Stunningly beautiful, rugged, and shrouded in decades of mystery, Alaska is one of the few parts left in the United States that has yet to endure full industrialization.
The romantic spirit of the unknown Alaskan terrain has inspired countless songs by legendary artists and lesser-known musicians alike. From lost love to self-exploration, Alaska represents a feeling of freedom and solitude amongst sweeping vistas and towering fjords.
Read on for the top ten best songs about Alaska, and get ready to pack your bags for your adventure to The Last Frontier.
1. “American Child” by John Denver
Arguably the most popular song about Alaska, American Child by John Denver classic explores the human instinct to run free, live amongst nature, and the courage and strength of the individuals that live in the state’s challenging climate.
The lyrics speak to an American child, asking if they ever feel the call of the wild in dreams. He (the speaker) states that he plans to venture north to Alaska, come in from the cold, and return home.
“American Child” defines the inherent wanderlust in all of us. After all, so many have the desire to escape everyday life and experience something new, just as our predecessors did in the past.
2. “When It’s Springtime In Alaska (It’s Forty Below)” by Johnny Horton
Snappy, witty, and downright funny, this Johnny Horton hit centers around a prospector going to a bar in Fairbanks from Point Barrow. He describes a singer with such a lovely voice that he begins to dance with her, and they engage in a romantic evening on a Kodiak rug.
The song ends with the revelation that the woman is engaged to an intimidating man named Big E, and that Johnny will end up six feet below.
This country song pokes fun at the chilly Alaskan weather, suggesting temperatures hit forty below in the springtime.
Musicians such as Johnny Cash and Hank Snow have covered the cheeky song, and its catchy storytelling continues to capture hearts today.
3. “Alaska” by Maggie Rogers
Inspired by a trip she took to Alaska as a teenager, Maggie Rogers wrote this song as an ode to self-exploration and reaching inner peace. She describes walking through icy streams and over glacial plains, walking off her old self and someone referred to simply as “you.”
This song launched Maggie to fame after a video of Pharrell Williams listening to the original recording went viral. Williams visited a master class at NYU and instantly knew Maggie had genuine songwriting talent.
The most famous singer to cover “Alaska” is Alaskan-born Jewel. She took the synthy drum beats of the original and introduced her signature acoustic guitar instrumentals.
4. “Road to Alaska” by the Bee Gees
The lyrics of this tune discuss staying in contact with loved ones while on the road to Alaska. In the song, the Bee Gees describe failed attempts to find a woman via phone. The speakers state that they will meet her in Cincinnati, and if they ask her, she will know.
So, what exactly does this mystery woman know? The Bee Gees never really explain it, other than the woman began running around during their relationship. The lyrics could be literal (they may be asking her for directions, as she is well-traveled), or they could be ambiguous.
Regardless of its meaning, this Bee Gees upbeat hit uses Alaska to demonstrate how far away they are from home—and the people they left behind.
5. “Fairbanks, Alaska” by The Front Bottoms
Beloved for their brutally honest lyrics and borderline speaking-but-still-singing vocal qualities, pop-punk duo The Front Bottoms have their own Alaskan melody.
It begins with a romantic mention of the Aurora Borealis. Yet, it quickly turns into a tune about feeling despondent and alienated from friends.
Nevertheless, the narrator enjoys Fairbanks and remarks that he has not checked the time or his mind since leaving the town. Later, the lyrics discuss driving over the river in Fairbanks when it freezes and how the Northern Lights will forever remain in his mind.
This single, from their 2020 album In Sickness & in Flames, was generally well-received by fans. By far one of the more moody songs about Alaska, it still romanticizes the beauty and brutal chill of the state’s air.
6. “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Johnny Cash
Okay, so this song is not exclusively about Alaska, but it gets a mention! This Johnny Cash hit is super catchy and centers around a trip across North America.
The song tells the story of a hitchhiker getting a ride from a truck driver to Winnemucca. Then, the hitchhiker references everywhere he’s been, from Alaska to Charleston.
While Johnny Cash gets the most recognition for this song, the original writer is Geoff Mack, an Australian country singer. He released the song in 1959, about 40 years before Cash produced his version.
Over 130 covers of the tune are available, with modern country singer Kacey Musgraves being one of the more recent additions to the list.
7. “Alaska” by Dr. Dog
Alternative band Dr. Dog released “Alaska” in 2007, and this charming but solemn tune brings about a sense of nostalgia and longing. The speaker attempts to communicate with a loved one and asks how the mountains are while describing dreary life in Philadelphia.
Then, the lyrics talk about an older man washing dishes and how the narrator could use some help around the house.
The loved one on the other side is presumably in Alaska, as the speaker states they believe it remains dark there until spring.
At the end, they reflect on when the loved one left and how they never had a chance to tell them not to go.
8. “Caroline Says II” by Lou Reed
Originally released by The Velvet Underground and titled “Stephanie Says,” this Lou Reed tune personifies the Last Frontier state as a cold woman named Caroline.
She is fearless, unafraid of death, and uses drugs. Reed states that he vouched for Caroline for the first release, but everyone else wanted Stephanie.
While the song mentions Alaska in a personified sense, it also reflects the unforgiving Alaskan landscape. A woman so cold and distant that she feels like an Arctic winter? Brutal!
Author John Green later used this song to inspire the main character in his novel “Looking for Alaska.”
9. “Alaska” by Little Hurt
Upbeat, kitschy, and self-deprecating, this Little Hurt tune will have you dancing instantly.
Opening with lyrics discussing reading their horoscope and feeling generally down about life, the speaker decides to dye his hair and move to Alaska (despite hating snow).
The theme of getting away from it all and escaping to Alaska is common, but this song does it in a relatable way that feels genuine.
Little Hurt expresses a desire to start over as a new person, taking nothing but money, a guitar, and a jacket to Alaska.
The state serves as the definition of self-reliance and anonymity for the speaker, and even though he hates the weather, it is better than living in his past life.
10. “Alaska and Me” by John Denver
“Alaska and Me” is the ultimate love song to the state. John Denver describes the rugged wilderness, how it feels like home, and the kindness of the people around him.
He says that he spent his entire life working to move to Alaska as the ultimate representation of his passion for the Arctic surroundings.
Furthermore, Denver delves into the future. He talks about his children and how thankful he is that they get to see the Northern Lights, the warmth of the fire on a chilly night, and the connection he feels with his country.
Overall, the song celebrates Alaskan natural beauty and pays tribute to the people that came before him.
Alaska is a diverse place, so it makes sense that the songs listed above breach all genres and tastes.
From folk and acoustic melodies to synth-pop masterpieces, Alaska inspires and intrigues everyone lucky enough to witness its iconic landscape.