lips’ 2002 single “Do You Realize??” doesn’t even mention Oklahoma, yet it was declared the state’s official rock song for four years. Add this achievement to the fact that the song somehow instills a feeling of happiness in the listener while ominously reminding them of their mortality, and you’ll wonder why its reign stopped there.
Ray Charles, “Georgia on My Mind”
(Official state song of Georgia, 1979-present)
Billy Joel was correct when he said Ray Charles “was more important than Elvis Presley.” He was only incorrect in regarding such a statement as “sacrilege,” because what Presley did for rock 'n' roll’s crossover with country and blues, Charles did tenfold.
Two years before the 1962 release of his seminal record Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, The Genius dropped his first No. 1 single, “Georgia on My Mind.” The song, originally performed by its creator, Hoagy Carmichael, has a simple elegance in its repetition of the phrases “Georgia” and “On my mind.” Charles, a Georgia native, blew Carmichael’s version out of the water and, in true Johnny Cash-covering-Nine Inch Nails fashion, made the song his own.
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