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The Geography of Music August 9, 2006

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Odds and Ends.
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I caught myself wondering recently (and I have no idea why) just how many songs are inspired by or are based on places. Along that train of thought, I also began to ask: Is any particular place sung about frequently? Do specific musical genres refer to places more than others?

Of course, I couldn’t help but hazard a half-decent answer and proceeded to conduct some armchair research: I went through my iTunes music library to see how many songs referred to a place in their title. Obviously this was a very limited survey, and a more thorough examination would involve going through song lyrics as well (U2’s Stay, for instance, mentions five cities in succession: Miami, New Orleans, London, Belfast and Berlin). I also omitted all songs that weren’t in English for the sake of uniformity.

What I found is listed below, divided into “place” and indicating song title and the version(s) that I have by way of the artist who sang it, with multiple versions divided by a backslash. Looking up the composer and/or lyricist would have been too unwieldy. Again, the overriding criterion was the specific place mentioned in the title, so I had to take a few liberties in classifying them as I did. To cut to the punch line, it appears that the clear winner is New York (go figure), and that Jazz songs refer to places more than any other genre, though this could also be because I have more Jazz music than I realize.

“Generic” Places
Allison Road (Gin Blossoms)
On Green Dolphin Street (Miles Davis/Mishka Adams/Louis Armstrong)
Lincoln Avenue (Train)
Moon Over Bourbon Street (Sting)

Africa
Africa (Toto)
Storms in Africa (Enya)

Asian Locales
Goodnight Saigon (Billy Joel)
China Roses (Enya)
Bali Ha’i (Peter Cincotti)
On a Slow Boat to China (Renee Olstead)
The Road to Mandalay (Robbie Williams)

European Locales
I Love Paris (Frank Sinatra/Peter Cincotti)
Hamburg Song (Keane)
A Foggy Day (In London Town (Michael Buble)
Dear Old Stockholm (Miles Davis/Miles Davis and John Coltrane)
Moonlight Over Paris (Paolo Santos)
Raoul and the Kings of Spain (Tears for Fears)
My Love Went to London (Tony Bennett)

California
Hotel California (Eagles)
Queen of Hollywood (The Corrs)
Santa Monica (Everclear)
I Will Talk and Hollywood Will Listen (Robbie Williams)
I Left My Heart in San Francisco (Richard Evans/Tony Bennett/Westlife)
Hollywood (Nickelback)

New York
New York State of Mind (Billy Joel)
N.Y. (Doves)
Theme from New York, New York (Frank Sinatra)
Autumn in New York (Harry Connick, Jr.)
New York City (Peter Malick Group featuring Norah Jones)
The Only Boy Living in New York (Simon and Garfunkel)
Englishman in New York (Sting)
New York (U2)

New York Locations
Angel of Harlem (U2)
Brooklyn Breezes (Will Downing)
Christmas in Herald Square (Tony Bennett)
Stolen Away on 55th & 3rd (Dave Matthews Band)
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Simon and Garfunkel)
Bleeker Street (Simon and Garfunkel)

Other American References
America the Beautiful (Ray Charles)
Louisiana Bayou (Dave Matthews Band)
Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans (Louis Armstrong)
Motownphilly (Boyz II Men)
Moonlight in Vermont (Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong/Tony Bennett)
It Happened in Monterey (Frank Sinatra)
Back Home Again in Indiana (Louis Armstrong)
St. Louis Blues (Louis Armstrong)
Walking in Memphis (Marc Cohn/Paolo Santos)
Mississippi Goddamn (Nina Simone)
Georgia on My Mind (Ray Charles)
Idaho (Train)
Blue Hawaii (Lisa Ono)

Other Locations
Caribbean Blue (Enya)
Girl from Ipanema (Sitti Navarro)

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