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November 27, 2021

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Icon music review: Top 7 songs about the Buckeye State

How many can you name without reading this column?

Reviewed by Craig Hoffman 
Ohio is famous for the first man on the moon, the Wright Brothers, and great musicians. Of course, this is a music column, so here are the best songs about the Buckeye State! Have you heard them all? 

“Beautiful Ohio”- Ballard MacDonald
No list of songs about Ohio would be completed without the official state song. This song was originally a waltz. The Ohio State Fair Band starts every performance with this tune. It was also part of Jo Stafford’s Do I hear a Waltz? in 1966.

“Cleveland Rocks”- Ian Hunter
The grand resurgence in 2020 of the Cleveland Browns and their return to the playoffs put this song on the playlists of Ohioans from around the globe. The more well-known version of the hit was recorded in 1997 by The American Presidents. That incarnation of the hit was featured as the theme song to The Drew Carey Show.

“Ohio (Come Back To Texas)”- Bowling For Soup
Recent winter weather events in Texas likely make this song apt for juxtaposition of the title. The singer’s girlfriend leaves him after meeting another man. She moves to Cleveland, and soon the jilted lover begs the woman to come back. But it appears the ex-lover chose to remain a Buckeye transplant.

“Carmen Ohio”- Fred Cornell
The oldest song still in use by The Ohio State University Marching band. Two band directors later adapted the song for the band after its composition by Cornell. Stories of exactly when and how the song was written vary. But the melody and words have roots in old hymns and lyrics used in an unofficial Yale University alma mater. 

“Youngstown”- Bruce Springsteen
This 1995 song chronicles the rise and fall of the steel industry in the area. Unlike many of the other selections on this list “Youngstown” was not released in the USA. In fact, The Dallas Morning News criticized the work as  “(a) ham-fisted factory/hell metaphor.” Audiences during live performances were often left to sit in stunned silence. The Boss stood by the controversial number. “Youngstown” has been a part of multiple Springsteen tour playlists over the years. 

“Ohio Is For Lovers”- Hawthorne Heights
It is certainly not the most uplifting song about life. According to lead vocalist JT Woodruff, the tune is about going on tour without their girlfriends who stayed behind in Ohio. The depressing vibe worked for the group. They have several Gold Records to their credit including,  The Silence in Black and White, and If Only You Were Lonely. 

“Burn On”- Randy Neuman 
“Burn On” is heard over the opening credits of the 1989 movie Major League. The song was picked because it was the only one the movie’s director knew was about Cleveland. “Burn on, big river, burn on…” alluding to the 1969 fires on the Cuyahoga River due to pollution.

Final Take: Do you have any more favorite songs about Ohio? Let the Icon know in the comment section. O-H-I-O!: 5/5

Craig Hoffman is a music graduate of Ohio Northern University and The University of Akron School of Music. He also serves as the Icon’s Japan correspondent.

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