Kentucky has inspired song for every mood, event, and intent. If you’ve been to Kentucky before or live there, you’ll understand why.
Below is a list of some of the best songs about Kentucky. Most include Kentucky in the lyrics, but some are more about the characters and ambiance.
1. Kentucky Rain by Elvis Presley
Song Year: 1970
Are you looking for love in the cold Kentucky rain? You might not be, but Elvis did. In this song, he paints a beautiful picture of what we would do for love.
Arguably the greatest performer in the world, Elvis delivers an emotionally moving masterpiece with this song, taking us through his journey of looking for a lost lover in the cold rain.
The King did justice to Kentucky, capturing the warmth of the people and their desire to help where possible. The song is a slice of Kentucky, and not just in the name.
2. My Kentucky Home, Goodnight by John Prine
Song year: 2004
John Prine lends his talent to this timeless classic by bringing in the vibes from folk songs. Released originally in 2004, there have been numerous versions of the song “My Kentucky Home,” however, most seem to agree that John Prine’s was the best one yet (and the Grammy it won seems to echo that thought).
My Kentucky Home was initially written by Stephen Foster and enjoyed tremendous success in the mid-19th century making, setting the stage for beautiful covers such as this John Prine performance.
3. Paradise by John Prine
Song year: 1971
Another John Prine song, Paradise, describes Kentucky just as the name suggests: paradise. In John Prine’s bittersweet style, he explains everything to love back home, and the darker implications of strip mining in the region he grew up.
4. Kentucky Gambler by Merle Haggard
Song year: 1975
The persona in the song wants more from life than kids and a nine-to-five day job in a coal mine, mirroring many people’s reservations when choosing their paths in life.
Resounding with gamblers and fans alike, “Kentucky Gambler” perfectly describes the emotional turmoil of chasing your dreams while meeting your responsibilities and expectations.
5. Blue Kentucky Girl by Lorette Lynn
Song year: 1965
Lorette Lynn’s voice is magical and plays with your heartstrings as you enjoy the story of hope and love. Most people leave a backdoor open for the loved ones who walked away, and the blue Kentucky girl in this song wants her lover to step back into her life.
Whether or not you have been hurt by love, you will find a relatable line or two in this Johnny Mullins-penned track.
6. The Kentucky Waltz by Bill Monroe
Song year: 1983
The bluegrass state is at it again with “The Kentucky Waltz” by Bill Monroe. A true embodiment of everything Kentucky, “The Kentucky Waltz” follows the story of a young man and his lover dancing underneath the harvest (if you haven’t already, you should try this when you’re down in Kentucky).
Like many other love stories, the young man later reminisces of the time under the harvest and craves a moment more with his now-lost lover.
7. Kentucky Thunder by Ricky Skaggs
Song year: 1989
Another Bluegrass classic, “Kentucky Thunder” by Ricky Skaggs, is the tenth studio album by the country music star. Proudly holding its own at the peak of 18th on Billboard’s Hot 100 songs, Kentucky.
“Kentucky Thunder” describes the passion that both natives and visitors to Kentucky feel for bluegrass and country music, along with everything else that sets Kentucky apart from other states.
8. My Old Kentucky Home by Steven Foster
Song year: 1928
Despite the troubled past of Stephen Foster’s anti-slavery original composition, My Old Kentucky Home spreads warmth and cheer to historians, enthusiasts, and music lovers alike.
Rosemary Clooney performed a popular version of this song, using her melodic and gentle voice perfectly to send the message home.
9. Seven Bridges Road by The Eagles
Song year: 1969
The origin of the “Seven Bridges Road” is heavily disputed, but one fact remains certain: the road has to be down South. The Eagles enjoyed national success in the ‘70s, and the Seven Bridges often gets overshadowed by more famous songs such as “Hotel California.”
However, the beauty of nature described in the music, from the stars to the rivers and even the roads, is well received by Kentucky folk.
