SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Some states seem to get all the love when it comes to musical mentions. You may think of the hundreds of references to California from artists like The Eagles, Katy Perry or The Mamas & the Papas, or of Texas in songs like “Amarillo by Morning” or “All My Ex’s Live in Texas.”
But South Dakota has its own fair share of song tributes, including one released on Friday, March 24, 2023.
If some of these aren’t jumping to mind, here is a short, absolutely not comprehensive, list:
“South Dakota Morning” by the Bee Gees
Released in 1973 on the album Life in a Tin Can, this two-and-a-half minute song begins with the line “The sun shines down on a South Dakota Morning.”
In the pop/folk genre, the easy acoustic melody is at odds with its more aggressive lyrics, such as: “Now stranger, I must kill you/You must survive, but will you/I may just beat you down, but will it even up the score.”
The Bee Gees’ “South Dakota Morning” isn’t the only song on this list dealing with a less than cheerful subject.
“8th of November” by Big & Rich
South Dakota makes an appearance in the opening line of this 2005 song by Big & Rich as the soon to be veteran in the song bids farewell to his mama, leaving South Dakota to join the U.S. Military.
The song describes a young man, just 19 years old, who goes to war as a member of the 173rd Airborne. The lyrics lay out a battle scene on Nov. 8, 1965 when the unnamed veteran remembers seeing his fellow soldiers killed and being wounded himself with shrapnel.
Years later the man, who appears to struggle with PTSD from the events in his past, remembers the events and his fallen friends, putting on a suit and crying as he drinks in a bar.
“He was nineteen and green with a new M-16/Just doing what he had to do,” the song ends.
“Misfits” by Neil Young
Not a song about South Dakota, but rather one where the state makes an appearance, Young name drops the Needles Highway in the Black Hills in the 7th verse at about 2:33 in.
“Way down in South Dakota/On the Needles Highway/There’s a lone red rider/ On the road today.”
Young goes on to note that while this particular misfit’s war is over, “He’s fightin’ on anyway,” a reference to his battle with alcoholism.
“South Dakota” by Liz Phair
Back into the category of songs firmly about South Dakota is Liz Phair’s 1991 alt song “South Dakota” off the album Sooty.
Phair’s song is a departure in style from the country/folk/pop songs above, with Phair delivering what is more of a spoken word poem, beginning, “For a mean baby, well I like your pants/Born in South Dakota/For a mean baby, well I like your hips/Born in South Dakota, I was in born in South Dakota.”
Phair was not born in South Dakota, but rather New Haven, Connecticut. Phair’s take on a South Dakotan’s existence is fairly explicit, involving getting stoned, getting drunk and bestiality.
“South Dakota Wild One” by The Deslondes
Moving back into the country side of things is one of the more recent songs released about South Dakota, “South Dakota Wild One” by the Deslondes, off their 2022 album Ways & Means.
The Deslondes are an Americana group out of Louisiana, and “South Dakota Wild One” is a tribute song of sorts about a matriarchal woman from South Dakota.
“She was a South Dakota wild one/Grew up on the hippie farm/Just outside of a small town/Where life can grab you by the arm/I never knew about her daddy/But her momma had two strong arms/And a nice guitar pickin’ man/Who tried to keep her warm,” goes the first verse.
The song, mostly about the unnamed woman, uses South Dakota as a setting. She grew up outside a small town, “East River on the prairie/Out where the cottonwoods bloom.”
Deslondes singer Riley Downing, during an interview with Holler, told the outlet he’d lived in South Dakota off and on as a young man.
“Dinosaur Park” by Owl City
The latest song about South Dakota, released in March 2023 by pop group Owl City, is about a very specific part of the state; Dinosaur Park in Rapid City.
The 8th song on the album Coco Moon, singer Adam Young devotes more than 6 minutes to, “A concrete green Brontosaurus,” which “has a subtle glint in her eye.”
Young, from Owatonna, Minnesota, seems enthralled in the song by the idea that in the night, with nobody around, the dinosaur statues may come to life, singing; “I won’t ever prove statues can move/But I’d like to think they do/So I makе believe with all of my hеart.”
As the song goes on, Young expresses his love for Rapid City, noting how when he leaves Minnesota to see South Dakota, a lot of things are on his mind. Among these things? “What do dinosaurs talk about/When they’re alone?”