The B1G List: Ranking the State Songs of the Big Ten

By Johnny Ginter on May 13, 2013 at 5:15 pm
The B1G List: Ranking the State Songs of the Big Ten


It is one of the most significant and important human endeavors. When made for a purpose, it can crush our souls, lift our spirits, and make us consider both ourselves and the world around us in a new light. For many, music is a powerful and transformative force in their lives. Not just because of what it can represent, but also because of how it resonates with us for years and years.

So when the states that make up the Big Ten were selecting their state songs, they almost universally said "SCREW THAT!" and picked some of the most bland pabulum a songwriter could possibly third-ass that related vaguely to their part of the country.

Look, politics and music do not typically get along too well. Bruce Springsteen's  subversive ballad about an alienated Vietnam War veteran is Ronald Reagan's ode to being born in the USA (if you only listen to the chorus, which, to be fair, is the singular part of a Springsteen song most people ever listen to anyway). So with that in mind, put yourself in the shoes of a state legislator: I mean, seriously, why even bother?

Because you wanna be cool, dammit! Music is about two things: changing the world and trying to seem cool as possible. And I'll be honest; on this list there is not a lot of coolness. I've only used officially designated state songs here, because as we all know, you are only as cool as your weakest link of coolness. How cool are the B1G states? Well, let's just say we're not Miles Davis quite yet.

11. Illinois: "Illinois"

This is about as bad as it gets. The Illinois official state song, "Illinois," repeats the word "Illinois" literally 42 times throughout the song, presumably because the songwriter ran out of appropriate adjectives for the state that people would actually believe.

I was able to find one particularly spectacular rendition of this Homerian epic, which I think really emphasizes the overall awfulness of the song:

Relevant lyrics:

From a wilderness of prairies, Illinois, Illinois,

Straight thy way and never varies, Illinois, Illinois

The Fugitve was a pretty good movie and Harrison Ford is the bomb, Illinois, Illinois

10. Michigan: "Michigan, My Michigan" and "My Michigan"

This one would be ranked lower if it wasn't surrounded by a hilarious air of mystery. Yes, there are two listed songs here because Michigan apparently can't decide on just one state song. Furthermore, "My Michigan" (the technically "official" state song) isn't played at state events because there's still a copyright on it, and the state that brought you such abject failures as Flint and Detroit doesn't really feel like paying royalties at every honoring of a heroic dog or proclamation of congratulations to a high school volleyball team.

Relevant lyrics:

The whisper of the towering tree

United in one grand symphony

Michigan, my Michigan

That'll be 3.48 plus tax

9. Maryland: "Maryland, My Maryland"

Seeing a pattern here? "Maryland, My Maryland" has its origins in the Civil War, as do many state songs. On the other hand, most state songs didn't originally refer to "Northern scum" and basically call for Lincoln to be killed. They've since changed the lyrics, but it's still weird considering Maryland ultimately stayed in the Union during the Civil War, despite continuing to allow slavery.

Either way, Maryland, make up your damn minds. It's fine if you want to call Lincoln a vandal that deserves death, just own up to it you big insane sissies. Also the whole thing is set to "O Tannenbaum" which only adds to the weirdness.

Relevant lyrics:

Stalking with Liberty along,

And chaunt thy dauntless slogan song,

Maryland! My Maryland!

Let's kill the Yankees and dance on their corpses

No wait, let's not do that

8. Minnesota: "Hail! Minnesota"

One of the things that these lists emphasize to me is that state legislatures are a lazy, lazy bunch. "Hail! Minnesota" is just the reworked song for the University of Minnesota, with the word "college" replaced with "state." That's it, and I'm kind of impressed that they were able to put in that little effort into the whole endeavor. It is literally the least amount of work that they could've done.

Relevant lyrics:

Hail to thee, Minnesota

Not the kind of hail that you're thinking of

You know, the kind that falls from the sky

No, the other kind

7. Pennsylvania: "Pennsylvania"

"Okay, we need a state song that we can use in ads, preferably sung by a warbly aging pop star from the 60s." "Got it." "AND, and, I don't want anything except base descriptors of the state. NOTHING abstract, your ass is fired if you make anyone think for more than five seconds about this thing." "Sure." "Also make sure to include how great we are, something about God and keystones or something." "On it."

