Waterproof Boots and Flannel on Top: The 52 State Pick-Up Mixtape, Part 7
The Midwest has been my foster home for the past, oh, 15 years. I didn’t set out to be here so long, it just happened because it never felt right to go. The time is approaching for me to leave this nest, and I’ve come to appreciate much of the Midwest, what it has to offer and the people from here. I’ve even grown fond of the moniker The Second City, appreciating the humility of coming in second place. It’s the quiet cold of New England combined with the farm field deserts of the Great Plains, and judging from the songs of this week’s mix, I guess I’m a bit of a softie for the region after all.
So, there was this whole Pitchfork-approved album about the state of Illinois by Sufjan Stevens, but I’ll get to him in a second. I want to talk about the late great Dan Fogelberg. So let’s talk about him. He was born and raised in Peoria, another native son of the Land of Lincoln, and he basically stepped up like James Taylor but with no hippie about it, just all the soft songs with candelight to bed the ladies. He did his thing well, which took him out to California, and over time he found himself missing his quaint Midwest home. So he wrote a song about it.
Before Sufjan wrote his songs about Illinois, he wrote an album about Michigan, his home state, so I’m going with that album instead. I’ve liked this song title so much, that might be 80% of why I like it even! There’s something so sweetly positive about it. That’s kind of his whole thing, really, and while I can’t get excited and mooney eyed over him, I will generally give a listen to his albums and find them quite pleasant. Plus, this song is really just biting the Andrews Sisters who sing about missing the Wolverine State, but hey, always steal from the greats!
I’m not sure if this is my personal karma, but while I’ve had more good experiences than bad in the Hoosier State, I have terrible luck finding a good meal while driving through it. (Unless I’m passing through and loading up on Chick-Fil-A.) It is a food desert, and when you do stumble upon restaurants, they serve overcooked, muted color cuts of meat on giant white plates with a single leaf of wilting iceberg lettuce. Great for sno-cones, terrible for dinner. Except a few weeks ago on a mini-road trip, I dined in the shadow of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and it was a solidly good meal for a reasonable price, and I got to say I visited the facility, in a manner. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to see a race there someday in my life, I am not a racecar fan in general, but I never make fun of NASCAR, the culture around it intrigues me actually. So, poking around for Indiana songs led me the discovery that most every year since 1972 Jim Nabors sings this jazz standard song at the Indy 500. Gomer Pyle singing about Indiana at a race car event. That is some America right there, folks.
You know things are kinda dire for your state when the state song is a marching band fight song used in football games. Sure, it was hailed by Sousa as one of the best in the genre, and perhaps it does reflect the importance of football to many in the state, but musically speaking, that’s fairly grim. But luckily in the past two years, someone from the Badger State has blown up significantly (also starting in the Pitchfork crowd), and Bon Iver also wrote a song about his home state. This bonus track was the b-side to the single “For Emma”, though really? Did an actual record actually get pressed? Wait, of course it did, on 180 gram vinyl, never mind. You probably know the story of how he was depressed and had mono and lived locked away in a winter cabin for several months and ended up making some bleak and beautiful music about the bleak and beautiful Midwest winters.
Bob Dylan has some old bootleg album called The Minnesota Tapes, but they are all covers, nothing about his native state itself. Prince has a song called “Minneapolis” and may have written a new song for the Vikings, but there’s no name-checking of the North Star State specifically. Weird Al has a song called “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota”, which is not about the whole state, just one place in it, but it did open me to the idea of parody in general, which is why I decided on this song. I do not like Katy Perry as a person — what did she do to me? I’m not even exactly sure — so it makes me avoid her music, though this song is pretty inescapable this year and it is catchy whether you like it or not. I love this parody so much, partly because the video has good comedy and editing, something lacking in most youtube videos. Even the white dude rapping in the middle did alright.
What other Midwest songs did I miss during my deliberations?