What Place Name Is Missing From These Song Lyrics?
"Where the skies are so blue; Sweet home ____; Lord I'm comin' home to you."
In the early '70s, Neil Young took a shot at the south with critical songs "Alabama" and "Southern Man." In response, Lynyrd Skynyrd released the song "Sweet Home Alabama" on their 1974 album "Second Helping" to celebrate the blue skies and pleasures of this southern state. It pays homage to two Alabama towns, including Muscle Shoals and Birmingham, and also calls out "old Neil" by name.
"He's leavin' on that midnight train to _____; And I'll be with him"
"Midnight Train to Georgia" became a signature song for Gladys Knight, who released this classic with The Pips on her 1973 album "Imagination." The song about a couple leaving the big city of L.A. for a quieter life in Georgia also won her a Grammy in 1974 for Best R&B Performance.
"Just a city boy; Born and raised in south _____; He took the midnight train going anywhere"
Journey first released "Don't Stop Believin'," with lyrics about a boy "born and raised in south Detroit" back in 1981. A modest hit at the time, it became much more popular after it was featured in both the finale of "The Sopanos" and on a 2009 episode of "Glee."
"Blue jean baby; _____ lady; Seamstress for the band; Pretty eyes, pirate smile"
Elton John's long-time songwriting partner Bernie Taupin penned the lyrics to "Tiny Dancer" about his girlfriend Maxine Feibelman and his experiences touring the U.S. with Elton.The song about this "L.A. lady" found a new generation of fans after it appeared in the 2000 film "Almost Famous."
"Country roads, take me home; To the place, I belong; _____, mountain mama, Take me home"
Believe it or not, songwriter Bill Danoff had never been to West Virginia when he penned "Take Me Home, Country Roads" for John Denver. He, Denver and Danoff's wife Taffy Nivert used an encyclopedia to read about the state to come up with references like the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah River.
"Half of my heart is in _____; He took me back to east Atlanta"
"Ooh-na-na...Half of my heart is in Havana" crooned former Fifth Harmony member Camila Cabello in her smash 2017 song "Havana." Appearing on her solo debut "Camila," the song featured an appearance from Young Thug, and earned Cabello the MTV VMA for Video of the Year in 2018.
"Bobby thumbed a diesel down, just before it rained; Rode us all the way to _____"
After getting a flat in Baton Rouge, Bobby McGee and the song's narrator were lucky to get a ride all the way to New Orleans from a generous trucker in the 1969 hit "Me and Bobby McGee." Written by Kris Kristofferson, the song was famously recorded by Janis Joplin shortly before her death, and also mentions other locales, including Kentucky, California and the city of Salinas.
"No sleep til _____!"
The Beastie Boys offered a nod to Motorhead's "No Sleep Til Hammersmith" with their rock hit "No Sleep Til Brooklyn." The sixth single from their iconic 1987 album "License to Ill" featured tales of a hard-partying band on the road, including crazy managers and trashed hotel rooms.
"_____ is why I just grin like a clown; It's my kind of town"
Written for the musical "Robin and the 7 Hoods," the song "My King of Town" became a big hit for Frank Sinatra. The tune about the Windy City of Chicago was even nominated for a Oscar in 1964, but lost to "Chim Chim Cher-ee," a song about a London chimney sweep from "Mary Poppins."
"It's raining in _____, baby; But everything else is the same"
Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz was actually born in Baltimore, the subject of his 1993 song "Raining in Baltimore." Despite being about his birthplace, Duritz actually penned this hit from the album "August and Everything After" for Bonnie Raitt before deciding to record it himself.
"Down the highway through the cradle of the Civil War; I'm going to Graceland, Graceland; _____"
After a failed reunion with Art Garfunkel and a divorce, Paul Simon was in a funk when he prepared to release his 1986 album "Graceland." Turns out pain is good for art, because the album, with its title track about a trip to "Memphis, Tennessee" became a classic, and won the 1987 Grammy for Album of the Year.
"Welcome to _____; It's been waiting for you; Welcome to _____"
Taylor Swift was really serious about switching from country to pop, and to prove it, she ditched Nashville for the Big Apple in 2014. She wrote the track "Welcome to New York" as the lead song on her 2014 album "1989" to share her love and joy at life in the city — which probably looks pretty good from her $20 million Tribeca loft.
