Tennessee is known for the Great Smoky Mountains on one end of the state and the Mississippi River on the other. There are also two major music cities: Nashville and Memphis.
With this mix of natural beauty and musical history, it's understandable there are many top songs about Tennessee. Read on to find out the best.
“Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton
Song Year: 2015
If you're looking for songs about whiskey, this track by Chris Stapleton is one of the best. He grew up in Kentucky, home of many famous distilleries. However, this song is an ode to Tennessee whiskey, which he uses to compare to his love.
Stapleton says he doesn't need to go to the bar and drink whiskey because his partner satisfies him. She's smoother than whiskey and sweeter than fruit wine, so he gets all he needs from her company.
“Tennessee” by Arrested Development
Song Year: 1992
This song is Arrested Development's first single, sampling “Alphabet St.” by Prince. The rap group won a Grammy for the song, which still appears on countless “Greatest Songs” lists.
One of the rappers wrote the song after attending his grandmother's funeral in Tennessee. The lyrics address this loss, plus the death of his brother not long after. While sad about his family life, he realizes God is telling him to go home to Tennessee, specifically the country out past Dyersburg and Ripley.
“Tennessee Waltz” by Patti Page
Song Year: 1950
Patti Page was a famous pop and country singer who became popular in the 1950s. “Tennessee Waltz” was so well-liked that the state made it the fourth official state song in 1965, long before Page's tune entered the Grammy Hall of Fame.
The lyrics start with the singer dancing with her love to the Tennessee Waltz. She sees one of her oldest friends and stops dancing to introduce her partner and friend. The friend dances off with the partner, leaving the singer alone.
“Tennessee Rose” by Emmylou Harris
Song Year: 1981
Emmylou Harris is one of the most famous female country singers who paved the way when the industry was predominantly men. She didn't write this song, but her unique voice made it stand out as one of the best songs about Tennessee.
“Tennessee Rose” is a song about her love and what she'd do to be with them. She wouldn't trade time with them for anything made of diamonds or gold because she values them too much.
“This Ain't Tennessee” by Garth Brooks
Song Year: 1998
Garth Brooks is a huge name in the country music scene, and this song about Tennessee is one of his lesser-known tracks. The lyrics address the confusing life changes as a man enters the gates of a giant estate with palm trees all over the land. He has an ocean view but misses the mountain breeze and trees in Tennessee.
Along with the physical changes in the singer's location, he realizes that his new partner isn't the woman he loves the most. Overall, the lyrics give the impression that the singer became rich and famous and tried to upgrade his life but realized it wasn't what he wanted.
“Tennessee” by Sugarland
Song Year: 2002
Sugarland is a country duo that made it big in Nashville as a group. “Tennessee” is a song about a radio DJ who takes a phone request, even though that's not the norm these days.
The caller is desperate to reach out to his partner, who he lost but wants back. He requests a love song hoping she'll hear it and say “I do” to his proposal.
“Tennessee Homesick Blues” by Dolly Parton
Song Year: 1984
Dolly Parton is well-known for her musical legacy and philanthropy. She lives in Tennessee and even has a famous theme park outside of Nashville called Dollywood. With that background, it's understandable that she'd sing about her home state.
The lyrics address how New York City seems so harsh compared to Nashville. She's homesick for the Grand Ole Opry and the Great Smoky Mountains. Many people love the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple, but Parton wants the slow country life back in Tennessee.
“Tennessee Stud” by Johnny Cash
Song Year: 1994
Like Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash is another Tennessee musician with an impressive legacy. Cash grew up in Arkansas, moving to Memphis after his release from the Air Force. He worked as a radio announcer before auditioning for Sam Phillips at the legendary Sun Studios.
“Tennessee Stud” is a song about a horse that helps Cash get through the mud in Arkansas as he tries to escape his sweetheart's father. Each verse tells of the adventure the narrator experienced on the house as he passed over the Rio Grande and back again. At the end of the song, he gets his sweetheart back without harm from her dad.
“My Tennessee Mountain Home” by Dolly Parton
Song Year: 1973
Dolly Parton is too big of a name in Tennessee to only feature once on this list. The lyrics of “My Tennessee Mountain Home” show how much she loves her home state. There's no need to do anything special—she sings about sitting on the front porch and enjoying a peaceful life.
While she watches kids play in the yard, she breathes the fragrant honeysuckle and hears the birds sing. She feels satisfied by walking, talking, and laughing with her love in this beautiful state.
