Table of Contents
- 1. “Illinois” by The Everly Brothers
- 2.“Paris Illinois” by Brett Eldredge
- 3. “Lake Shore Drive” by Aliotta, Haynes, and Jeremiah
- 4. “Johnsburg, Illinois” by Tom Waits
- 5. “Effington” by Ben Folds
- 6. “Cairo, Illinois” by Pokey LaFarge
- 7. “My Kind Of Town” by Frank Sinatra
- 8. “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
- 9. “Ballad of the Illinois Opry” by REO Speedwagon
- 10. “Illinois Blues” by Skip James
- 11. “Via Chicago” by Wilco
- 12. “Moline” by Pearl Jam
- 13. “100 Chicagos” by Lupe Fiasco
- 14. “Made in the USA” by Lupe Fiasco
- 15. “Come on! Feel the Ilinoise!” by Sufjan Stevens
- 16. “Illinois Loyalty” by Marching Illini
- 17. “Illinois” by Dan Fogelberg
- 18. “The Giant of Illinois” by The Handsome Family
- 19. “Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town)” by Frank Sinatra
- 20. “Tonight, Tonight” by The Smashing Pumpkins
Illinois, located in the heart of the Midwest, has been home to many musical artists over the years, including Muddy Waters, Earth Wind & Fire, Kanye West, and Cheap Trick. The state has inspired countless songs about its cities, landscapes, and culture.
In this article, we have compiled a list of the top 20 songs about Illinois, featuring a diverse range of genres and artists. Whether you’re a fan of classic rock, country, or hip-hop, you’re sure to find something on this list that captures the essence of the Prairie State. So put on your headphones, hit play, and let these songs take you on a musical journey through the sights and sounds of Illinois.
1. “Illinois” by The Everly Brothers
“Illinois” is a melancholic ballad by The Everly Brothers that paints a picture of the singer’s memories of his hometown in Illinois, a place he has left behind. The track is full of longing, and the lyrics evoke memories of specific places in Illinois that the singer misses, including the fields, the streams, and the trees. The haunting melody perfectly captures the wistful mood, with the brothers’ trademark harmonies providing an added layer of emotion to the song. “Illinois” is a beautiful track that will resonate with anyone who has ever felt homesick or nostalgic for a place they once called home.
2.“Paris Illinois” by Brett Eldredge
“Paris, Illinois” is a country song by Brett Eldredge that pays homage to the small town in Edgar County, Illinois where he grew up. The song showcases the simple, honest way of life in a small Midwestern town, with lyrics that describe the beauty of its landscape and the sense of community and belonging that it provides. The song is set to a catchy, upbeat melody with a driving rhythm that evokes the energy and vitality of life in a small town. It’s a heartfelt tribute to a special place that holds a special place in Eldredge’s heart.
3. “Lake Shore Drive” by Aliotta, Haynes, and Jeremiah
“Lake Shore Drive” is a song by the American rock band Aliotta, Haynes, and Jeremiah, released in 1971. It is an ode to the scenic roadway in Chicago, with lyrics that describe the beauty and freedom of cruising down the drive. The song’s smooth and melodic guitar riffs perfectly capture the sense of adventure and nostalgia associated with this iconic roadway. “Lake Shore Drive” has become a cult classic, with many fans considering it to be one of the quintessential Chicago songs. It has been featured in numerous movies and TV shows, helping to cement its place in popular culture.
4. “Johnsburg, Illinois” by Tom Waits
“Johnsburg, Illinois” is a haunting and melancholic ballad by the American singer-songwriter Tom Waits. The song describes the decline of a small town in rural Illinois, which was once a thriving community but has now fallen on hard times. With his gravelly voice and bluesy piano, Waits evokes a sense of sadness and nostalgia, painting a vivid picture of a place where the factories are closed and the streets are empty. The lyrics touch on themes of loss and memory, reminding us that even the most vibrant and dynamic places can eventually fade away into obscurity.
5. “Effington” by Ben Folds
“Effington” is a song by American singer-songwriter and pianist, Ben Folds. It was released as a single from his album “Way to Normal” in 2008. The song is a playful commentary on suburban life and the monotony of small town living, set to a lively piano tune. Folds uses witty and clever lyrics to paint a vivid picture of life in Effington, a fictional small town that represents the mundanity of modern-day society. With its catchy melody and upbeat tempo, “Effington” is a quintessential Ben Folds track, and a perfect example of his signature blend of humor, wit, and musical prowess.