Relevant lyrics:

Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania,

Mighty is your name,

Steeped in glory and tradition,

Go to for more information

6. Wisconsin: "On, Wisconsin!"

Same deal as Minnesota, Wisconsin pretty much just said "Our state and state college are more or less the same thing in the eyes of everyone else, so screw it" and went ahead with a fight song. Weirdly, Wisconsin also has an official state waltz, which, along with the official state ballad, portrays the state as some kind of ethereal Van Gogh fever dream rather than the Midwest epicenter of flat, boring, and drunken cheese party related incidents.

Relevant lyrics:

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!

Raise her glowing flame

Stand, Fellows, let us now

Produce high quality dairy products and little else

5. Iowa: "The Song of Iowa"

Iowa takes Wisconsin's brash, ridiculous self congratulation and one ups it by fifty. I'll be honest, I never really had much desire to go to or even casually think about Iowa before I listened to their state song. Now, not two minutes and twenty two seconds later, I am ready and willing to do literally anything that is required of me to get to a state that promises me all the tasseled corn, maids with laughing eyes, and the purpling line of yonder sunsets. ANYTHING.

Relevant lyrics:

What glorious deeds, what fame thou hast! Iowa, O! Iowa

So long as time’s great cycle runs

We killed bin Laden and landed on Mars

Saved the Lindbergh baby just for fun

4. Nebraska: "Beautiful Nebraska"

One thing I did not know about Nebraska is that they love rainbows. And, to be serious, I love that their state song is literally entirely about the fact that they lucked out by being a farming state parked over the Ogallala Aquifer and blessed with some sweet ass soil. That's some high quality appreciation, and some high quality H2O.

Relevant lyrics:

Dark green valleys cradled in the earth,

Rain and sunshine bring abundant birth.

Holy crap we're totally at the mercy of the whims of Mother Nature

I think I need to sit down for a second

3. New Jersey: "I'm From New Jersey"

The only kind of pabulum that I enjoy is completely ridiculous pabulum, and New Jersey completely nails it. "I'm From New Jersey" is the unofficial state song (because the state doesn't have an official one), and it comes complete with a freaking website to back up just how awesome it is. Does your state song have a website? No it doesn't, so sit down and feast your ears on this baby.

Relevant lyrics:

I'm from New Jersey and I'm proud about it

[INSERT CITY NAME] is my hometown

I come from [INSERT CITY NAME]


2. Indiana: "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away"

This was actually one of the most popular songs at the turn of the century, narrowly beating out Britney Spears for best selling... wait. Wrong century. But anyway, OTBOTWFA (as it was later called when remixed by Lil B) takes the 2nd place position almost by default, in that it is one of the few actual, fully realized songs on this list. And, I guess, it probably makes you think a little about Indiana, if you've ever spent more than a few hours in the state.

Relevant lyrics:

And grandma's on the front porch swing with a Bible in her hand

Sometimes I hear her singing "Take me to the Promised Land"

When you take away a man's dignity he can't

Work his fields and cows

1. Ohio: "Hang On Sloopy"

Ohio has two official songs, so we're going with the rock version.


This is hilarious and amazing for the sheer insanity of it. Yeah, we all have a visceral attachment to the song because of Ohio State, but have you actually listened to the lyrics of this thing? Half the lyrics consist of "yeah," "shake it," and "come on," and the other half talks about a loose woman in a ratty red dress. Even if the song didn't kick ass, you've got to love the audacity of a state to go ahead and make it one of their official songs.

Relevant lyrics:

Come on, Sloopy (Come on, come on)

Well, come on, Sloopy (Come on, come on)

Well, come on, Sloopy (Come on, come on)

Well, come on, Sloopy (Come on, come on)

Well, it feels so good (Come on, come on)

And that's it! Once again, through sheer force of will and the grace of whatever higher power you believe in, Ohio comes out on top after a battery of highly rigorous testing. See you all next week, when we tackle state fossils!

The B1G List: State Birds | State Mottos | State FlowersState Songs

View 25 Comments