There's a Rattlesnake Raceway in the Nevada desert, but there's no such thing as a Rattlesnake Speedway in the Utah desert.
Yet much of the action in one of Bruce Springsteen's signature songs, "The Promised Land," seems to take place in Utah:
On a rattlesnake speedway in the Utah desert
I pick up my money and head back into town
Driving across the Waynesboro County Line
I've got the radio on and I'm just killing time
In Utah, there's a Wayne County not Waynesboro yet we'll still claim our state's the setting for the song.
Set aside Bob Dylan's antiwar anthem "Let Me Die In My Footsteps," which name-checks our western neighbors of Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and Idaho while snubbing Utah. (By the way, our state does show up in Dylan's funniest song, "Talkin' Hava Negeilah Blues.")
Consider how the Beehive State serves as a central element or tossed-off detail in the lyrics written by some of our favorite musicians. Our state's unique history, culture, religion, politics and scenic beauty evoke much sentiment in balladry, while the radio serves as one of the vessels through which Utahns learn what outsiders think of us, our customs and the condition of our welcome mats.
This select list of song lyrics offers some of the most offensive, loving and beguiling lines about our beloved desert home.
"Salt Lake City," Bob Weir
It was a paradise for lizards when young Brigham saw it first
He said "I've seen some nasty deserts, Lord, but this one here's the worst"
Then the lord called down to Brigham, said "I got a great idea
I want a mighty city and I think I want it here" …
Well, Brigham kicked a prairie dog and muttered in his beard
Said, "You've put me through some changes, Lord, but this one's really weird"
The Lord just laughed at Brigham, said, "You'd better get to work
The next time I check in here, I want paradise on Earth."
"Salt Lake City," Beach Boys
Down in Utah
The guys and I dig a city called Salt Lake
It's got the grooviest kids …
There's a park near the city, yeah
All the kids dig the Lagoon now
It's full of all kinds of girls
And rides and we'll be flyin' there soon now
And girl for girl
They've got the cutest of the Western states
"Promised Land," Bruce Springsteen
On a rattlesnake speedway in the Utah desert
I pick up my money and head back into town
Driving cross the Waynesboro county line
I got the radio on and I'm just killing time
Working all day in my daddy's garage
Driving all night chasing some mirage
Pretty soon little girl I'm gonna take charge
The dogs on Main Street howl 'cause they understand
If I could take one moment into my hands
Mister I ain't a boy, no I'm a man
And I believe in a promised land
"SLC Radio," Amy Ray
I'm pulling in to the LDS nation looking for a community station
'Cause I've heard about the kids in Salt Lake City
And how they fight to be set free and how they fight
For you and me
"Ballad for a Friend," Bob Dylan
Sad, I'm sittin' on the railroad track,
Watchin' that old smokestack.
Train is a-leavin' but it won't be back …
A diesel truck was rollin' slow,
Pullin' down a heavy load.
It left him on a Utah road.
They carried him back to his hometown,
His mother cried, his sister moaned,
Listen to them church bells tone.
"Talkin' Hava Negeilah Blues," Bob Dylan
Here's a foreign song I learned in Utah:
"Utah Carol," Marty Robbins (and others)
And now my friends you've asked me what makes me sad and still
And why my brow is darkened like the clouds upon the hill
Run in your ponies closer and I'll tell to you my tale
Of Utah Carol my partner and his last ride on the trail …
On his funeral morning I heard the preacher say
I hope we'll all meet Utah at the roundup far away
Then they wrapped him in a blanket that saved his little friend
And it was this red blanket that brought him to his end
"Salt Lake City," Jerry Joseph
This is the city of vacant looks, questionable Gods and multiple wives
The angel on the temple, he's in a silent way
I've got a feeling, he's kind of blue today
Here in Salt Lake City.
Sometimes this city feels like the only place we've ever been
Salt Lake City, come a little closer and let me lick the salt again …
I know why you left me, I still blame this town for that.
Salt Lake City, you swear you're never coming back.
I'm sending you a postcard, it's a wagon full of pioneers.
