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14 Michigan Songs That Will Make You Fall In Love With The State

There’s something about music that connects us to a time and place. So, what is the music that we think of when it comes to Michigan? Obviously the Mitten produced some of the most important genres in American pop culture, including Motown, Detroit Rock and techno. But what are the songs that speak directly to the Michigan experience? Here, we’ve compiled an Only-In-Michigan soundtrack that we hope you’ll enjoy listening to and sharing.

14) The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Gordon Lightfoot

This piece was and performed by Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot in honor of the shipwreck of the bulk carrier SS Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior.

13) Don’t Stop Believin’, Journey

This ballad about an imaginary place called South Detroit can be heard in dive bars near and far.

12) A Long Time, Mayer Hawthorne

This Michigan native does a modern take on the Motown classics and pays respect to where Detroit is now and how far it has to come.

11) We Almost Lost Detroit, Gil Scott Heron

Heron lived a tumultuous life ’til the end and delivered a poetic take on the struggle of living in the Motor City.

10) One Piece at a Time, Johnny Cash

This Johny Cash classic tells a timeless tale of a working man trying to make it in Detroit.

9) Back to Ypsilanti, Lee Osler

This here is a soulful take on Ypsilanti and is loaded with references to the southeast Michigan college town.

8) Detroit Latitude 42º 30º Longitude 83º, Yusef Lateef

This entire album takes its listeners through the streets of Detroit within the context of the Detroit riots of 1967, leaving the listener with a captivating glimpse into a city in flux.

7) Papa Hobo, Paul Simon

This track by Paul Simon again uses Detroit as the backdrop to illustrate the life of your average working man.

6) I Want to go Back to Michigan, Irving Berlin

Originally written in 1914, this song was popularized by Judy Garland who sang this number in the film Easter Parade.

5) Michigan My Michigan

This ode to Michigan has served as the state’s unofficial anthem for several decades.

4) I Care About Detroit, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

These Detroit natives did this single to help unite the Motor City in the year after the 1967 unrest.

3) Hello Detroit, Sammy Davis, Jr.

This was one of Davis’ later songs.

2) America, Simon and Garfunkel

This song is the story of a classic road trip, with mentions of Saginaw, Mich.

1) Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lakes State, Sufjan Stevens

Brooklyn-based  singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens is originally from Michigan, so this, his third album, is a befitting tribute to his home state.

There is obviously a wealth of talent out of Michigan from just about every genre you can think of. We think think these songs embody the Michigan experience (of course, it couldn’t be helped that there’s a huge Detroit representation on these tracks). Please, tell us your favorite songs about Michigan. If you can, share a YouTube video so we can hear for ourselves!

Serena Maria Daniels
Serena Maria Daniels is an award-winning freelance journalist in Detroit, by way of Chicago, by way of the West Coast. She writes about Michigan for OIYS. Serena enjoys learning about language and culture and taking road trips with her beagle Ralph.