10. Jolene by Dolly Parton
Song year: 1974
At the peak of country music is Dolly Parton and her song “Jolene.” For many people, regardless of whether you are a lover of classic country songs or are more of a pop fanatic, this song needs no introduction. You might have heard it when you got into a cab in New York or while in a diner in Florida, but you are guaranteed to have heard it at one point.
Down South, more so in Kentucky, Dolly Parton’s Jolene continues to rock the airwaves, reminding listeners to hold dear those they love, as they might be swept away from them by the next pretty stranger with flaming locks of auburn hair.
11. Bourbon in Kentucky by Dierks Bentley
Song year: 2013
Dierks Bentley gives you “Bourbon in Kentucky” for those who have been hurt by love before. Love is a beautiful emotion, but things don’t always work out. Bourbon in Kentucky is part of a “Rise” album released after Dierks lost his father. Consequently, it is filled with dark emotions bound to stir your soul.
Right off the bat, Dierks Bentley tells you that the answer to getting through a heartbreak won’t always be found at the bottom of a bottle, which in this case, is bourbon.
12. Mountain Parkway by Sundy Best
Song year: 2013
Sundy Best has been at the forefront of modern heartfelt country songs since its humble beginnings. The Mountain Parkway is another banger to bring out the best memories of driving through the Kentucky countryside.
From the yellow school buses you are bound to meet to the sprawling greenery with livestock grazing lazily, Mountain Parkway takes you back (if you have lived in Kentucky before) or takes you to (if you plan on visiting or even moving to Kentucky) the nature on the one fourteen.
13. It’s Got To Be Kentucky For Me by Tom T. Hall
Song year: 1976
Faster Horses, the album from which Tom T. Hall’s famous “It’s Got To Be Kentucky For Me” debuted in 1976, and with it came a special surprise for the lovers of Kentucky. Like having your own words said through the voice of a talented singer, Tom T. Hall captured the passion that Kentucky attaches to everyone who walks the brier.
In the song, Tom talks about different places, including the big apple, California (and its glorious sunshine), Tennessee, and many others, but emphasizes that the rivers and trees in Kentucky are where his heart is home. Just like Tom, many others quickly fall in love with the Southern charm that is part and parcel of Kentucky.
14. Coal Miner’s Daughter by Loretta Lynn
Song year: 1971
Loretta Lynn was writing a song for the Osborne brothers when she realized the lyrics wouldn’t fit. Consequently, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” was born. This hot single would be Loretta Lynn’s first appearance on the Hot 100 list, where the song peaked at position 83. This song remains relevant to Kentucky as it is an autobiography that paints an exceedingly accurate picture of the tribulations of the coal mines.
This song would later infuse new talent and styles, including the mastery of Miranda Lambert, but would forever remain a worthy tribute to Loretta.
15. Moonshiner by Bob Dylan
Song year: 1963
The word moonshine often gets linked to the South, and this is even truer for Kentucky. Bob Dylan, in this case, perfectly portrays the life of the bottle, explaining the path of being a moonshiner for a staggering 17 years. Moonshiner, therefore, feels like receiving the wisdom of a stranger in a dimly lit pub in Kentucky.
Enough has been said for the finer things in life, but Bob Dylan strips it down to the bare minimum, talking about food, water, and drink when you are hungry and thirsty. The moonshiner picked his poison, and he can’t imagine anything other than whiskey being the death of him.
16. You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive by Darrell Scott
Song year: 1997
Many versions of “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” succeeded the original version written by Darrell Scott, but none can match the authenticity that Scott instilled in his song. If you’ve been to Kentucky before, then it is most likely that you’ve heard of Harlan County. As the name suggests, “you’ll never leave Harlan alive” describes the inescapability of the place.
Straight out of the album Aloha From Nashville, Darrell Scott describes the hopelessness of living in the area, riddling the song with bits of his personal life and struggles that most other versions leave out. Despite the song’s somber mood, it remains a delight.
17. Kentucky in the Morning by Tom Hall
Song year: 1969
Tom Hall’s love for nature is nothing new, and his love for Kentucky has been expressed through many of his songs, but “Kentucky in the Morning” is one of those songs that excels in both of these facets of his unique blend between country and bluegrass music. “Kentucky in the Morning” describes waking up to the beautiful scenery that is part of the Kentucky landscape.
