Music and nostalgia go hand in hand, so it’s no surprise that many musicians have written songs about their hometown roots—and the urge to pay homage to where you come from knows no genre boundaries. Below are hometown anthems from country, hip-hop, pop, and rock stars.
Videos by American Songwriter
Dolly Parton Remembers Her East Tennessee Home
Dolly Parton spent her early years living with her family on a farm near Locust Ridge in East Tennessee. A lot of her memories from that time found their way onto the album My Tennessee Mountain Home, which was released in 1973. The title track introduces her audience to some of the images from her childhood: Sittin’ on the front porch on a summer afternoon / In a straight-back chair on two legs, leaned against the wall / Watch the kids a-playin’ with June bugs on a string / And chase the glowin’ fireflies when evenin’ shadows fall.
The album cover is a photo of the humble cabin Parton’s family lived in, and while they didn’t have much, the nostalgia about the life they led seeps through on more than one song on the album. On “The Better Part of Life,” for example, Parton sings about the swimming hole she and her siblings would go to, or the time they all got drunk on homemade wine.
Life was simple for us then
If only it could be again
How I wish we could go back in time
But time moves on and nothin’ lasts
Except the memories from the past
Memories from the better part
Of life we’ve left behind
Ty Dolla $ign Reflects on “LA“
The rapper from Los Angeles put together an anthem for his hometown that features fellow L.A. natives Kendrick Lamar, Brandy, and James Fauntleroy. Ty Dolla $ign’s “LA” oscillates between the good and the bad. The lyrics address violence, gangs, and racism, but also the city’s ability to make dreams come true.
While the verses reflect on the harsher aspects of life in L.A., the chorus is a dreamy antidote: L.A., can’t believe we fell in love in the city of L.A. / L.A., it’s the City of Angels, it can take you anywhere.
“LA” is the first track on Ty Dolla $ign’s debut album, Free TC, from 2015. He dedicated it to his brother TC, who was convicted of murder and is in jail. Ty Dolla $ign says his brother is innocent.
My n—-, so many fell down ’round here and they won’t tell
And I ain’t talking love, girl, but I know how you feel
And you’ve been living in fear
Remember I’m right here
They got your world on wheels
Girl, let’s roll through them hills off the 10
Rollin’ with your cousin and them
Real shit, ain’t nobody fake, they is and they ain’t from here
Fall Out Boy Thanks Chicago
Fall Out Boy formed in 2000 in the suburbs of Chicago, and decided to write a love letter to their city in the form of an EP called Lake Effect Kid. The EP was a surprise release in 2018, just in time for the band’s first headlining stadium gig, which happened to take place at Wrigley Field in their hometown.
The title of the collection of Chicago-themed songs, Lake Effect Kid, refers to the city’s weather patterns that are influenced by Chicago’s proximity to Lake Michigan. Sonically, the three songs on the EP represent the past, present, and future in terms of the band’s sound.
“City in the Garden” is a literal thank you note. The melody and first line of the chorus is a nod to John Denver’s song “Take Me Home, Country Road.”
Take me home
Take me home
And the streetlights light, light up
To take me home
I love you, Chicago
You make me feel so summer fling
You know that I know that I owe you everything
I love you, Chicago
Ed Sheeran Revisits Framlingham Castle
“Castle on a Hill” is a song from Ed Sheeran’s third studio album, ÷, and refers to a literal castle in the singer’s hometown of Framlingham in England. The upbeat song is a collection of Sheeran’s memories, which include breaking a leg, getting drunk with friends, and experiencing his first kiss.
The music video cuts back and forth between Sheeran driving and walking on the country roads in his hometown with a group of young friends, including an actor who plays a younger version of Sheeran. The last shot shows the real Framlingham Castle in the background.
I’m on my way
Driving at 90 down those country lanes
Singing to “Tiny Dancer”
And I miss the way you make me feel, and it’s real
And we watched the sunset over the castle on the hill
Mac Miller Pays Homage to Pittsburgh
In 2018, rapper and music producer Mac Miller tragically died of an accidental drug overdose. He was living in Los Angeles at the time, but throughout his career he always made sure to reference his hometown of Pittsburgh in his tracks.
In 2011, Mac Miller released his debut album, Blue Slide Park, which is named after a park not too far from Point Breeze, the neighborhood he grew up in. It’s also the place many fans continue to gather in his memory. Other tracks on the album that reference his home include “Frick Park Market,” “Party on Fifth Ave.,” and “PA Nights.”
Four years later, Mac Miller released a new album and along with it the song “Brand Name.” In the lyrics, he speaks about his upbringing and contemplates life with all its contradictions. References to his hometown include 412, Pittsburgh’s area code, and the city’s nickname: the ‘Burgh.
I got brothers, I don’t need no friends
My shoes off I’m comfortable, I’m chillin’ smokin’ weed again
I’m from the ‘Burgh not the burbs
Investigating my nation, homie we ain’t concerned
We’re from the 412 out to the 310
We’re from the pavement in my basement to ’em yellow brick roads
Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images