Some of My Favorite Pennsylvania-centric Songs

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I was listening to the 2000’s Pandora station the other day (sidenote: does it make anyone else feel old that there is a 2000’s Pandora?) which was fun because all these songs I completely forgot existed came on, including Phantom Planet’s “California”, which brought me back to junior-senior year of high school when coincidentally the So-Cal lifestyle obsession was booming. It was cool to shop at Hollister and The OC and, sadly enough, Laguna Beach were big television shows. Songs about California littered the airwaves.

I never got it. California was never the dream locale for me. I have nothing against it but it’s honestly still low on the list of places in the US I want to visit. I also never got why there were so many songs about California, as opposed to other places, like, say, Pennsylvania? Which is the real issue here (and I guess, something of a clunky intro..but this is the honest-to-god thought process that went into the creation of this post). Realistically, it’s not that I don’t get why there’s so many songs about California.Alot of the music business is based there, so it makes sense.  I always just wished Pennsylvania had anthem. California has 100 to chose from, Alabama has “Sweet Home Alabama,” Boston has “Boston,” NYC has Frank Sinatra and even little old Winslow, Arizona has “Take it Easy.”

And I realize that there are songs about Pennsylvania-my real problem is that there no definitive anthem for my corner of the state, NEPA (and please don’t suggest that Harry Chapin song about bananas…I have an irrational hatred for it that I cannot explain). Even though there’s no one major tune, Pennsylvania is pretty represented in the music world, not to mention that so many prominent musical talents are either from, or originated here (which I’d love to cover in another post when I get some more down time).

As a homage to my misplaced musical frustrations, here are five of my favorite PA-centric tunes.  Apologies again for the roundabout route I took to get you here.

1) “Allentown” Billy Joel

I’ve complained about this before, but I’ve always been super jealous of “Allentown”, just because if Billy Joel shot, say, 78 miles slightly northwest, Scranton would fit the lyrics almost perfectly, what with all the factories shutting down and what have you. Unfortunately, I do concede that Allentown is just a bit more melodic than Scranton.

2) “Atlantic City” Bruce Springsteen


Hear me out. I realize that AC is New Jersey and that Bruce does have some more strongly Philadelphia-centric songs, but I included “Atlantic City” because of the line, “they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night and they blew up his house too.” The “chicken man” was Philip Testa, a Philadelphia mafia boss who was indeed blown up along with his South Philly home in 1981 and whose death started a mob war that lasted until almost 1995. I’m a big mafia buff (and PA has a fascinating mob history) and this is one of my favorite Springsteen songs.

3) “I Love College” Asher Roth

This song doesn’t actually mention Pennsylvania at all and now that I’ve listened to it today at age 28, I’ll admit it’s pretty awful, but it came out my senior of college and so we basically thought it was written for us. I’m including it on this list because Asher Roth was a student at West Chester and wrote this based on his PA college experience (and because far too much of my five years of college was spent chanting “kegstand” and eating dollar-slice pizza…God, I’d go back in a second).

4) “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays”


“I met a man who lived in Tennessee and he was heading for, Pennsylvania and some home made pumpkin pie,” might arguably be the most famous  line about Pennsylvania.

5) “Timothy” The Bouys

“Timothy” was released in 1971 and is the story of three miners trapped in a mine collapse. Once they’re finally rescued, only two emerge, the titular Timothy going the way of the Donner Party. The Buoys, who were a one hit wonder, were actually from Wilkes-Barre and although the band claimed it was not based on anything that happened in NEPA, it’s hard to think that the horrific mining accidents in the area didn’t have some sort of influence. It’s also a deceptively catchy and upbeat tune when you take into consideration that cannibalism is the topic.


So what’s one of your favorite Pennsylvania centric songs? Or where does PA get a cool mention or is there a song that simply reminds you of home even though it might not explicitly mention PA (like Timothy)? Let me know. I’m curious.

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