"All you need's a strong heart and a nerve of steel; Viva _____"
The 1964 movie "Viva Las Vegas" in memorable for its star, King of Rock and Roll Elvis Presley, but also for the chemistry between Elvis and co-star Ann-Margaret. The title track sung by Presley also became a hit, and the unofficial — and official, at times, anthem of Las Vegas.
"_____ calling, now don't look to us; Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust"
"London Calling" served as the title track off The Clash's 1979 double-album, but also came with political statements by the band regarding the flooding of the Thames and the Three Mile Island accident. The title was inspired by the words "This is London calling," which was used by the BBC to introduce international broadcasts during WWII.
"There's plenty of room at the hotel _____; Anytime of year, you can find it here"
The Eagles wrote "Hotel California" about their experiences with the crazy L.A. lifestyle. The tune won "Record of the Year" at the 1978 Grammys, and remains one of the band's most popular songs.
"I bless the rains down in _____; Gonna take some time to do the things we never had"
David Paich wrote the song "Africa" with Toto bandmate Jeff Porcaro after seeing a documentary showing the suffering of the people on the continent. Despite that somber inspiration, the song became a huge hit when it was released in 1982, reaching number one of the U.S. charts.
"Let's go to _____ with Waylon and Willie and the boys"
Neither Waylon Jennings nor any of the other writers who helped create "Luckenbach, Texas" had ever been to the city before the song was released on Jennings' 1977 album "Ol' Waylon." In fact, Jennings only visited the tiny town once, in 1997, to play a show put on by Willie Nelson.
"Do you know the way to _____?; I been away so long, I may go wrong and lose my way"
A whole lot of dreamers head to L.A. each year hoping to make it big, but few songs capture the experience better than "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" Written by Burt Bacharach, the song became a huge hit for Dionne Warwick and earned her a 1969 Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal.
"She was 17 and she was far from in-between; It was summertime in northern _____"
Released on Kid Rock's 2008 "Rock and Roll Jesus" album, "All Summer Long" was Rock's ode to living the good life as a teen in northern Michigan. Co-written by Ronnie Van Zant and Warren Zevon, among others, the tune samples "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Werewolves of London."
"Party in the city where the heat is on; All night on the beach 'til the break of dawn; Welcome to _____"
In addition to being a top movie star, Will Smith topped the charts with his 1997 album "Big Willie Style." The album's single "Miami" took listeners on a tour through the city's clubs and beaches, and also included nods to Chi-town, New York, L.A. and Philly.
"She was driving last Friday on her way to _____ on a snow white Christmas Eve; Going home to see her mama and her daddy with the baby in the backseat"
Carrie Underwood became a huge star thanks to a win on "American Idol," releasing her album "Some Hearts" in 2015. The single "Jesus Take the Wheel," about a young woman driving home to Cincinnati to see her parents for Christmas earned the country singer two Grammy Awards.
"Cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis; Pumped a lot of 'tane down in _____; But I never saw the good side of the city, 'til I hitched a ride on a river boat queen"
Written and recorded by John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1969, "Proud Mary" became a huge hit for Tina Turner in 1971. And that 'tane the narrator was pumping down in New Orleans? Octane ... indicating he or she was a gas station attendant.
"And my machine, she's a dud, out stuck in the mud somewhere in the swamps of _____"
If we told you these lyrics came from a Springsteen song, could you guess the missing word was Jersey? The Boss wrote about his beloved home state in many of his tunes, including this one, "Rosalita," which came out in 1973 on the album "The Wild, the Innocent and the E-Street Shuffle."
"To live and die in _____; It's the place to be; You've got to be there to know it; What everybody wanna see"
Tupac Shakur included "To Live and Die in L.A." on his final album, released in 1997 after his death. Ironically, the lyrics mentioned "Tension between east and west," which ultimately caused the rapper's death.
"Well we're living here in _____; And they're closing all the factories down"
These lyrics could apply to a lot of Rust Belt cities, but they were written by Billy Joel about Allentown, Pennsylvania. It appeared on his 1982 album "The Nylon Curtain," and lamented the loss of blue-collar jobs and manufacturing as business at nearby Bethlehem Steel slowed. The plant eventually closed in 1995, leaving thousands without jobs.
