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50+ Perfect Songs About Michigan

Looking for the ultimate list of songs about the awesome state of Michigan?

Well, you’ve come to the right place!

From the birth of Motown to the shaping of early punk, there’s no doubt that Michigan has a real affinity with pop music.

As a result, there’s a plethora of ear-catching songs that have been written about the state over the last century or so.

In this article, our team of musos-slash-writers-slash-Michigan-aficionados have compiled this all-encompassing list of 50+ songs about Michigan. They’ve also thrown in a few useful snippets of information about each track!

Feel free to skim through the list and check out the songs that peak your interest:

Detroit City (Bobby Bare)

Country singer Bare’s first Top 10 Billboard hit, written by Danny Dill and Mel Tillis, has become a country standard with its universal theme of homesickness and alienation.

Detroit Rock City (Kiss)

Detroit featured in many song titles, but Kiss’ anthem is among the most notable. Sure, the track only briefly mentions Detroit, but its longevity ensures its place on the Michigan song pantheon.

Somewhat surprisingly, it wasn’t anything close to a hit when first released in 1976.

Lose Yourself (Eminem)

The iconic song from Eminem’s semi-autobiographical film 8 Mile, reflects the rapper’s coming-of-age struggles growing up near 8 Mile Road, which divides Detroit into segregated neighborhoods. It was the first hip-hop song to win an Oscar.

I’ve Got a Gal In Kalamazoo (Glen Miller and his Orchestra)

Featured in the 1942 film Orchestra Wives, the now songbook-standard showcases the rhyming power of the Michigan town (“pipperoo,” “hurryin’ to,” “my how she grew”). 

Mary Lou (Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band)

Speaking of Kalamazoo and rhyming, Seger’s “Mary Lou” follows the formula, rhyming “Mary Lou: with the lyric “Left me stranded in Kalamazoo”

Seger was born in Detroit and recorded much of his material in the city.

Pretty Girl from Michigan (Avett Brothers)

We’re not sure who the “pretty girl” is here, but she — and Michigan — seem to have made a lasting impression on the band and the power to honestly reflect on a lack of relationship skills.

Michigan will do that to you.

Romulus (Sufjan Stevens)

In 2003, indie darling Stevens released Michigan, an entire album full of odes to his home state.

Any one of the songs belongs on this list, but “Romulus,” named for the Michigan town, is a particularly impactful standout.

We Almost Lost Detroit (Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson)

Though released in 1975, “We Almost Lost Detroit” covers the 1966 nuclear meltdown at Monroe, Michigan’s Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station. A soul-jazz classic.

I Care About Detroit (Smokey Robinson and the Miracles)

Robinson, one of Detroit-based Motown’s biggest stars, celebrates concerns for Detroit’s present and future and stresses his pride in his hometown, all wrapped up in a signature silky Motown groove.

Saginaw, Michigan (Lefty Frizzell)

Frizzell’s last No.1 country hit is a story love song set in the heart of Michigan.

“I loved a girl in Saginaw, Michigan/ The daughter of a wealthy, wealthy man / But he called me that son of a Saginaw fisherman/ And not good enough to claim his daughter’s hand,” Frizzell sings.

Hold on for a happy ending.

Motor City Madhouse (Ted Nugent)

Detroit’s most popular nickname (car industry!) gets the hard-rocking Nugent treatment.

It’s a welcome song to the Michigan native’s territory, but not a completely warm one: “Who, you best beware / There’s vi’lence in the air tonight,” he adds.

Michigan Man (Mike Ridley)

Hard-working Ridley approaches state-song territory with this folk-pop ode to, well, just about everything related to Michigan history and its current attractions.

They should play this one in the state’s visitor centers — if they don’t already. 

America (Simon and Garfunkel)

“Michigan seems like a dream to me now,” Garfunkel sings in the pair’s powerful, beloved tune from 1968.

Saginaw residents particularly love the tune (lyric: “It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw”), which Simon wrote while visiting the town, according to Michigan Live.

Dancing in Lansing (Ronnie Hernandez and Sweet Energy)

Despite it being Michigan’s capital, Lansing doesn’t get enough recognition in music.

Enter Hernandez’s 1980 blissful track, which we’re sure has been played at countless Michigan-based weddings for more than 40 years.

Michicant (Bon Iver)

Bon Iver singer Justin Vernon actually grew up in Wisconsin — hey, it’s Michigan-adjacent — but this track is from the group’s 2011 album that featured songs about an array of locales.

So Michigan made the cut, even with that kind of title. Win-win(ish)?

Back in ’72 (Bob Seger)

Seger often honors his home state, so he’s on this list a few times.

