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Hi again! We're chugging right along through our weekly Woot ritual in which I try to find the best song for each state in the country. Today's a special installment: it's homecoming day for me, as it's time for my home state. Again, the rules state the song has to have the name of the state in the title, and it must describe the entire state, not just one part of it. Let's get to it.

The state: Illinois
The song:
"Illinois Blues" by Skip James

 

This was a hard choice to make. I wanted to do right by the Land of Lincoln (state motto: "At least we're not Missouri."), and Illinois is not a state that seems to inspire a lot of songwriting. It's hard to go wrong with the likes of Skip James, though. Sure, the song is roughly 90 years old, but it still resonates: "Tell everyone Illinois is great!" I don't know where "Banglin'" is, but it sounds like it must be pretty rough if they'd be impressed by tales of a guy ginning his own cotton. "The people will treat you just so-so." That's right. We're humble Midwesterners, and no one gets special treatment.

 

ComEd power plant, Byron, Illinois
No one except the nuclear energy industry.


This is a song that captures the spirit of driving through the sparsely-populated farmlands OR cruising through Humboldt Park in Chicago. It's simple and heartfelt, just like the people. Forget about Bruce Willis showing up at The House of Blues for a minute; Illinois has some blues roots of its own: it was a free state that allowed slavery, it hosted the Black Hawk War, its largest city has struggled with crooked politicians pretty much since day 1, and the dude who came up with Mormonism was murdered while in jail there. We're no strangers to tough times and stories of heartbreak.

But this song isn't really about heartbreak. It's about a guy finally finding his way, carving out his niche, and making a claim for himself. And that's something I think Illinoisans are good at: making do. Sometimes we might have to leave the state to do it, but we do it.

Runner Up: "Oh Illinois" by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
Most Laughable Suggestion: "Giant of Illinois" by The Handsome Family

Think I was way off? Got a suggestion for next week's state, Indiana? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

Flickr photo ComEd power plant, Byron, Illinois by keith011764 used under a Creative Commons License.

elviswind


quality posts: 1 Private Messages elviswind

Frank Zappa sang a good song which has "Illinois" in the title.

matthew


quality posts: 20 Private Messages matthew

Should have gone with the Beastie Boys' "Time to Get Ill."

sleepyheadkc


quality posts: 2 Private Messages sleepyheadkc

No mention of the wonderful Sufjan Stevens "Illinois" concept album? One of my favorite albums of the past decade.

Ewheezy


quality posts: 0 Private Messages Ewheezy
sleepyheadkc wrote:No mention of the wonderful Sufjan Stevens "Illinois" concept album? One of my favorite albums of the past decade.



I agree you should have made Chicago Illinois song, there not a whole lot else to the state.

ravensday


quality posts: 0 Private Messages ravensday
Ewheezy wrote:I agree you should have made Chicago Illinois song, there not a whole lot else to the state.


Sufjan Stevens also has a whole album about Michigan....

mossygreen


quality posts: 72 Private Messages mossygreen
elviswind wrote:Frank Zappa sang a good song which has "Illinois" in the title.



Careful, now....

agkerr3


quality posts: 0 Private Messages agkerr3

Indiana song?
R. Dean Taylor's "Indiana Wants Me"

Fun fact: On early copies of this song, it opens with the wail of a police siren, which is later heard during the instrumental bridge. The siren sounded (for its time) so realistic that some drivers pulled over to the side of the road when they heard the song on their car radios, prompting the studio to re-release it sans sirens.