Greetings from the Zion Kingdom, see you in a couple years
"Salt Lake City," Hank Williams Jr. (and others)
All alone on my own here in this old town of Salt Lake City
Gotta find work, forget the hurt and how she put me down
For a man who didn't care but with fast talk and curly hair
He took her from me and Salt Lake City …
Night has come, day is done, but there's no job to be found in Salt Lake City …
And think of all the times that she said that she loved me
But that's just a mem'ry in Salt Lake City
I should pack my things and go but my heart keeps saying no
Someday she'll come back to me and Salt Lake City
"Salt Lake City," The Dwarves
But there's one thing I'll never do, not even for you
I'm not going to Salt Lake City
There isn't anything I wouldn't do for you except to walk among the Osmond crew
I know you're planning for a latter day and you can't betray what you know in Provo
But there's one less town on the globe and if you must go there you're going alone
I'm not going to Salt Lake City even if they tell me I can stay
Even if they resurrect my brain I don't wanna go there I don't wanna go insane
I'm not pure and I'm not pretty and I'm not going to Salt Lake City
I'm not living in Hello Kitty and I'm not going to Salt Lake City
"Salt Lake City Sunday," Fad Gadget
They march, the Latter Day Saints
Salt Lake's sick residents
They want you to repent
The want your 10 percent
They march, the Latter-day Saints …
They slam the door in your face
They're smiling at me too
You want me more but I want nothing from you …
I slam the door in your face!
"Heaven," Uncle Kracker
If Heaven ain't a lot like Detroit
I just as soon stay home
If they ain't got no Eight Mile
Like they do up in the D
Just send me to Hell or Salt Lake City
It would be about the same to me
"I Lost My Sugar in Salt Lake City," Johnny Mercer (and others)
I lost my sugar in Salt Lake City
Oh, why did I go there?
… I cried my heart out in Salt Lake City
The day I heard the news
She left me deep in my solitude
With the Salt Lake City blues
Salt Lake City is renowned for its beauty …
There's salt beds and farm lands producing
Alfalfa, green, sugar beets and vegetables in the vicinity
But as far as I'm concerned
I don't care if I ever set foot there again in Salt Lake City
That town is a nemesis to me
"Hope She Cheats on You (With a Basketball Player)," Marsha Ambrosius
I hope she cheats on you with a basketball playa
Hope that she Kim Kardashianed her way up.
Don't know the difference between a touchdown and a layup
Got you on Viagra in order for you to stay up
I may sound bitter, I'm a little bitter
Just a little bitter because you were with her
I'm Salt Lake City now I'm on up out the picture.
Remember how it was when I was with ya.
"Salt Lake City 1973," Shawn Mullins
Mormons are everywhere
Battalions of bicycling bachelors
With dark suits
And well cropped hair
We're Mormons too
Have been since '72 …
I sip lukewarm Sprite from a tin can
Sold to me by a hunchback silly bastard old woman
A hundred miles back
Who is probably the only person with good sense
In this part of the country …
I hear all these male voices
Telling me that black people are inferior
And it's OK to have more than one wife
And as the dry dry breath of the Utah sun warms me
I stand before a statue of Jesus that is far too big
And has held these folks hostage for so so long
And I gaze up at the nostrils of the sandstone savior
And wonder if it
Can smell all this bull
'Cause I sure can
And I'm only 5 years old
In Salt Lake City
State Song of Utah, "This Is the Place," Sam and Gary Francis
It was Brigham Young who led the pioneers across the plains.
They suffered with the trials they had to face.
With faith they kept on going till they reached the Great Salt Lake
Here they heard the words, "This is the place"
Utah! With its focus on family,
Utah! Helps each child to succeed.
People care how they live.
Each has so much to give.
This is the place! …
Utah! With its pioneer spirit.
Utah! What a great legacy!
Blessed from Heaven above.
It's the land that we love.
This is the place
"Don't Get So Down On Yourself," Chris Isaak
I got the picture that you finally sent
I read your letter, and I know what you meant
That's you and me, in Salt Lake City
You sure look pretty.
Wish we could go back again.
"Bout Ta' Bubble," Tech N9ne
In Salt Lake City, performin' for Mormons
Out of they garments before the mornin', I'm charmin'
Just arrived Singapore, San Sebastian, Spain, 26-hour trip
Salt Lake City, coming in spring
Over the salt flats, a hailstorm brought you back to me
"Ford Econoline," Nanci Griffith (and others)
She drove west from Salt Lake City to the California coastline …
She's the salt of the earth
Straight from the bosom of the Mormon church
With a voice like wine
Cruising along in that Ford Econoline
Now her husband was a gambler, he was a Salt Lake City rambler
He built a golden cage around his silver-throated wife
Too many nights he left her crying with his cheating and his lying
But his big mistake was him buying her that Ford Econoline
"The Great Salt Lake," Band of Horses
Back of the boat was painted wreckin' ball
There was country music playing, but he don't like it at all
And red fire poppin' on the rained-down woody
His whiskey bottle spillin' in a lake that's made of salt
And look out Michael, there's a note on the door
Saying, "Everybody listen, you'll be the next Omaha"
Now, if you find yourself falling apart
Then I'm sure I could steer on The Great Salt Lake
"Utah," The Osmonds
Well I'm going back to Utah
Utah is the place where I want to be
Utah, you tell me 'bout all the places that you
Wish you could see
Just give me my home, my girl, my friends, my family
Give me time to rest my mind, then we'll have a party
"Utah," John Linnell
Reading the next resume
Raising his eyes up from the page
Showing no sign of surprise
Weren't you the one I hurt?