In “Back in ’72,” from the album of the same name, Seger name-checks some very specific locales, missing them when he’s on the road: “Houston, yes, was a good old guest/ Lord knows how bad we wanted to pay/ But we got homesick for Lincoln Park.”

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (Gordon Lightfoot) 

The S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was a freighter that sank in 1975 in Lake Superior, so let’s do a song about it!

To be fair, Lightfoot’s song was a big hit in 1976, even with it being a bit loose with some of the historical facts.

Night Moves (Bob Seger, The Drifters)

Seger wrote this coming-of-age saga about his youth in Michigan and had a bit hit with it in 1976, six years before the Drifters’ unexpected cover.

It’s a perfect showcase of how good storytelling transcends genre.

Put Your Hands Up 4 Detroit (Fedde le Grand)

Dutch DJ Fedde le Grand samples 1999’s “Hands Up for Detroit” by Matthew Dear and Disco D in this party dance anthem that shot to No. 1 at the UK Dance Chart (but, sadly, not in the U.S.).

This is a fun one, with the ringing line, “Put your hands up for Detroit/ Our lovely city.”

Highway Patrolman (Bruce Springsteen)

A tough, touching Springsteen track from 1982’s landmark album Nebraska.

Springsteen’s social consciousness is on full display here, a story of a highway patrolman Joe and his brother Franky, whom he must chase through rural Michigan when he avoids being arrested for a horrible crime.

The Last Time I Saw Richard (Joni Mitchell)

Mitchell’s soul is always bare, especially on albums like 1971’s Blue.

The song is like reading a confessional diary, beginning with the lines, “The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in ’68/ And he told me all romantics meet the same fate someday/ cynical and drunk and booing someone in some dark café.”

Paint’s Peeling (Rilo Kiley)

A relatable sadness and feeling of pointless wandering pour through the indie band’s 2002 song, especially through the lyric, “The paint’s peeling off the streets again/ And I’ll drive and close my eyes in Michigan.” Evocative and painfully real.

Especially in Michigan (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

We’re not sure exactly how long the Red Hot Chili Peppers have spent in Michigan, but they have a lot to say (humorously) about the state, including calling it a “mitten full of fisherman.”

Bonus: They rhyme “cinnamon” with “Michigan,” which is glorious.

Sweet Payne (The Hold Steady)

Payne Avenue is in St. Paul, Minnesota, but the rock band’s 2004 dense track takes the listener on a journey to Michigan and back again to St. Paul.

“We got so high some nights Michigan looked just like a mitten,” sings frontman Craig Finn. Hope no one was driving.

The Big Three Killed My Baby (the White Stripes)

It’s not a ringing endorsement of the Detroit-based band’s hometown, but, um, it’s a mention.

“The Big Three” refers to the huge automakers in town, with the lyrics criticizing them for taking advantage of consumers.

Kalamazoo (Ben Folds)

More Kalamazoo and more rhyming!

Exhibit A: “I must have been lost in more than one way/ Kalamazoo/ Don’t you know that I’ve been there too?”

Be right back, writing another song about Kalamazoo before someone else beats us to it.

Michigan (Josh Rouse)

A lovely, personal family letter as a song, “Michigan” finds our narrator writing to his parents about living in Michigan with Uncle Ray, his only friend, bartending when he can and staying bored “most of the time.”

Rouse is from Nebraska, by the way, but that’s OK.

The Deeper In (Drive-By Truckers)

You don’t get to Michigan until the end of Drive-By Truckers’ 2003 rock hit.

And then once you get there, you’ll be staying there. The last lines: “You awoke in a jail cell, alone and so lonely / Seven years in Michigan.”

Michigan for the Winter (Ryan Hurd)

A rare country song about Michigan, Hurd heads up north for a “change of scene ‘til the seasons change,” but also to avoid a broken heart, to get a certain someone off his mind.

“I’m going to Michigan for the winter/ Between the dark and the light of the sky and the snow/ Most people go south for the weather/ instead of hiding out in the cold,” Hurd emotionally explains.

Going to Michigan (the Extra Glenns)

This sounds like a fun road trip! The Extra Glenns, now called the Extra Lens, are in the car rolling north towards Michigan as their car mate complains about the driver’s music taste. All the more reason to get to Michigan faster.

Back to Ypsilanti (Lee Osler)

South-mitten town Ypsilanti is such a fun name that it appears in a ton of songs, including this 1983 gem that’s pure, fantastic funk. Osler grew up in Ypsi and is now an acclaimed and prolific painter in the state.  

Dancing in the Streets (Martha and the Vandellas)

Yes, the joyful 60s pop confection references a bunch of different cities, but when the most memorable call-out is “can’t forget the Motor City!” it becomes all about Michigan.

