By now, you know the drill. Living in the South is all about nostalgia, sticking to your roots, and maybe holding onto the past a little too tightly at times. One of the best ways to reminisce and honor the past is through music. Music has been breaking down barriers for years and, of course, there’s not a much better way to declare to the world who you are than with a playlist of Southern songs.
Each of these songs was chosen for a reason. It’s about the South, was written by a Southerner, is a unique part of Southern lore, or sounds really good when you’re floating off the back of a boat.
Let’s breakdown a few of the really important ones and then get to listening and learning.
Crossroad Blues // Robert Johnson
Simply put: without this song there is no Southern music genre (or rock or blues). The story goes that Johnson wanted so badly to be a blues musician that he sold his soul to the devil where highways 49 and 61 meet in Clarksdale, Mississippi. There are numerous accounts of this legendary tale, but whatever the truth is, Johnson is a blues legend. Eric Clapton considered Johnson, “the most important blues musician to ever live.” (Editor’s note: We’ve included Clapton’s more-recognizable interpretation of the song on this list.) Johnson received little to no recognition in his short life, but his story is worth a read and his music definitely worth a listen. And the second you can get to Clarksdale for some tunes– go.
Georgia on my Mind // Ray Charles
This song was originally written and recorded in 1930, but wasn’t a hit until Charles got his hands on it in 1960. In 1979 it became the official state song of Georgia. Never has a song so eery, mellow and smooth made you want to be in… well, Georgia.
Born on the Bayou // Creedence Clearwater Revival
It pains me to admit that the boys of CCR aren’t from the South, when so much of their music reflects life in the South. Especially this one. In the South, we were actually born on a bayou, know someone born on the bayou, have driven past a bayou or know where one is. Plus, this song is nostalgia defined,
“And I can remember the fourth of July
Runnin’ through the backwood, bare…”
Been there, done that!
Losing My Religion // R.E.M.
Most historians agree that R.E.M. was a pivotal part of the creation and development of alternative. And these guys are from Athens, Georgia. Not Seattle. My favorite part of this song is its use of a good ole Southern colloquialism. The lyrics aren’t of a man turning his back on church, but of a guy losing his temper. In the South, “losing my religion” is a way of saying someone is at the end of their rope, their losing their civility. You know, not acting like they were raised right.
Welcome to Atlanta // Jermaine Dupri, Ludacris (and others)
This one may seem out of place, but let me assure you it isn’t. This song let everyone know that Atlanta was now on the map for rap, hip-hop and R&B. Prior to this, New York City was the longest respected capital of the rap genre. Since this, acts like Outkast, 2 Chainz, Lil’ Jon, CeeLo Green, Future, Soulja Boy and dozens of others have made Atlanta their home for producing hit after hit after hit.
Remember: every good Southerner knows where they came from. You also must know about the music that surrounds you and creates the ambiance in which we live. The South has a rich and healthy music scene, with a lot of history behind it.