Alabama has a rich, complex history and culture. That comes through in its music, and the songs about the state.
Here are some of the best songs about Alabama ever.
Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Song Year: 1974
Top of our list of songs about Alabama is Lynyrd Skynyrd’s nostalgic anthem, “Sweet Home Alabama.”
Skynyrd wrote the song in response to Neil Young’s composition “Southern Man.” In Young’s piece, he condemns the dark underbelly of Southern history, including slavery and its lingering traumas on Alabama citizens.
Skynyrd’s song doesn’t explicitly castigate Young, though the song references him. Instead, the Skynyrd paints a picture of the beauty of his home and its long, complicated history.
However, Skynyrd and Young’s pieces are enhanced when you listen to them back-to-back. Alabama is as rich and beautiful a place as its history is complicated. To love it is to accept both those truths.
Old Alabama by Brad Paisley
Song Year: 2011
When Paisley released this country song, it featured backing vocals from the popular band Alabama.
It also borrows the bridge from “Mountain Music.” But that’s not the only musical reference in the song. Its lyrics are full of song titles and lyrics that pay homage to Alabama. Some of the most obvious are:
- Why Lady, Why?
- Tennessee River
- Feels So Right
- Love in the First Degree
Midnight in Montgomery by Alan Jackson
Song Year: 1992
Here’s another song about Alabama that pays homage to a specific place. In “Midnight in Montgomery,” country singer Alan Jackson pays tribute to Alabama native and fellow singer Hank Williams.
Unlike other songs on this list, it isn’t a paean to nostalgia. It’s deeply melancholy. But it’s also beautiful. It’s full of imagery people familiar with Alabama will recognize, like the whip-o-will.
In one of its most poignant moments, the speaker contemplates the beauty of the stars and believes that if they listen hard enough, they can still hear Williams’ music on the breeze.
Alabama by Bishop Gunn
Song Year: 2018
Bishop Gunn’s “Alabama” offers a much darker look at the South. This popular rock song blends sex and violence as it tells the story of a Good Samaritan who gives a ride to a vivacious blonde woman.
He subsequently hears someone matching her description is wanted for murder, and the speaker wonders if they are doomed to die in Alabama. Whether they do or not is unclear – the song ends before the couple arrives.
Stars Fell from Alabama by Billie Holiday
Song Year: 1934
Frank Perkins composed it. Mitchell Parish gave it lyrics. But Billie Holiday took this jazzy romantic song and made it a household favorite.
It’s full of rich harmonies and alluring blue notes, and it describes seeing the Alabama city lights reflected in a lover’s eyes.
It was a famous jazz standard, and several artists recorded versions, including:
- Ella Fitzgerald
- Bing Crosby
- Anita O’Day
- Dean Martin
Paint Me a Birmingham by Tracey Lawrence
Song Year: 2004
Some songs about Alabama are more specific than others. Tracey Lawrence’s tribute to Birmingham, Alabama is the perfect example.
In the song, a homesick speaker finds an artist who can paint anything for 20 dollars. They hand over the money and ask for a painting of the city they miss.
Alabama High-Test by Old Crow Medicine Show
Song Year: 2008
“Alabama High-Test” is an energetic song with an excellent narrative. The speaker gets pulled over for erratic driving and is subjected to a test to see if they consumed anything untoward while in Alabama.
Even as they comply with the titular test, they express anxiety about the prospect of jail time.
It’s a song that could become bleak and demoralizing in the wrong hands. Old Crow Medicine has an excellent observational eye, so the antics and hijinks get played for comedy.
Angel from Montgomery by John Prine
Song Year: 1971
“Angel in Montgomery” is another somewhat mournful song about Alabama. But it’s not Alabama that’s the issue, but instead, the speaker’s marriage.
Prine sings the song from the viewpoint of a woman seeking to leave an unhappy marriage. Her dream is to become an angel and run away to the rodeo.