Horizontal Bop (Bob Seger)

More Bob Seger, more songs about Michigan. This song divided critics when it was released in 1980, both because of the theme (sex) and lyrics found some juvenile.

Michigan loves it for the state-specific lyrics like “The pony cars are cruisin’ on Woodward Avenue,” a street in Detroit.

Michigan (the Milk Carton Kids)

Another song that both celebrates (“The clouds move over the Pontiac sky”) and ditches the state (“Michigan’s in the rear-view now.”)

A Long Time (Mayer Hawthorne)

Hawthorne grew up in Ann Arbor, and “A Long Time” is a great homage to the sounds, past and present, of his home state, especially the Motown grooves floating out of Detroit.

One Piece at a Time (Johnny Cash)

The working-class sensibility of Detroit struck a chord with Cash, who referenced the city in multiple songs. “One Piece at a Time” shares the story of a man moving from Kentucky to work on the “’sembly” line in Detroit’s car industry.

I Want to Go Back to Michigan (Irving Berlin)

Berlin wrote this song in 1914, but you likely know it from its inclusion in the film “Easter Parade,” and song by none other than Judy Garland.

Hello Detroit (Sammy Davis Jr.)

“Hello Detroit” was co-written by Motown founder Barry Gordy as sort of a spirit-lifter to the city. Davis Jr. released it in 1984, toward the end of his career.

Safer in the Forest/Love Song for Poor Michigan (La Dispute)

Dense love-hate lyrics meet atmospheric energy in this 2011 epic from the post-hardcore band from Grand Rapids.

Most memorable line: “I need to leave/ I can’t marry this place/ I won’t bury the past/ I just need a change of scenery.”

Born in a Trailer (The Stooges)

Fun fact: Stooges frontman Iggy Pop actually grew up in a trailer in Ypsilanti, and, according to secondwavemedia.com, the trailer park, called Coachville Gardens, is still around. Who’s up for a quick visit?

Papa Hobo (Paul Simon) 

Four years after Simon ; Garfunkel’s “America,” Simon heads back to Michigan to focus on a working man getting by in Detroit. You can smell the song: “Its carbon and monoxide/ The old Detroit perfume/ It hangs on the highways/ In the morning.”

Grand Edge, MI (Dads)

This somber ode to coping with the death of someone close to you was the lead track to their second album. As far as we can tell, there isn’t a real Grand Edge (but there should be).

Michigan State (Devendra Banhart)

The acclaimed singer-songwriter shows his (somewhat) softer side with this love song about yearning to live with a girl in Michigan. “Oh I’ve never been to Michigan state/ Still I’d wanna live in you,” he sings.

Miss Michigan (Mustard Plug)

The ska band from Grand Rapids is pretty sure they don’t want to have a steady girlfriend, but they could handle is a pageant queen like Miss Michigan. Sorry, ladies.

Rusty Chevrolet (Da Yoopers)

The traveling comedy singers hit Michigan gold with this 1986 song reflective of Detroit’s auto industry and a beloved car that’s unreliable in the Michigan snow.

Michigan and Again (the Accidentals)

The Accidentals are unabashedly happy in Michigan, which calls out everything from compass roses to “Canada’s daughter” and “home of the water.” One lyric is even, “Michigan and again and again and again and again.”

Detroit Breakdown (the Gories)

Garage rock-blues fusion group the Gories formed in Detroit in the 1980s and “Detroit Breakdown” is a great, gritty homage to the town they love.

All Summer Long (Kid Rock)

The first verse hits home for Michigan native Kid (or is it Mr. Rock), setting the scene: “It was summertime in northern Michigan.” Even though the song samples “Sweet Home Alabama,” Michigan still claims it as their own.

Half Acre (Hem)

Rockers Hem hit right to the feels with this 2002 swirling ballad that will make anyone homesick for Michigan (or wherever they happen to be from). “Think of every town you’ve lived in/ Every room you lay your head/ And what is that you remember,” the song asks.

Dear Isabelle (Lee DeWyze)

The “American Idol” champion’s song is a letter to a woman he happens to have spent some time with at Lake Michigan. We’re not sure if he’s talking about Illinois Lake Michigan or Michigan Lake Michigan, but either way — Michigan.

Closing Thoughts

We hope this list has given you more than a few choices of songs about Michigan to check out!

If you enjoyed this article, why not check out our list of songs about Austin next?

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I'm George; the founder of Indie Panda. I'm passionate about helping independent musicians realize the full potential of their talents and abilities through a strong work ethic, coherent project identity and a strong logistical foundation.