6. “Cairo, Illinois” by Pokey LaFarge
“Cairo, Illinois” is a song by American musician Pokey LaFarge, released in 2015. The song is a tribute to the city of Cairo, located in the southernmost part of Illinois, near the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. LaFarge’s lyrics tell the story of a once-thriving city that has since fallen on hard times, with its empty streets and abandoned buildings. The song is a blend of jazz, swing, and country, and features LaFarge’s signature vocals, backed by a full band. With its nostalgic tone and catchy melody, “Cairo, Illinois” is a poignant ode to a forgotten city.
7. “My Kind Of Town” by Frank Sinatra
“My Kind of Town” is a classic song performed by the legendary Frank Sinatra. Released in 1964, the song is an ode to the singer’s hometown of Chicago, Illinois. The lyrics describe the city as a place that is both “my kind of town” and “a toddlin’ town,” highlighting the energy, excitement, and sense of belonging that can be found in urban environments. The song features a swinging melody and Sinatra’s smooth, powerful vocals, which perfectly capture the spirit of the city he loved. “My Kind of Town” has become a beloved classic and is a must-listen for any fan of Frank Sinatra or jazz music.
8. “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Lookin’ Out My Back Door” by Creedence Clearwater Revival is a classic rock hit released in 1970. The song has a catchy tune that makes you tap your foot and sing along with the chorus. The lyrics describe a happy-go-lucky day with nonsensical imagery such as elephants, snakes, and everything that one can imagine. The upbeat melody of the song and the quirky lyrics make it a perfect choice for a lazy summer day.
9. “Ballad of the Illinois Opry” by REO Speedwagon
“Ballad of the Illinois Opry” by REO Speedwagon is a classic rock song with a country twist that tells the story of the Illinois Opry, a popular music venue in the state. The song features the iconic sound of the electric guitar and the harmonic rhythms of the piano. The lyrics describe the good times and bad times at the Illinois Opry, capturing the essence of the venue’s history. This song is a testament to the state’s rich musical heritage and its passion for music.
10. “Illinois Blues” by Skip James
“Illinois Blues” is a classic blues song performed by American singer and guitarist Skip James. Recorded in 1931, the song features James’ distinctive fingerpicking guitar style and haunting, falsetto vocals. The lyrics describe James’ experiences traveling through the state of Illinois, and the hardships he encountered along the way. Musically, “Illinois Blues” is characterized by its intricate guitar work and raw emotional power, with James’ vocals and guitar combining to create a sense of urgency and desperation. The song is a powerful example of the deep emotion and musical skill that characterized the blues genre in the early 20th century.
11. “Via Chicago” by Wilco
“Via Chicago” by Wilco is a dreamy and reflective song with a hint of melancholy, reflecting on a journey to Chicago and the memories it evokes. The song is characterized by its unique instrumental arrangement, featuring a haunting and distorted guitar riff, atmospheric sound effects, and Jeff Tweedy’s emotional vocals. The lyrics express a sense of longing and nostalgia for a time and place that can never be regained, while also acknowledging the inevitability of change and growth. The song captures the bittersweet nature of memory and the human experience, making it a powerful and moving piece of music.
12. “Moline” by Pearl Jam
“Moline” is a song by the American rock band Pearl Jam, released in 2014. The song is named after the town of Moline, Illinois, and was inspired by the band’s experiences while performing at the iWireless Center in the city. The lyrics describe the band’s connection to the place and the people they met there, capturing the sense of community and shared experiences that can be found in live music. Musically, “Moline” is a driving, uptempo rock song, with Eddie Vedder’s distinctive vocals and the band’s tight, powerful instrumentation creating a sense of energy and excitement. “Moline” is a great example of Pearl Jam’s ability to create music that is both heartfelt and musically compelling.
13. “100 Chicagos” by Lupe Fiasco
Lupe Fiasco has a unique way of blending his music with socially conscious lyrics, and these two songs are no different. “100 Chicagos” is a powerful track that addresses social issues and racial inequality that have plagued Chicago for years. Lupe Fiasco lays out the problems and then challenges his listeners to do something about it. “Made in the USA” is a patriotic and insightful song that explores the identity of being an American. The song is a social commentary on consumerism, politics, and the effects of capitalism. Lupe Fiasco uses his music to inspire social change, and these two songs are perfect examples of his artistry.