"These streets will make you feel brand new; Big lights will inspire you; Let's hear it for _____"
Born in Brooklyn in NYC, it's no surprise that Shawn Carter grew up to pay tribute to his home state with the song "Empire State of Mind." Featuring Alicia Keys singing chorus, the song appeared on Jay-Z's 2009 release "The Blueprint 3," and references locales from Tribeca to Harlem to Bed-Stuy.
"Well I'm a-standing on a corner in _____; Such a fine sight to see; It's a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford; Slowing down to take a look at me"
If you ever pass through Winslow, Arizona on old Route 66, take the time to stop and admire the sculpture of a man and his guitar installed on a corner downtown. Originally written by Jackson Browne, the lyrics come from "Take It Easy," which became a huge hit for The Eagles when it was released in 1973.
"Hey ramblin' boy now won't you settle down; _____ ain't your kind of town; There ain't no gold and there ain't nobody like me"
Dave Loggins earned a Grammy nomination for his 1974 release "Please Come to Boston," a song about a wandering man trying to convince his woman to join him. Despite invites to Boston, Denver, and L.A., his love preferred to stay at home in Tennessee and hope he would return.
"Oh brother are you gonna leave me wasting away; On the streets of _____"
The 1993 film "Philadelphia" stars Tom Hanks as a lawyer trying to hide the fact that he was both gay and HIV positive. Bruce Springsteen wrote the film's title track, which went on to earn an Oscar and four Grammys.
"But here I am; Next to you: The sky is so blue; in _____"
Just a few years after twerking on stage at the VMAs with Robin Thicke, Miley Cyrus decided to change things up with her sixth album "Younger Now." The lead single "Malibu" was a sweet ballad inspired by her rough romance with then-fiance Liam Hemsworth.
"Pancho met his match you know; On the deserts down in _____"
Townes Van Zandt wrote and recorded outlaw country hit "Pancho and Lefty" for his 1972 album "The late Great Townes Van Zandt." The song in which Pancho met his match down in Mexico and Lefty snuck off to Ohio became a huge success a few years later, when it was rerecorded by Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson.
"Pull the sheets right off the corner of that mattress that you stole; From your roommate back in _____"
The 2016 song "Closer" made huge stars out of The Chainsmokers and singer Halsey. This song tells the story of a couple who meet up after some time apart and find a new connection, with lyrics mentioning a roommate back in Boulder who is apparently short one mattress.
"Cathy, I said as we boarded a Greyhound in _____; Michigan seems like a dream to me now"
Simon and Garfunkel included the song "America" on their 1968 album "Bookends." The tune, which tells the tale of a couple traveling cross-country, including boarding a Greyhound in Pittsburgh, also got a re-release in 1972 for the duo's greatest hits album.
"If you're going to _____; Be sure to wear flowers in your hair"
Written by John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas and sung by Scott McKenzie, the 1967 song "San Francisco" was intended to attract attendees to the city's Monterey International Pop Festival. It ended up helping to make the festival a huge success, while also making San Francisco and the surrounding area a gathering point for counter-culture groups starting in the late '60s.
"The world won't wait and I watched you shake; But honey I don't blame you; Hell, I still love you_____"
Three days before the September 11th attacks, Ryan Adams recorded a video for his ode to NYC called "New York, New York." Full of scenes of the city skyline and the Twin Towers, the song became a powerful anthem to New Yorkers after the horrors of the attacks.
Songwriters create tunes based on their lives and experiences, from touring through the American south to growing up in the chaos and culture of the Big Apple. By inserting names of places into songs, artists bring their fans along on a journey that can create a bond of shared experiences, or even leave the listener planning their next vacation based on places they've only heard about on the radio.
The power of music transformed the tiny town of Luckenbach, Texas — which proudly welcomes visitors with a sign claiming a population of three — into the center of the outlaw country movement, and into a name that every Willie and Waylon fan knows. It's the reason that people around the world, even those who may never have been to the U.S., can sing along to "Sweet Home Alabama," or can dream up a picture in their mind of the sun-drenched "Hotel California."
Of course, songs can also draw attention to political and social issues, from the decline of blue-collar jobs in the Rust Belt in Billy Joel's "Allentown" to the threats of a flooding River Thames exposed by The Clash in "London Calling." Think you can recall the places named in some of the most popular songs of the past few decades? Prove it with this quiz!
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