Weren't you the one that I betrayed?
Did you stay angry with me?
I forget you
I forget you
I forget Utah
"Utah Trail," Tex Ritter
I'm gonna hide away out beside that Utah trail,
Moonlight as bright as day far out on that Utah trail.
There's where I'll settle down in peace where all is still,
In a little hut just built for two tucked away out in the hills.
There beneath the skies so blue in the golden summertime
Out where your friends are true and all nature is in rhyme.
Someone is waiting with a love that never fails
Waitin' patiently to welcome me far out on that Utah trail.
"The History of Utah," Camper Van Beethoven
He was the riverboat gambler
He was the son of the chief of police
And old Joe
Did and said as he would
Took all the shopping carts from the mall
And took them to Utah
Which was Zion
He built an empire out of the desert
Out of the dust and the sand, just like Las Vegas
But he never took the rap that the Mafia did
And he thought the Indians were some lost 13 dudes
But he didn't treat them any better
And they were never on his side …
And old Joe had 13 beady-eyed babies
One of whom I used to go to school with
He'd drive his car at a 110 down the alleyway
Throwing cinderblocks at trash cans
And I declare on this occasion
I've never seen this heaven or this place any differently
But now and then I dream of the flying saucers and they're coming to take us away
"Utah Tribute," Chris LeDoux
If not for you
I'd never could have ever got this far
Yeah, you helped me grow
And I owe you more than you'll ever know
And from the days at the Terrace Ballroom
Well, we made it up to Symphony Hall
I played my songs and you sang along
And man, we really had a ball
And you brought your little children
And I've seen 'em all grow tall
Yeah, I watched you grow
And I owe you more than you'll ever know that's right
And all the wild and woolly cowboys
Dancin' and yellin' for more
Your hats and suits an cowboy boots
Stompin' on a hardwood floor
And you waltzed those Utah ladies
Beneath the spotlight glow
"Busted in Utah," Hot Buttered Rum
Redrock highway bakin' in the sun
The police of the Beehive State, yeah their work is never done
I look in the mirror and see the flash of red and blue …
I see the mustache, the badge
Yeah the pistol, the pen
He sees a guy like me to blame for the mess this country's in
I know he'll tell his wife tonight he made the world a safer place
I'm busted in Utah, the redrock desert sun
We've got the guitars, but they've got the guns
So we're sitting by the side of the road because I broke the law
Best laid plans slipped right through your hands
I'm busted in Utah, busted in Utah, busted in Utah
I'm busted in Utah …
So bluegrass bands with big plans and a psychedelic GMC
Should know that Utah is the longest way from point A to point B
There's a whole lot of Jell-O and a lot of trampolines
"Red Hills of Utah," Marty Robbins
How green are the valleys, how tall are the trees
How cool are the rivers, how soft is the breeze
If it's just like my dreams then I must go and see
For the Red Hills of Utah are calling me
So long I have waited since I was a child
Merely the thought keeps my heart running wild
I've waited so long now it's hard to believe
The Red Hills of Utah at last I will see
"I've Been Everywhere," Johnny Cash
I've been everywhere, man.
I've been everywhere, man.
Crossed the deserts bare, man.
I've breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I've had my share, man.
I've been everywhere.
I've been to Pittsburgh, Parkersburg, Gravelbourg, Colorado …
Sioux City, Cedar City, Dodge City, what a pity.
"Turn It Off," from musical "The Book of Mormon"
When I was young my dad
Would treat my mom real bad,
every time the Utah Jazz would lose.
He'd start a-drinking,
and I'd start a-thinking,
How am I gonna keep my mom from getting abused?
"Joe Hill," Alfred Hayes and Earl Robinson
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you or me
Says I, "But Joe, you're 10 years dead,"
"I never died," says he.
"I never died," says he.