The song appears in the film Who Bombed Judi and the penultimate episode of the television series Ozark.
King Cotton by The Secret Sisters
Song Year: 1963
In this song about Alabama, The Secret Sisters reminisce about the things they miss. They range from the titular cotton to the fields of waving Queen Anne’s Lace.
Although the speaker is homesick, the song isn’t a lament. It has a jaunty, upbeat rhythm and fast tempo. That’s because once they finish naming all their favorite things about Alabama, the speaker has plans to go home.
They don their best clothes and dare anyone to stop them from making the trip. If their drive is anything like the song’s speed, you’d be hard-pressed to keep them away from Alabama.
Alabama Blues by J. B. Lenoir
Song Year: 1965
Conversely, nothing will get the speaker of J. B. Lenoir’s “Alabama Blues” to return to the state.
It’s a bluesy song with a slow, sinuous beat. Lenoir croons the song with heartfelt warmth despite the tragedy unfolding in the lyrics.
What’s notable about Lenoir’s song is that it’s an early example of music as social commentary. Singers like Pete Seeger had made careers addressing social issues of the time, but many of them, Seeger inclusive, got black-listed as Communists for their trouble.
“Alabama Blues” is an unapologetic and unflinching look at the social issues faced by people of color. It’s not as catchy as some of Seeger’s civil rights anthems, but that’s arguably the point.
Alabama Bound by Lead Belly
Song Year: 1940
Since Robert Hoffman composed “Alabama Bound” in 1909, its lyrics have been oft-contested. Initially, Hoffman got the credit. But when Alan Lomax started collecting folk songs, he purportedly found them in an antiquated book of folk songs.
The most famous recording of Hoffman’s song about Alabama came from Lead Belly in 1940. His gravelly voice was as recognizable as the chorus, and it wasn’t long before his version was the one on all the radio stations.
My Home’s In Alabama by Alabama
Song Year: 1979
It’s impossible to discuss songs about Alabama without mentioning the band “Alabama.”
In “My Home’s In Alabama,” they sing about the many places they have lived over the years. Wherever they are, and however much they love it, nowhere but Alabama feels like home.
Alabama Getaway by The Grateful Dead
Song Year: 1980
“Alabama Getaway” used to be a staple of Grateful Dead concerts. They sang it live for the first time in 1979, and in 1980 it appeared on an album.
Although it disappeared off their concert roster by the end of the 1980s, for years it wasn’t considered a Grateful Dead concert unless they sang this song about Alabama.
The lyrics are full of controversial, even violent imagery. Opinion varies as to their meaning. Some people believe it’s a tribute to Alabama-born band members in the process of leaving the band. Others see it as a commentary on the inherent violence of a particular kind of Southerner.
Alabama by Neil Young
Song Year: 1972
“Alabama” isn’t Neil Young’s most controversial song about the South. Although Alabama features in the title and lyrics, the lyrics aren’t specifically about the state.
It’s a much subtler commentary on racism than “Southern Man.” Its lyrics juxtapose the disparity between the haves and have-nots. To do so, it draws on imagery associated with slavery, like ropes and chains. Interestingly, it also draws on the banjo, the famous musical equalizer made popular by Pete Seeger.
It offers an optimistic future where music unites these people if only they can agree to work together.
Alabama by John Coltrane
Song Year: 1963
John Coltrane’s song “Alabama” is one of the few instrumental songs about Alabama. It features Coltrane on saxophone, deftly playing a warm, mellow, and slow-paced song. It picks up speed as it goes, becoming increasingly jazzy and prone to improvisation.
The popular story about this song is that Coltrane wrote it after a devastating church bombing organized by the Klu Klux Klan in 1963. The attack targeted an Alabama church and killed four young girls.
Famously, Coltrane used the rhythm of Martin Luther King’s speeches to shape the tempo and rhythm of his jazz tribute.
Alabama Song by The Doors
Song Year: 1967
The Doors were famous for their psychedelic rock songs, and “Alabama Song” is no exception.
