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From big cities to vast valleys, Ohio has something for everyone. It’s also home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, attracting music lovers from all over the world to take an in-depth peek at some of the last few decades’ top rock ‘n’ roll artists.
That said, it may be surprising to know that the state of Ohio has acted as an inspiration for many musicians over the years.
By listening to some of these songs about Ohio, you’ll be able to get a better idea of what sort of place it is, even if you’ve never been. This article will share with you 11 of the most iconic songs about Ohio.
11 Songs About Ohio
1. “Back Home,” by the Beach Boys
“… Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, I’m going back this summer to Ohio.
I’m gonna seek out all my friends I’ve always known.
I’m goin’ back to that farm that I remember.
Well I’m goin’ to spend this summer back home …”
This song would make any Ohio native feel a sense of pride.
Originally released in 1963, the song is a homage to America’s 17th state. While this Beach Boys track isn’t nearly as popular as some of their other hits, it certainly touches a soft spot for anyone from Ohio. Additionally, it’s a perfect addition to a road trip playlist for anyone planning on spending some time in Ohio.
2. “Beautiful Ohio” by Ballard MacDonald (and Wilbert B. McBride)
“… Beautiful Ohio, where the golden grain
dwarf the lovely flowers in the summer rain.
Cities rising high, silhouette the sky.
Freedom is supreme in this majestic land …”
Ohio offers its visitors the benefits of both urban and rural life. This means that there’s something for everyone in the Buckeye State.
Big cities like Cincinnati and Cleveland are the go-to spots for a taste of city life. On the other hand, rural Ohio has a certain charm of its own that will undoubtedly leave a mark. Ballard MacDonald certainly knew this when composing what would become Ohio’s state song. His lyrics paint the state as being a true paradise on Earth.
3. “Carry Me Ohio” by Sun Kill Moon
“… Heal her soul, carry her, my angel, Ohio …”
The general message of this song by Sun Kill Moon is about not appreciating your hometown while you’re there. This song will particularly resonate with any Ohio natives who are returning home. The singer also mourns the collapse of his own town over time.
Ohio was once a thriving metropolis where people had access to many jobs. However, the singer suggests that his hometown has lost that sense of importance and prestige over time that it had in his youth.
4. “Ohio” by Bowling for Soup
“… There’s nothing wrong with Ohio except the snow and the rain. I really like Drew Carey and I’d love to see the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame …”
“Ohio” is about a woman who leaves her boyfriend for a man that lives in Ohio.
Despite being pretty bitter about it (as you would be), the narrator still manages to give us an insight into Ohio culture. As well as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and actor Drew Carey, the 17th state is also known for its harsh weather over winter.
Don’t let this trick you into not visiting, though. From ice fishing and the Christmas ranch to a Dickens Victorian village experience, Ohio offers visitors a unique set of activities, festivals and events for these cold months.
5. “Ohio” by the Black Keys
“… Whoa, oo-Whoa, Oo-Whoa, oo-Whoa, Oo-whoa hi-oh. Well, the road it overtook me to the point where I was blind …”
Many Ohio-based fans of the Black Keys have petitioned to have this song become the next official Ohio state song.
The duo originally hails from Akron, Ohio themselves and have said in interviews that the idea behind their music is for people to sit on a porch in Akron with a can of beer, blasting the record through a boom box.
The way the term Ohio is repeated throughout the song is exceptionally clever. Emphasizing the word “whoa” when referring to the state makes you feel like it’s an exciting place to be, whether you’re a visitor or a native.
6. “Ohio Is for Lovers” by Hawthorne Heights
“And I can’t make it on my own
And I can’t make it on my own
Because my heart is in Ohio.”
When recording this song in the studio, the band members of Hawthorne Heights were all arguing that they weren’t with their girlfriends in Ohio, hence leaving their hearts there.
For Ohio natives, the song may hit a chord as it suggests that no matter where you go, a piece of your heart will remain in the state.
7. “Cleveland Rocks” by Ian Hunter
“… All this energy callin’ me back where it comes from.
It’s such a crude attitude.
It’s back where belongs.
All the little kids goin’ up on the skits go Cleveland rocks!
Initially released in 1979 on the album “You’re Never Alone With a Schizophrenic,” the song “Cleveland Rocks” is a direct postcard to one of Ohio’s most famous cities.
Unsurprisingly, the song became a huge hit in Cleveland in 1979. It was so popular that Ian Hunter was later given a key to the city by the mayor. The song refers to a certain energy that keeps calling the narrator back to the city. It makes both natives and outsiders want to experience that Ohio energy.
8. “Ohio” by Neil Young
“… Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming, we’re finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
four dead in Ohio …”
This protest song highlights an important historical period in Ohio. It was written in response to the massacre of four students on Kent State University’s campus on May 4th, 1970. The song resonated heavily with the audience at the time and quickly became a prominent anti-Vietnam war song soon after.
Visitors today can pay their respects at the memorial dedicated to the victims at the university.
9. “My City Was Gone” by The Pretenders
“… I went back to Ohio, but my city was gone.
There was no train station.
There was no downtown …”
The song was originally written about the hometown of Chrissie Hynde, the lead singer of the Pretenders. Specifically, it is about Akron in Ohio, also known as the “Rubber Capital of the World.”
The song “My City Was Gone” was born when Hynde had returned to Akron after years of traveling the world and spending most of her time in England. She describes her city as no longer being the same as it once used to be when she was young. Instead, during the 1980s, Akron had just become overfilled with shopping malls and segregation.
10. “Look at Miss Ohio” by Gillian Welch
“… Oh me, oh my oh, look at Miss Ohio.
She’s a-running around with her rag-top down.
She says I want to do right but not right now …”
Gillian Welch prides herself on her expressive and soul-filled music. In the song, Miss Ohio represents an idealized version of an All-American girl and the pressure she receives from society to be perfect.
In the verses, Welch adds some detail about how the girl’s actions may not always be “pageant” approved. Ohio is actually known as the only state to have a contestant win the Miss America title twice.
11. “Hang On Sloopy” by The McCoys
In 1985, Ohio became the only state to have an official rock song. Initially written for Ohio-born singer Dorothy Sloop (who sometimes used the stage name Sloopy), the song has since become a state favorite. If you find yourself attending a football game in Ohio, it’s worth learning the words, as Ohio State students can often be heard belting out the lyrics to this song. The opening drumbeats transport any listeners back to Colombus, where Sloopy first became theirs.
Final Thoughts on Songs About Ohio
We sincerely hope that you’ve enjoyed getting to know the Buckeye State a little better through these 11 songs about Ohio.
Ohio is a state that attracts music lovers worldwide flocking to see the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Whether you’re from there or not, Ohio’s energy and charm are infectious. Not to mention there’s something for everyone. Be sure to check out songs and videos in the links provided.