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.