In this song about Alabama, several people set out to find a whiskey bar. If they can’t find it, the only option is death. The lyrics are bizarre, and the harmony is as fascinating as it is improbable.
There’s a carnival quality to this song that many people find unsettling, but don’t discount it for that. As eerie and unsettling as it can sound, the composition is brilliant.
Honky Tonk Highway by Luke Combs
Song Year: 2017
“Honky Tonk Highway” is a much more optimistic song about Alabama. And not just Alabama but life as a musician.
The nomadic lifestyle that comes with performing doesn’t suit everyone. Listening to Combs sing “Honky Tonk Highway,” it’s obvious the lifestyle suits him.
The lyrics paint a nostalgic picture of life on the road as the speaker drives towards Alabama, always going from one concert to the next. It’s sentimental but never cloying and an excellent tribute to the music and a place Combs loves.
Alabama Pines by Jason Isbell
Song Year: 2012
Here’s another nostalgic song about Alabama. Its slow, plodding tempo is full of longing for home.
Isbell keeps the song from becoming sappy by recognizing the failings of his version of Alabama. It’s not perfect, but it’s his. And the scent of the Alabama pines eclipses all his hometown’s imperfections.
When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam by Judy Garland and Fred Astaire
Song Year: 1948
Most people forget that Easter Parade features Fred Astaire and Judy Garland singing about catching the train to Alabama.
This song about Alabama is fun, fast-paced, and playful, in keeping with the theme of the musical. It also speaks to what was popular in post-war America. People wanted uplifting melodies that could make them forget the war.
Listening to “Midnight Choo Choo,” it’s clear that Irving Berlin wrote it intending to mimic the titular mode of transport. The lyrics are fun, the melody is playful, and the rhythm apes a racing train perfectly.
Ala-Freakin’-Bama by Trace Adkins
Song Year: 2010
“Ala-Freakin-Bama” opens with a chord progression evocative of 1960s rock ‘n roll. You half-expect it to segue into a Beach Boys cover.
What you get is a love letter to Alabama. But first, Adkins’ speaker falls in love with an anonymous woman whose clothes indicate she also loves his state.
Determined to catch her eye, the speaker rattles off any number of Alabama-related references, ranging from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Roll Tide.
Sunday Birmingham by Suzy Bogguss
Song Year: 2021
“Sunday Birmingham” is a surprisingly poignant song about Alabama. In it, the speaker takes a break from their nomadic life to stay overnight in Alabama.
The narrator gets struck by Birmingham’s rare beauty. Bogguss paints a rich sensory picture, full of flowers in bloom and hickory smoke. It’s enough to make anyone want to drive to Alabama and immerse themselves in its local beauty spots.
Roll Tide Roll by Carter Hamric
Song Year: 2009
“Roll Tide Roll” looks and sounds older than it is. Carter Hamric wrote the song when he was 20 while collaborating with his friends.
Inspired by one of Alabama’s favorite sports chants, it became an immediate success. All across the state, people called up local radio stations requesting Carter’s composition.
The result is that it’s as deeply associated with the state as much older country songs.
Postmarked Birmingham by Black Hawk
Song Year: 1997
In this song about Alabama, the speaker’s memories get triggered by a letter. It’s postmarked from Birmingham, Alabama, and the handwriting is familiar.
It’s a bittersweet song. The letter comes from a lost love, and the lyrics exemplify how intimate we find even the smallest details, like handwriting.
Because the speaker knows their correspondence, they can piece a lot together about what happened in the time they spent apart. Most telling of all, the postmark from Birmingham puts this love in Alabama, making it somewhere they both long for and dread.
The Three Great Alabama Icons by The Drive-By Truckers
Song Year: 2001
This song is more than a tribute to Alabama. It’s also a reflection on the people that made the state famous.
