Over the years, the state of Arizona has been the musical inspiration for all kinds of songs. From country music (the #1 popular type of music in America) to metal (Arizona’s favorite), the songs about the Grand Canyon State are as varied as the gorgeous scenery and landmarks that include the Sonoran Desert.
So, what are the ten most awesome songs about Arizona ever produced? Well, just keep reading as I try to do my best to describe them starting out with the pretty good to the absolutely spectacular and truly unforgettable songs ever made that had anything to do with Arizona.
As you will see, Arizona is heavily featured in the titles of some of the songs, while others are about other topics, but include a mention of the state or an Arizona city in the lyrics.
10. “By The Time I Get To Arizona” By Public Enemy
Although I’m not a big fan of political protest songs and even less of a fan of hip-hop, this song just had to be added to the list. After all, it has been called one of history’s greatest hip-hop songs ever. It was written to protest the state of Arizona in the early 1990s and is also a song that criticizes racism.
As such, it conveys the sentiment that smiling and pretending to be nice won’t make up for people not being free. Chuck D. (Public Enemy’s frontman) is the one who wrote the song following Evan Mecham (Arizona’s Governor at the time) repealing the law that made Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday.
So, as far as hip-hop songs go, it’s a really relevant one. And, frankly, to any avid hip-hop fan, it would undoubtedly be ranked higher on this list.
9. “There Is No Arizona” By Jamie O’Neal
Released by Mercury Records back in 2000, “There Is No Arizona” was performed by an Australian singer by the name of Jamie O’Neal on her debut album entitled “Shiver”. Interestingly enough, she got the initial idea for the title from a Stephen King movie called “Dolores Claiborne”.
And, it was also a song that reached #1 on the Hot Country Singles and Tracks on Billboard. What I liked about it was that it depicted Arizona as kind of an unreachable dream. T
he storyline of the song involved a young couple’s long-distance relationship following the man’s move to Arizona. Her only communication from him was a postcard with no return address, even though he had promised to call her once things have settled down. Sad but not so uncommon whether it was back then or even now.
8. “Big Iron” By Marty Robbins
This iconic ballad was released in 1959 on the Marty Robbins album entitled “Gunfighter Ballads & Trail Songs” and tells an old west story of a fatal duel that took place in Agua Fria, Arizona. In the song, a young notorious outlaw by the name of Texas Red finds himself in a gunfight with a fiercely heroic Arizona Ranger.
In spite of Texas Red’s reputation as a killer, the brave ranger ends up leaving Agua Fria, AZ, alive and victorious. The townspeople were greatly relieved to not have to live in fear of the murderous Texas Red anymore. According to 1 2 3 O’ CLOCK 4 O’ CLOCK ROCK, Marty Robbins grew up in Arizona, idolizing “The Singing Cowboy,” Gene Autry. He even saved his pennies just so he could see Autry’s movies.
7. “Arizona” By Kings Of Leon
From the 2007 KOL album entitled “Because of The Time”, “Arizona” is an alternative rock song that’s all about a girl in the Grand Canyon State. A short trip to a brothel in the desert inspired Nathan and Caleb Followill to write it.
There was a very young female worker in the brothel who was the main subject of the song. This complicated song is largely about one female worker who they saw in this brothel.
Seeing the place in person made the two feel ashamed and heartbroken, so they quickly left. The most memorable thing about “Arizona”, however, is Caleb’s amazing voice, which seems to overshadow even the sad situation that the young woman found herself in.
6. Arizona by Josh Kerr
Now, this is a more recent release (2020) than most of the other great Arizona songs and it’s a really nostalgic breakup song that was written by Jake Scott, Cale Dodds, and John Kerr himself. It’s all about a young couple that took a trip to Arizona together one summer before they broke up.
It’s quite descriptive about the beauty of the state and the feelings that keep coming up after things are all over between the two and how he longs for the simplicity that was their summer in Arizona. John Kerr also produced “Arizona”, making some very interesting choices including having no drums in it, just some tambourine used for adding an additional layer throughout the song.
What really makes it so powerful is the fact that the song is actually all about his voice, the amazing lyrics, and some guitar, making a true country song containing only three chords plus the truth.
5. “The Ballad Of Boot Hill” By Johnny Cash
This popular country song by the inimitable Johnny Cash was initially released by Sony Music Entertainment on Sept. 1, 1965, on the album entitled “Johnny Cash Sings The Ballads Of The True West”. The song was written by Carl Perkins who became widely known as the “King of Rockabilly.”