“Tennessee Song” by Margo Price
Song Year: 2016
This song has the singer asking someone to return to Tennessee after spilling their soul over a bottle of wine. They consider taking Highway 64 or I-40, both major roads that cross the state. The singer misses southern life and hates living in a big city, feeling like that lifestyle poisons them against nature. They miss the mountains and valleys of Tennessee.
“Rocky Top” by the Osborne Brothers
Song Year: 1968
“Rocky Top” is one of the best-known Tennessee songs because it's the University of Tennessee's fight song. The Osborne Brothers originally recorded the song during their time as a bluegrass band in the 1960s and 1970s.
The song starts by wishing the singer was on Rocky Top, a mountain in Tennessee. There are no cares on the mountain, even though it's too rocky to grow corn or live comfortably. The singer wants to return to that location to spread out and feel free compared to living in the city.
“Back Where I Come From” by Kenny Chesney
Song Year: 1996
Kenny Chesney was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, so the lyrics to this song are true to his life. He sings about the slow life in his hometown and how he spent time relaxing and drinking beer on the riverbank. People may think it's a backward place, but he loves the simplicity of that life.
Chesney sings about people who make moonshine and how he grew up with black and white TVs but doesn't feel he missed out on anything. Instead, he's proud to be from Tennessee.
“Back to Tennessee” by Billy Ray Cyrus
Song Year: 2009
Billy Ray Cyrus was born in Kentucky but lived in Nashville early in his country career before moving to Los Angeles when his daughter, Miley, starred on Hannah Montana. That knowledge helps the listener appreciate the lyrics of “Back to Tennessee,” which addresses his life changes.
The song opens with references to new cars and jewelry and how Cyrus should feel on top of the world, but he feels like life is empty. He felt richer when he lived in Tennessee, even though he didn't have all this monetary wealth.
“Visit Me in Music City” by Bobby Bare Jr.
Song Year: 2004
Music City is a nickname for Nashville, and the lyrics to this song mention many of the landmarks in that famous town. The singer namechecks the Ryman Auditorium and Grand Ole Opry, both major stages for country stars. He namedrops many famous singers and talked about how they influenced his musical style and life path.
There's some humor to the lyrics as the singer mentions that singers don't need to be on key because producers will fix it. He also mentions that musicians make money by delivering pizza or selling weed because they don't make enough performing.
“Nashville Blues” by the Everly Brothers
Song Year: 1960
The Everly Brothers were a rock duo that helped pioneer country rock. “Nashville Blues” is one of their best-known songs in that genre. The lyrics address how the singer got a letter from his love in Nashville. She's lonely without him, so he realizes he needs to return to her quickly.
There's dark humor in the song as the listener realizes that Sally has the Nashville blues in Nashville while the singer has the Nashville blues because he's far from the city.
“Nashville Without You” by Tim McGraw
Song Year: 2013
Tim McGraw and his wife Faith Hill are both country music superstars, so it's easy to listen to this song and imagine McGraw singing it to Hill. The lyrics address how, without his love around, Nashville isn't the famous city others see. Instead, it's a bland river town with no live music, no musicians trying to make it big, and no tourists milling around.
It's funny to listen to this song and realize that the opposite is true, and Nashville is a fun, bustling city. There are also references to other famous country songs in the lyrics, like “Jolene,” “Smoky Mountain Rain,” and “The Man in Black.”
“Memphis, Tennessee” by Elvis Presley
Song Year: 1965
Elvis Presley is perhaps the most famous musician from Memphis, Tennessee, so it's appropriate that this song is all his. If you've ever wondered about Elvis writing his own songs, you'll appreciate knowing this is a Chuck Berry cover.
The lyrics start with the singer trying to return a missed call. He doesn't have the caller's phone number, but he knows who it is and wants to profess his love to her. The twist at the end of the song is that the singer is trying to call his six-year-old daughter because her mother separated them, and he misses their formerly happy family.
“The Wrong Side of Memphis” by Trisha Yearwood
Song Year: 1992
Trisha Yearwood is a big name in popular country music, and this song captures the typical feeling of classic country tracks. The lyrics situate the listener in a '69 Tempest with the singer, driving from the wrong side of Memphis to Nashville with the dream of playing on the Opry stage.