The lyrics paint a picture of some of Alabama’s most famous people. Not all of them are flattering. The song uncompromisingly grapples with questions of race and segregation.
But what comes through is The Drive Through Truckers’ appreciation for Alabama and its people. It’s a peculiar song, more like a short story than a composition. But its breadth, depth, and scope make it well worth listening to.
The Alabama Waltz by Hank Williams
Song Year: 1974
“The Alabama Waltz” is a love song in more ways than one. Partly it’s a love song to a place. The lilting waltz rhythm of the melody perfectly renders the romance and nostalgia of home.
But it’s also about romantic love. Lyrics are scarce in this song, but the few there describe how dancing with a loved one and dreaming about the home you left behind are enough to make all one’s troubles melt away.
It’s catchy, sentimental, and a gorgeous tribute to home and love in all shapes and sizes.
Stars in Alabama by Jamey Johnson
Song Year: 2008
“Stars in Alabama” is a song pregnant with longing for a home.
Like other songs on this list, the lyrics grapple with the wandering lifestyle of musicians everywhere. This speaker is in Tennessee, and while it’s still part of the South, it isn’t home.
In addition to aching homesickness, “Stars in Alabama” is full of beautiful imagery. That’s appropriate because it’s the beauty of home that inspires such homesickness.
It’s a longing typified by the stars. Stars are everywhere, and if the speaker looks up, they offer a reprieve from the endless country roads. But because they aren’t Alabama’s stars, they are lackluster though still beautiful.
Merry Christmas Alabama by Jimmy Buffet
Song Year: 1996
This sweet holiday serenade isn’t what people think of when they think about songs about Alabama. Indeed, it wishes a Merry Christmas to a variety of states.
But it’s a heartfelt holiday song. It’s slower than many traditional carols, giving it extra weight and sincerity. Buffet’s voice is perfect for it. It’s rich, velvety, and full of holiday goodwill.
All in Alabama by Hank Williams Jr.
Earlier, we discussed Hank Williams, but he wasn’t the only musician in the family.
As the lyrics of “All in Alabama” relate, Williams Jr. left Alabama to start a music career. He hoped to distinguish himself from his father, and he did.
But the experience left him homesick for the place he grew up, and “All in Alabama” is his musical tribute to the home he loved.
What Was I Thinking’ by Dierks Bentley
Song Year: 2003
Despite featuring an irate parent brandishing a shotgun, “What Was I Thinking” plays as a comedy.
There’s a Loony-Toons sensibility to the way the shotgun-motor car chase escalates. And it all takes place, as the lyrics make clear, in rural Alabama.
Part of the song’s appeal is that it’s a love song when you get down to its bones. Take away the hi-jinks, and it’s about a couple of young people who want to spend their evening dancing together, whatever the consequences.
All Summer Long by Kid Rock
Song Year: 2007
This song about Alabama opens with a musical riff on the intro to “Werewolves of London.”
But although there’s a long-haired protagonist, there are no werewolves in Kid Rock’s song. But the speaker does change.
In this nostalgic tribute to summers in Alabama, the speaker stands on the brink of adulthood. The lyrics explore the shift from child to adult and the misadventures they had getting there.
Alabama Rain by Jim Croce
Song Year: 1973
Finally, “Alabama Rain” fondly recalls not the hot, sunny summers of other songs but the languid walks the speaker used to take with friends in the rain.
It’s a poetic song. It’s also unusual because most people choose to remember their favorite times and places as perpetually sunny idylls.
The rain gives this a gently melancholy atmosphere and keeps it from becoming too sentimental. As songs about Alabama go, this one might be our favorite.
Top Songs About Alabama, Final Thoughts
By now, you should realize that songs about Alabama are as varied as the artists who wrote them.
Some are about specific places. Some are love songs. And some are thoughtful commentaries on the state’s complicated past.
However you feel about Alabama, one thing is clear. All these songs are memorable and deservedly so. For better or worse, fewer places inspire such musical commentary as does Alabama.