It depicts the real-life Tombstone gunfight, which was the short but very bloody 1881 shootout between the infamous Doc Holliday, the Earps, a few other lawmen, and three rowdy gunfighters who were members of a notorious group of outlaws called the Cowboys led by Johnny Yuma.
Now, if you’re a fan of western movies, you’ve no doubt seen one or all of the many films that involved the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral with some major stars like Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, and Sam Elliott.
There were several motion picture versions released through the years and, to tell you the truth, I loved every single one of them! In the song’s lyrics, Arizona is not only mentioned but so are Tucson and Tombstone It’s such a memorable song that it was re-released on a number of other EPs and albums through 1992, and was also covered by several other lesser-known country artists like Jeff Johnson, Billy McFarland, and Johnny Western.
4. “Arizona Skies” By Los Lobos
This is a purely instrumental recording that perfectly epitomizes everything about the state of Arizona. The song appears on Los Lobos’ sixth album entitled “Kiko”, which was actually an experimental album that did far better than any of their other albums that were released before it.
The Grand Canyon State is well-known for its beautiful rolling skies, and starry nights and this song reminds me of the relaxing feeling of a warm paradise. “Arizona Skies” features some very pronounced yet light strings from Cesar Rosas, Conrad Lozano, and David Hidalgo that are played over some seriously rhythmic drums by Pete Thomas.
3. “Ocean Front Property” By George Strait
This song about oceanfront property in Arizona was rather ironic to me because I lived in Southern California at the time and everybody always seemed to be worried about earthquakes and the possibility of the Golden State falling into the Pacific.
In fact, the film company that I worked for at the time did all of its music recording and mixing at a studio called The Record Plant. And, on the side of the building was an amazing mural of the ocean waves lapping up against a highway with an Arizona sign. So, this song always reminded me of that mural by an unknown artist.
In the song, George relates his feelings about a new oceanside property in Arizona as he leaves his ex-girlfriend in the dust after a bad breakup. It was beautifully written by the great Hank Cochran, as well as Royce Porter, and Dean Dillon. “Ocean Front Property” hit #1 in 1987 in both the United States and Canada.
2. “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” By Glen Campbell
If you love country music as much as I do, then you’ve undoubtedly heard this one. It was one of Glen Campbell’s most popular songs and its acclaim everywhere was well-earned. In 1965, Jimmy Webb wrote this mournful country song and Johnny Rivers recorded it.
Then two years, later Glen Campbell popularized it. It was written about a breakup that Webb went through when he was 21. He mentions some absurd drives to far-away cities in the lyrics, which were intentionally unrealistic.
The metaphor is intended to depict unrealistic expectations after a relationship ends. Glenn Campbell’s version of “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” won two Grammy Awards and also became #2 in the Hot Country Singles category on Billboard.
1. “Take It Easy” By The Eagles
OK, this is one of those songs that doesn’t have Arizona or a city in Arizona in the title but had to be at the top of the list. Why? Well, mainly because that one line “Standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona” is one of those iconic lines in a wildly popular song from the past that sticks in your mind and you can’t get it out of there no matter how hard you try.
On top of that, it was written by Jackson Brown with Glenn Grey, and performed by the Eagles. What more could you ask for? The main theme of the song was to not grow up too fast.
And, I’ll bet you didn’t know that not only was this song the Eagles’ first single as well as the very first song on their first album but they performed it no less than four times every night for about a year in a Colorado nightclub prior to recording it.
And, unless you’re from or have been to Winslow, Arizona, you might not know that there’s a statue on a corner there that was placed in 2016 to honor the late great Glenn Frey. H passed away at the age of 67 on January 18, 2016, of a combination of acute ulcerative colitis, pneumonia, and rheumatoid arthritis.
His musical genius will be sorely missed. But, this awesome song lives on as does Winslow, AZ, which saw a major boom in popularity just because of that unforgettable song.
Just My Opinion, Of Course
As you can clearly see, my opinion of which Arizona songs were the very best or just runners-up is ever-so-slightly tainted by my love for country music and the Eagles.
So, maybe listening to them might have you coming to a different conclusion about which ones are the very best. In any case, that’s a really good excuse to take some time out to listen to some awesome songs about an amazing state that inspired so many iconic tunes.
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