Though the singer references Elvis with Graceland, pink Cadillacs, and blue suede shoes, they contrast that with their cowboy boots being ready to break away from the city and make it big.
“Maybe It Was Memphis” by Pam Tillis
Song Year: 1991
Pam Tillis is a country singer who got her start in pop music. She was born in Florida, moved to Nashville, but sang this famous song about another Tennessee city. The lyrics encapsulate many features of the South, including porch swings, warm summer nights, and William Faulkner novels.
The general feeling of the song is missing their love, but they're unsure if it was just the feeling of being in Memphis, away from it all. Now that the singer is back home, they can't tell if their feelings are true.
“Walking in Memphis” by Marc Cohn
Song Year: 1991
Marc Cohn was a songwriter suffering from writer's block when he took a trip to Memphis. He visited some of the most famous music landmarks in the city, like Elvis Presley's Graceland and Beale Street, where blues musicians play on the sidewalk. When he went back to his life in New York, he wrote this song, which became his first and most famous single.
The lyrics take the listener on the same journey Cohn took that day, seeing famous landmarks and feeling the ghosts of the famous musicians inspire him.
“Smoky Mountain Rain” by Ronnie Milsap
Song Year: 1980
Ronnie Milsap was one of the most popular country singers in the 1970s and 1980s. “Smoky Mountain Rain” is his best-known song, which became Tennessee's eighth state song in 2010.
The song is about a man leaving Los Angeles to return to Tennessee. He wants to reunite with a former love, but when he calls her from the road, she isn't there. Still, he continues hitchhiking to the state, even through the rain, because he's determined to win her back.
“Tennessee Jed” by Grateful Dead
Song Year: 1972
Grateful Dead was a legendary jam band formed in California but best known for endlessly traveling the country. “Tennessee Jed” is a song about how much the singer loves to be in Tennessee, but he's too busy drinking and playing music. He knows his life is on a bad path, but he doesn't change it until he gets a letter telling him to return to Tennessee.
“Tennessee River Run” by Darryl Worley
Song Year: 2002
Darryl Worley is a singer and songwriter in Nashville, though he was born in Memphis. His song “Tennessee River Run” is about letting loose after a long week. He and his friends go to the Tennessee River to catch catfish, BBQ, and drink beer on the water.
The fun part about this song is the specificity. You can listen to the lyrics and find the same place to take your boat, a mile from the Pickwick dam near the Yellow Creek waterfall. Bring your speaker along so you can listen to this song while enjoying the water.
“Murder on Music Row” by George Strait and Alan Jackson
Song Year: 1999
This song title will grab your attention immediately. George Strait and Alan Jackson performed this duet, though it was originally done by Larry Cordle and Lonesome Standard Time. The song takes a meta approach to the country music scene, claiming it's murder when country-pop soars to the top of the charts, sullying the traditional country sound.
“Down in Tennessee” by John Anderson
Song Year: 1985
John Anderson is a country singer who got his start in 1977, earning more than 40 Billboard singles since then. “Down in Tennessee” is one of his best-known songs, written almost 15 years after he moved to Nashville to make it big.
The song is about this move, with the singer calling an old love who was in New York on a honeymoon while he's feeling depressed in Tennessee. It's a clever play on words since he's down in Tennessee compared to her geographic location while also feeling emotionally down.
“Dixieland Delight” by Alabama
Song Year: 1983
Alabama is a famous country band that burst onto the scene in the late 1960s and still tours. “Dixieland Delight” is one of their most famous songs, telling a story about what it's like to drive through the middle of nowhere in Tennessee on a Saturday night.
The song title refers to the singer's love who's driving around with him. They're not going anywhere special, just spending time together before parking in the moonlight.
“Crazy Town” by Jason Aldean
Song Year: 2009
Jason Aldean is an enormous current music star on the country scene, and his song “Crazy Town” documents some of his journey in the industry. The song tells the story of a singer coming to Nashville with his guitar, competing with everyone else who wants to make it big.
Though the city is a crazy town, you can push yourself to keep playing and make the bare minimum in tips until you make it big. By the time you have millions, you can hardly remember what it was like to be poor and struggling to become a star.
Top Songs About Tennessee, Final Thoughts
Whether it’s a songs about whiskey or one about a relationship, these songs about Tennessee offer something for everyone. The songs show you different aspects of the state, cities, and people who live there. If you've ever wanted to visit Tennessee, cue up these songs in a custom playlist and get a taste of what it's like.