18. Kentucky Woman by Neil Diamond
Song year: 1967
Another Billboard Hot 100 song, “Kentucky Woman,” enjoyed an envious peak of 38 in 1967 when it came out. However, it led to a rift between Neil Diamond and his record company which he would later leave for the same reason. Despite a tumultuous history, “Kentucky Woman” went ahead to thrill fans nationwide. Neil said it was incredibly well-received among teenage girls, and it is easy to imagine why.
Dedicated to an unknown Kentucky woman, the song follows the passion for a woman with a captivating smile and lovely character but an unremarkable physical appearance. “Kentucky Woman” has several covers, including one sung by Elvis, which delighted Diamond.
19. Blue Moon of Kentucky by Bill Monroe
Song year: 1947
Bill Monroe was an excellent songwriter, and “Blue Moon of Kentucky” is one of his golden Waltzes. Written in 1947, several artists performed it, but arguably one of the most notable performances was by the King of Rock, Elvis Presley. A simple song, the blue moon of Kentucky, describes the rising of a blue moon over Kentucky and the emotions it inspires in the character.
Elvis Presley’s performance may be up for debate in this song, but the beauty of the landscape under the blue moon in Kentucky is not.
20. Kentucky by the Osborne Brothers
Song year: 1969
The Osborne brothers were a duo born in the ‘50s, consisting of Bobby Osborne and Sonny Osborne. While Bobby was drafted into the army and sent off to fight the Korean War, Sonny worked under the wing of Bill Monroe, one of the most prolific bluegrass artists of all time. Finally, half a century of entertaining music came when the pair teamed up. “Kentucky” is one of those songs.
21. Summers in Kentucky by Wheeler Walker Jr
Song year: 2017
Wheeler Walker Jr voices the new generation of country music and is considered one of the most considerable talents in the industry. “Summers in Kentucky” is a song that describes the blossoming of love among teenagers and the natural drift that develops with every first love.
Twenty-five years later, the character is still in love and misses the time he enjoyed with his young lover.
22. Get Your Shine on by Florida George Line
Song year: 2013
For those that come from Southern Kentucky, this song is nothing short of joyous nostalgia. Describing the beauty of Kentucky and the love the band has for their homeland, get your shine is a tribute to the bluegrass state that inspires a festive and nostalgic mood.
23. Kentucky Fight by the University of Kentucky
Song year: 2009
“The Kentucky Fight” by the University of Kentucky endears in our hearts and minds. This song perfectly captures the essence of the dreamer in all of us, helping us consider what matters. “Kentucky Fight” is a fight song meant to inspire the university’s students to excel.
24. Bowling Green by the Everly Brothers
Song year: 1967
“Bowling Green” was nothing short of a success. For many that have a taste for the classics, the Everly Brothers elicit nostalgic memories and will probably have you up on your feet thinking you are in a festival back in your childhood.
25. Kentucky Mandolin by Bill Monroe
Song year: 1923
Love has been the subject of many songs for time immemorial. Coupled with the hopes and dreams of a budding singer, Kentucky Mandolin will do more than make you hum to the tune. Bill Monroe does a perfect job of bringing the Kentucky Mandolin to life.
26. Postcards from Kentucky by Rocky Votolato
Song year: 2007
“Postcards from Kentucky” is an emotional rollercoaster. Additionally, the underlying theme of lost love and how specific unrelated everyday tasks might remind us of that love makes the song even more beautiful to listen to.
27. Kentucky Skies by Leftover Salmon
Song year: 2012
With warm weather, clear blue skies, and love waiting to be found, Kentucky, through the eyes and voice of Leftover Salmon, is a sight to behold.
Top Songs About Kentucky, Final Thoughts
Whether you live in Kentucky or pass through, there is a song for every mood while you think about this southern state. Kentucky has inspired thousands of songs, some of which have graced the Billboard Hot 100 for multiple weeks at several peak positions. Listen to a few to understand the love for the bluegrass state.