"In Salt Lake, Joe," says I to him,
Him standing by my bed,
"They framed you on a murder charge,"
Says Joe, "But I ain't dead,"
Says Joe, "But I ain't dead."
"The copper bosses killed you, Joe,
They shot you, Joe," says I.
"Takes more than guns to kill a man,"
Says Joe, "I did not die."
"Beehive State," Randy Newman (and others)
See the gentleman from Utah
Our friendly Beehive State
How can we help you, Utah
How can we make you great
We got to irrigate our deserts
We got to get some things to grow
We got to tell this country about Utah
'Cause nobody seems to know
"Root Down," Beastie Boys
You do might think that I'm a fanatic
A phone call from Utah and I'm throwing a panic
So kick it from the root when we break it on down
"Yin + Yang," Adam Ant
I got Utah dust
Inside my boots
Covering my roots
Know what it's like to love
And like to be loved
I tell you it's such a thrilling thing
That's just the Yin and the Yang of it
"If You Want Space, Go to Utah," Christine Lavin
If you want space, go to Utah
If you want time, pal, you got the next 50 years
But if you want love, hey, hey look no further
Than the woman who's looking at you here
"The Happening," The Pixies
I was driving doing nothing on the shores of Great Salt Lake
When they put it on the air I put it in the hammer lane
I soon forgot myself and I forgot about the brake
I forgot all laws and I forgot about the rain
"Palace of the Brine," The Pixies
In a place they say is dead
in the lake that's like an ocean …
I heard the droning
In the shrine
Of the sea-monkey
Palace of the Brine
Beneath reflections in the fountain
The starry sky and Utah mountains
"Sign in the Window," Bob Dylan
Build me a cabin in Utah
Marry me a wife, catch rainbow trout
Have a bunch of kids who call me "Pa"
That must be what it's all about
"The Ballad of Billy the Kid," Billy Joel
Well, he robbed his way from Utah to Oklahoma
And the law just could not seem to track him down
And it served his legend well
For the folks, they'd love to tell
'Bout when Billy the Kid came to town
"Cell Block Tango," from the musical "Chicago"
I met Ezekiel Young from Salt Lake City about two years ago
And he told me he was single and we hit it off right away
So, we started living together
He'd go to work, he'd come home, I'd fix him a drink, we'd have dinner
Then I found out, single, my a
Not only was he married, well, he had six wives
One of those Mormons, you know
So that night, when he came home
I fixed him his drink as usual
You know, some guys just can't hold their arsenic
He had it coming, he had it coming
He took a flower in its prime
And then he used it and he abused it
It was a murder but not a crime
"Pig Hollow," from Utah Phillips
Slow rollin' freight from the South Ogden yard
Easing along down the line
The pig hollow jungle camp swings into view
You roll off and here's what you find...
"Enola Gay," from Utah Phillips
It's many a mile from the Utah desert
to Tinian Island far away
Standing guard by the barbed wire fences
That hide the secret of Enola Gay
"Friend of the Devil," The Grateful Dead
Ran into the devil, babe, he loaned me twenty bills
I spent the night in Utah in a cave up in the hills.
Set out runnin' but I take my time, a friend of the devil is a friend of mine
If I get home before daylight, I just might get some sleep tonight
"S.O.S. (Too Bad)," Aerosmith
Salt Lake City, salt-lickin' biddies
Bogus honey stinkin' of gin
Well my daddy was hard
His face was pretty scarred
From kickin' a___ to playin' poker to win
"Utah: Gateway to Nevada," Plague of Locusts
Utah, gateway to Nevada
Not as cool as Colorada
The beer here'll give ya stronger bladder
But ya got to drink behind the barn
"Elusive Dreams," Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra
I followed you to Texas
I followed you to Utah
We didn't find it there
So we moved on
"You're Crazy for Taking the Bus," Jonathan Richman
Well, welfare gal and her drunken cuss
And Pepsi cans rolling around the bus
That newspaper's a grit and you've got slime
So you take the plane, but i'll take the bus this time
Where it's Salt Lake City, everybody off
"California Zephyr," Hank Williams Jr.
From the Great Salt Lakes of Utah
To California's golden shore
Colorado and Nevada
Through the desert's burnin' door
While she's circlin' through the canyons
Can't you see that mountain stream
It's the California Zephyr
The Union Pacific Queen
More Utah lyrics?
If we've missed your favorite Utah lines in popular songs, please send a note to David Burger at firstname.lastname@example.org with the words "Utah songs" in the subject line.