Nashville is one country music's -- actually, music in general's -- storied cities. The genre is packed full of songs about aspiring artists going to Music City to "make it" ... and what happens when those dreams don't pan out.
Below, The Boot rounds up the best country songs about the legendary city.
Most Music City Lyrics: “And I’m watching the sun go down this evening / And soon it will wake this town that’s made of dreams / But before it does, a new star will be shining / And that’s the way it is on the Nashville scene.”
This song is an homage to the star-making streets of Music Row, but Williams Jr. is also here to remind listeners about all of those in Nashville who aren’t "making it": the ones who “couldn’t take it,” the good ones who “didn’t make it,” the wino on the corner who “used to play for Hank.” Those descriptions are a somber contrast to those of the ones who will make it, the ones who will “light up the Nashville scene.”
Most Music City Lyrics: “I’ve been living on the wrong side of Memphis / I’m really breaking away this time / A full tank of gas and a ‘69 Tempest / Taking me to that Nashville sign.”
It’s Memphis that Yearwood mentions in the title, but -- with no disrespect to that Tennessee city -- this song is all about getting away from there as quickly as possible. The narrator is finally giving in to the lure of Nashville; she’s just 200 miles away from her dream, and she already has cowboy boots and a rhinestone suit ... What could go wrong? (Other songs will answer that question for her.)
Most Music City Lyrics: “But it’s lonely at sundown in Nashville / That’s when beaten souls start to weep / Each evening at sundown in Nashville / They sweep broken dreams off the street.”
Songs about the legendary power of Nashville tend to fall into one of two camps: the first celebrate the country-flavored anyone-can-make-it-here status of the city, while the second recognize the dark side of thousands of people flocking to a place to make it big. This song is the one of the latter; while it recognizes Nashville as a “quaint, old, mystical city,” it’s more interested in telling the story of broken dreams, heartache and pain.
Most Music City Lyrics: “Ol’ Hank wouldn’t have a chance / On today’s radio / Since they committed murder / Down on Music Row.”
The title of this song is a little misleading: Who’s been murdered on Music Row? An unfaithful spouse? A deserving ex? No, the murder in this song is all metaphorical. This Larry Cordle original was popularized by Jackson and Strait and bemoans the death of "real country music" -- the steel-guitars-and-fiddles, cheatin’-and-drinkin’ country music -- at the hands of the “almighty dollar” and “drums and rock 'n' roll guitars.”
Most Music City Lyrics: “Roll into town, step off the bus / Shake off the ‘where you came from’ dust / Grab your guitar, walk down the street / Sign says Nashville, Tennessee.”
This song is another one of of those “New York, New York” tunes for the country music set. Aldean sings of a Nashville where everyone is trying to make it big; in that Nashville, “everybody plays, everybody sings.” New York has bright lights, but Nashville has neon dreams ... as long as you can handle the ups and downs. “One year they repossess your truck, and the next you make a couple million bucks,” Aldean reflects. With more than a dozen No. 1 singles to his name, we’re guessing Aldean got to keep his truck!
Most Music City Lyrics: “I’ve been chasin’ the big wheels all over Nashville / Waitin’ for my big break to come / Livin’ on ketchup soup, homemade crackers and Kool-Aid / I’ll be a star tomorrow, but today I’m a Nashville bum.”
Waylon is singing the classic story of trying to make it as a star in Nashville, but the narrator of his story is a little … stuck. His diet is nothing to be admired (although we're pretty sure that toddlers across America would love a meal of ketchup soup, homemade crackers and Kool-Aid), and he’s not living a glamorous life, but he’s not despondent. He’s got all he figures he needs -- he looks good in cowboy clothes, and he’s got connections to the Opry, for starters -- and in the meantime, being a Nashville bum doesn’t sound so terrible.
Most Music City Lyrics: “So come and visit me in Music City / We’ll drink all night and write songs no one will sing / There’s room for you and your cowboy boots / We’ll even get you a rhinestone suit / You don’t even have to sing on key / Producers with computers can fix it all / In Nashville, Tennessee.”
Bare Jr. was born to a country singer in Nashville, and it shows in this song, quite possibly the most playful and most imaginative love song to Nashville out there. In Bare Jr.’s Nashville, guitar strings grow on shrubs, cops carry capos, and the world’s best guitar players “can deliver you a pizza or sell you weed.” His Nashville is weird and whimsical, and now we want to go to there.
Most Music City Lyrics: “I got into Nashville early / Sleepy, hungry, tired and dirty / And on the steps of the RCA / I ate a stale sweet roll / In the fountain at the Hall of Fame / I washed my face and read the names / In the walkway of the stars / Down on Music Row.”
There are plenty of songs about going to Nashville to make it big as a musician, but there’s something extra special about hearing Parton sing about it, in part because of where she came from -- fans all know about her “dirt poor” childhood as one of 12 children living in a one-room cabin in the Smoky Mountains -- and in part because we know where she ended up. One of the most successful female country stars of all time, Parton now has her own star on that "walkway of the stars" -- and in case that isn’t enough, she also has her own theme park.
"Devil, Devil (Prelude: Princess of Darkness)"Eric Church
Most Music City Lyrics: “She’s the reason there’s a "Sunday Morning Comin’ Down" / "I Saw the Light," "A Boy Named Sue," "He Stopped Loving Her Today" / "The Pill" and "16th Avenue"/ The Ryman, oh, she’s a diamond / The brown-eyed Mickey / She was Roy Acuff’s castle / And Elvis Presley’s broken dream.”
This song is wild, dark and intense -- and that’s before Church even starts singing. The first half of "Devil, Devil" is a nearly four-minute spoken-word tribute to the “temptress” Nashville, and it’s equal parts bitter, nostalgic and celebratory. Its lyrics are star-studded: Church name-checks everyone from Johnny Cash to Merle Haggard and mentions a bevy of famous songs, but the protagonist (or antagonist, depending on what you take away from the tune) of this eight-minute rocker is Music City herself.
Most Music City Lyrics: “Hey, "Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain" / Hey, fire burnin’ round the ring / Hey, "Crazy," you know it’s true / That Nashville wouldn’t be Nashville without you.”
This song is a another name-dropper … in the best way possible. McGraw pays homage to songs and artists that have made Nashville more than “just another river town.” He tosses out references to songs by Willie Nelson, Cash, Tammy Wynette, Parton, Glen Campbell, Reba McEntire … and that’s just the start. And he credits them for making Nashville what it is -- the “place where it all began.”