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From its spectacular national parks to its friendly residents and jaw-dropping mountain scenery, there’s a lot to find inspiring about Utah. And for decades, singers and songwriters have done just that. Whether they’re name-dropping the Beehive State or dedicating an entire ballad to it, there’s Utah in the blood of these classic tunes.
‘Salt Lake City’ by The Beach Boys
So it’s not exactly Surf City, but it turns out The Beach Boys still had a soft spot for Utah – particularly Salt Lake City and its surrounding areas. And if you wonder what inspired the band’s love of the area, well, they’ll tell you upfront: “It’s got the grooviest kids / that’s why we never get tired of Salt Lake.”
Released in 1965 and name-dropping Utah favorite spots like Lagoon, this tune might just be the quintessential anthem for Salt Lake City.
‘The Red Hills of Utah’ by Marty Robbins
With five breathtaking national parks within the state lines, it’s no surprise singers find inspiration in Utah. In 1963, the cowboy crooner was well known for his Grammy-winning tune “El Paso.” A western native from Glendale Arizona, Robbins wrote a song about how “the red hills of Utah are callin ‘me.” Whether he was channeling Zion or Arches National Parks, or some other scarlet-hued landscape within the region, his homage to the Beehive State is certainly one to which most residents and visitors can relate.
‘Utah Tribute’ by Chris LeDoux
A musical tribute to Utah doesn’t get much more literal than this; and if you think Utah is a little bit country at its heart, well, Chris LeDoux would agree. Before one performance of the ballad, LeDoux said, “Well I have been coming down to Utah for a lot of years and you people have been mighty good to me, so I figured it was about time I wrote a song for you.” The 1988 song name drops venues like Terrace Ballroom and Symphony Hall, while LeDoux assures the Beehive State he “owes you more than you’ll ever know.”
‘Utah’ by The Osmonds
Any compilation of musical tributes to Utah just needs to include The Osmonds, right? And the state’s most musical family hit it out of the park with nostalgic lyrics about what really matters in life – particularly for Utahns. “Just give me my home, my girl, my friends, my family / Give me time to rest my mind, then we’ll have a party / Utah, Utah is the place where I want to be.” There’s no doubt the band is still getting a lot of “amens” on that.
‘Salt Lake City’ by Bobby & the Midnites
It’s a nice name for a town – and a really popular name for a song. Another (perhaps the original?) Salt Lake City tune dropped in 1983 and, whether you’re a resident or not, you’ll get a kick out of the lyrics. “Salt Lake City, where it’s so easy keeping straight / Salt Lake City, just really makes Des Moines look second rate.” That’s some pretty high praise – unless you’re from Des Moines, that is.
‘The Promised Land’ by Bruce Springsteen
Brigham Young and Bruce Springsteen might have a thing or two in common; for one, they both found something special in Utah. While Young stated, “this is the place,” Springsteen called it the promised land – at least in the song released as part of the singer’s 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town. The tune opens with the iconic line, “On a rattlesnake speedway in the Utah desert / I pick up my money and head back into town.”
‘Yin + Yang’ by Adam Ant
What resident of the Beehive State can’t relate to an opening line like “I got Utah dust inside my boots?” And if you can, that’s great, because the rest of the song might feel a little opaque: “Call it Zen or call it Buddha / Inner peace or heavy banana / That’s just the yin and the yang of it.” If you get lost, just hit repeat and circle back to that great line about Utah.
‘Ballad for a Friend’ by Bob Dylan
Even before Dylan drops the state name into the song (“Left him on a Utah road”), you’re likely to know this 1962 tune is about the Beehive State: “Where we go up in that North Country / Lakes and streams and mines so free / I had no better friend than he. ” If you’ve ever traveled a Utah road – or appreciated the state’s lakes, streams and mines, you’re sure to appreciate Dylan’s tribute.
‘Palace of the Brine’ by the Pixies
If you’re a longtime resident of Utah, you’ll probably agree that the state furnishes a “life that’s so sublime.” The Pixies certainly thought so, with their 1991 Palace of the Brine referring to “the starry sky and Utah mountains” and refers to the Great Salt Lake itself: “In a place they say is dead / In the lake that’s like an ocean / I count about a billion head. ” According to SongMeanings, the tune might be implying that the Saltair Resort is the actual “Palace of the Brine.”
‘Friend of the Devil’ by Grateful Dead
This 1970s song is about a lawbreaker who meets up with the devil. He borrows $ 20 from Satan and then “spent the night in Utah in a cave up in the hills.” According to Americansongwriter.com, the lyrics “follow the trail of an unnamed narrator at an unspecified time, on the run for unknown reasons, doing his best to stay ahead of various pursuers — a couple of wives, the sheriff, 20 hounds and the devil himself. He takes off from Reno, makes it through the obscure California locales of Chino and Cherokee, spends a night in a cave in Utah and tries his best to get home and grab some sleep. ” The song was popular with Deadheads and became a permanent fixture at stage performances.
‘Great Salt Lake’ by Band of Horses
Full disclosure, this indie-rock favorite from 2006 wasn’t actually written about Utah’s most famous body of water. But if you’re going to name drop in a line like “Now, if you find yourself falling apart / Well I’m sure I could steer / The great Salt Lake,” expect the Beehive State to take some credit in the confusion. According to Diffuser, the song was actually written about Lake Murray, a reservoir in frontman Benjamin Bridwell’s home state of South Carolina. But if you’re going by popular assumption alone, consider this anthem dedicated to that salty body of water north of Interstate 80 and west of I-15.
Whether you’re road-tripping through the Beehive State, or simply looking for a festive and nostalgic playlist, you can’t go wrong with these Utah-inspired tunes.
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