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These 10 Songs Of Virginia Will Touch Your Soul

If you went to grade school in Virginia before 1997, then you know that the state song was “Carry Me Back To Old Virginny” by James A. Bland. Bland was an African American minstrel popular in the 1800s, but as time passed, the lyrics were rewritten here and there and by 1997, there were a few bits and pieces that were considered pretty offensive. Fair enough. So, despite being the official state song for nearly 70 years, “Carry Me Back To Old Virginny” hit the chopping block and a new search went underway. Never one to be hurried, it took the powers -that-be here in Virginia almost 20 years to pick a new song. But finally, in March of this year, not one, but two new songs made the cut. And now Virginia is the proud owner of both a traditional and popular state song.

Listen to the songs below and let us know which one you like best.

SPOILER ALERT: We’ve thrown in a few more songs about Virginia, mainly because there are just so many good ones and also because we just really like music. But don’t worry! There’s something for everyone — from Carter Family classics to satirical raps. Take a listen — you might just find a new favorite!

The Traditional Song of Virginia: “Our Great Virginia” Composed by Mike Greenly

This win didn’t come that easily thanks to a  little bit of controversy. “Our Great Virginia” was arranged by Jim Papoulis to the tune of the old classic, “Shenandoah,” but the lyrics, written by Mike Greenly, a New Yorker and South Carolina native, invoke more of a midwestern vibe. However, in the end “Our Great Virginia” won the vote thanks to its traditional folk sound and, admittedly, beautiful lyrics.

 The Official “Popular” Song of Virginia: “Sweet Virginia Breeze” composed by Steve Bassett & Robbin Thompson. Performed by The Robbin Thompson Band

It’s not a surprise that “Sweet Virginia Breeze” won the popular category, as it was a hands down winner on social media. But more than that, it’s served as the unofficial state song for some time and has been used by state agencies including Virginia Tourism, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and the Virginia Department of Taxation. Additionally, the song has been performed for Governor‘s Inaugural Galas, The State Bar Association, The Southern Governor’s Conference, numerous charitable organizations and visiting dignitaries including the Queen of England. As an added perk, of the 2 songs chosen, and all of the songwriters and composers involved, Steve Bassett is the only native born Virginian. No, it’s not an old-fashioned folk ballad, but it’s upbeat, it’s fun and quite frankly, I like it. Not everyone agrees with me. One commenter on YouTube said it sounded too much like “a jingle.” But hey, there’s a reason we all still know the words to the “Oscar Mayer Bologna Song” — jingles work!

Of course, this article wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t let you in on a little secret. As the voting was going on, a third write-in candidate started making appearances. You may have heard of a little diddy called “Happy,” written by Virginia Beach’s own Pharrell Williams.  This catchy tune garnered an impressive following — going so far as to have a dedicated Facebook page to convince legislators to vote for it as our new song.

“Happy” by Pharrell Williams 

Compare these to the old state song…did Virginia make the right choice?

“Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” sung by Tom Roush. Lyrics by James A. Bland (original lyrics)

Whether you agree or not, for now, we have two songs to call our own. But you can’t expect Virginia to go out with only two, now can you? Here are a few more of our favorite songs about Virginia…enjoy!

“The Ghost of Virginia” by Justin Townes Earle

“Arlington: The Rap” by GoRemy

“My Old Virginia Home” by The Carter Family 

“Virginia Moon” by Foo Fighters (featuring Norah Jones)

“Virginia” by Elliott Yamin

“Old Virginia” by Crooked Still 

We hope you’ve enjoyed a brief musical interlude to get your weekend started right. Let us know your favorite song about Virginia!

Anna Strock
Virginia staff writer for Only in Your State, freelance writer and journalist. Even though Anna has lived other places, somehow Virginia is where she always seems to land.