14. “Made in the USA” by Lupe Fiasco
“Made in the USA” is a song by American rapper Lupe Fiasco, released as a single in 2011. The song features a fast-paced flow and hard-hitting lyrics, addressing various political and social issues affecting the United States, including poverty, war, and government corruption. Fiasco also raps about the concept of the American dream, questioning whether it is attainable for everyone. The song’s beat is sample-heavy, featuring an old-school soul sample and a prominent bassline. Overall, “Made in the USA” is a thought-provoking and socially conscious hip-hop track, showcasing Fiasco’s lyrical prowess and social awareness.
15. “Come on! Feel the Ilinoise!” by Sufjan Stevens
“Come on! Feel the Illinoise!” is a dynamic and ambitious song by American singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens, released in 2005. The song is part of Stevens’ project to create an album for each of the 50 states in the United States, and it is a tribute to the state of Illinois. The song features a sweeping orchestral arrangement, with horns, strings, and percussion combining to create a grand and cinematic sound. The lyrics describe various aspects of Illinois history and culture, from Abraham Lincoln to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. “Come on! Feel the Illinoise!” is a vibrant and unforgettable tribute to a state that has played an important role in American history and culture.
16. “Illinois Loyalty” by Marching Illini
“Illinois Loyalty” is a spirited fight song and the official school song of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It was written by T.H. Guild in 1906 and has been performed at countless sporting events and other gatherings since then. The song is known for its catchy melody and upbeat tempo, with a chorus that encourages fans to shout “Oskee wow wow!” as a cheer for the team. The Marching Illini, the university’s marching band, often performs the song along with other traditional fight songs at football games, basketball games, and other events to rouse the crowd and rally support for the team.
17. “Illinois” by Dan Fogelberg
“Illinois” is a beautiful and wistful song by American singer-songwriter Dan Fogelberg. Released in 1975, the song is a tribute to the state where Fogelberg grew up, and the memories and experiences he had there. The lyrics are nostalgic and contemplative, describing the passing of time and the way that places and people change over the years. Musically, “Illinois” is characterized by its gentle acoustic guitar and Fogelberg’s soft, emotive vocals, which perfectly capture the bittersweet tone of the song. “Illinois” is a heartfelt and memorable tribute to a place that will always hold a special place in Fogelberg’s heart.
18. “The Giant of Illinois” by The Handsome Family
“The Giant of Illinois” is a haunting and atmospheric song by the American alternative country band, The Handsome Family. Released in 1998, the song tells the story of a man named Robert Wadlow, who was known as the tallest person in recorded history. The lyrics are evocative and poetic, describing Wadlow’s life and experiences in a way that is both beautiful and melancholy. Musically, “The Giant of Illinois” is characterized by its spare and haunting instrumentation, with a mournful guitar melody and the haunting harmonies of Brett and Rennie Sparks’ vocals. The result is a song that is both eerie and beautiful, a haunting tribute to a man who lived an extraordinary life.
19. “Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town)” by Frank Sinatra
“Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town)” is a classic jazz song by Frank Sinatra, released in 1957 as part of his album “A Swingin’ Affair!”. The song pays tribute to the city of Chicago, highlighting its unique atmosphere and diverse neighborhoods, making it an anthem for the city. The song has a playful and upbeat melody, with Sinatra’s smooth vocals perfectly capturing the essence of the city. The lyrics talk about the liveliness of Chicago’s nightlife and its residents, with references to iconic places like the Chicago River and the Magnificent Mile. “Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town)” has since become a staple in jazz and swing music, representing the spirit of one of America’s most iconic cities.
20. “Tonight, Tonight” by The Smashing Pumpkins
“Tonight, Tonight” is a song by American alternative rock band, The Smashing Pumpkins. The song was released as the second single from the band’s third studio album, “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” in 1996. The song’s lyrics reflect on the feelings of hope and love, and the orchestral elements in the song add to its grandeur. The music video for the song is inspired by the silent film “A Trip to the Moon” and has won several awards. The song was a commercial success and remains one of the band’s most well-known songs. It has been covered by several artists and has appeared in popular films and TV shows.