Baltimore, one of the biggest East Coast port cities, has a deep and rich history through music and art. That is reflected by local artists and the numerous musicians who have sung about Charm City.
Many songs reference its extraordinary history, its social challenges, and the beauty inherent to the remarkable city, and in this post, we’re going to take a look at 10 of the best songs about Baltimore. Let’s get started.
1. “Good Morning Baltimore” By Nikki Blonsky
First on the list is “Good Morning Baltimore,” written by Nikki Blonksy for the musical “Hairspray.”
In this song, the main character Tracy Turnblad (Blonksy), compares her desire to be a dancer with the rhythm of the city. The song is an ode as she dreams of a day she will be known all around town.
This comes with a bit of satire: she mentions rats, a bum, and a flasher who represent some of the lesser-appreciated aspects of Baltimore. Nonetheless, the song represents Tracy’s passion for dancing, becoming famous in Baltimore, and being true to herself.
2. “Baltimore” By Randy Newman
Next on the list is “Baltimore” by Randy Newman. Released in 1977, Newman sets the scene with an emotional piano riff over which he describes rough Baltimore city scenes.
He mentions how the city seems to be dying and says how hard life must be to live there. The second verse explains how he and his family piled into a van and left for the mountainous west.
He seems glad that he’s leaving the city because of the difficult living conditions and surrounding environments. Though it’s not quite a joyous ode to the city, it is worth the listen.
3. “Baltimore” By Prince
Prince’s “Baltimore” is a cry for peace, love, and happiness. He talks about the murders of Freddie Gray and Michael Brown, both of which took place in Baltimore.
It’s clear that he is using this song to express how tired he is of the broken system, emphasized by a refrain that pledges no peace until there is justice.
Prince explains that there are issues in cities all over the country, but especially in Baltimore. He addresses the violence and lack of care for inner cities and pleads for a better future.
4. “Streets of Baltimore” By Gram Parsons
Next on the list, we have “Streets of Baltimore” by Gram Parsons, released in 1973. Written by Harlan Howard and Tompall Glaser, this song tells the story of a man and his wife who leave their farm in Tennessee. The narrator’s wife desperately wants to be in the lively city of Baltimore.
After arriving, the man gets a factory job to support himself and his wife in their new home. He works long hours while his wife walk the city.
He soon learns that his wife has fallen in love with the city more than she is with him. In the end, the man takes a train back to Tennessee while his wife stays to continue taking in the city lights of Baltimore.
5. “Shadow People” By Dr. Dog
Philadelphia indie rock band Dr. Dog released “Shadow People” in 2010. The song tells the story of trying to make it big in the city.
Scott McMicken sets the scene of friends hanging around on a summer evening smoking cigarettes in someone’s backyard outside the city. They can see the lights from Baltimore, which serve as a metaphor for something bigger and better that they’re chasing.
The song compares Baltimore to chasing dreams, but the lyrics suggest there is some resistance to them being realized. The refrain asks where people in the shadows have gone, indicating that people may have abandoned him along the way.
6. “The Lady Came From Baltimore” By Tim Hardin
Next on the list is “The Lady Came From Baltimore” by Tim Hardin. The narrator was a poor man who came to deceive a woman named Susan and take her money.
After they meet, he begins to fall in love with her. His initial goal was to take her money and jewelry, but he realizes that she has much more to offer.
He soon forgets his plan and becomes infatuated with this lady from Baltimore, who never thought his intentions were malicious. He doesn’t get the rings or cash but walks away with something much more valuable.
7. “Barefoot in Baltimore” By Strawberry Alarm Clock
Despite the title, this 1968 song is not about walking shoeless in the city. Rather, it tells the tale of a man named Barefoot experiencing life in Baltimore and the majestic Chesapeake Bay.
“Barefoot in Baltimore” is a surprisingly heartfelt song by a band with a reputation for unabashed psychedelia.
The narrator speaks fondly of the city, describing it as “music” and noting how there is dancing everywhere. Then, as night falls, the singer says that they can enjoy the serene silence offered by the bay.
8. “Raining In Baltimore” By Counting Crows
In 1993, Counting Crows released “Raining In Baltimore.” It sings of how a man is missing his significant other.
The rain in Baltimore symbolizes the narrator’s sadness and despair for his partner, who is many miles away. He laments how he “needs a phone,” possibly to contact his love, but “get[s] no chance.” He keeps listening for trains, possibly for his love to come to him or for him to get out of the city.
The narrator expresses his broken heart over a simple piano chord progression, which emphasizes the somberness of the lyrics.
9. “For Baltimore” By All Time Low
Rock band All Time Low released “For Baltimore” in 2012. In the song, the narrator is trying to convince someone to stay with him. He is clearly in love, but the lyrics suggest his feelings are not entirely reciprocated.
His partner is apprehensive about continuing their relationship, but he pleads to do it for them and for the city of Baltimore. They likely have memories of the city and he recalls them fondly. Indeed, he does not want to say goodnight to his partner and wishes to stay with them forever.
He is certain about his feelings and is trying to make his partner feel the same way by drawing on the imagery and memories associated with their life in Charm City.
10. “Baltimore’s Fireflies” By Woodkid
Last on our list, “Baltimore’s Fireflies,” by Woodkid, was released in 2011. In the lyrics, the singer is comparing his emotional state to the Baltimore bay.
It darkens as he falls deep into a pit of sadness. He says that he let someone fall into the water and sink, which is likely a metaphor for a broken relationship. As his partner disappears into the Baltimore bay, he sinks in it too. He is consumed by intense feelings that overwhelm him like a great body of water.
In the end, it is revealed that he can’t stay in the city anymore because it reminds him of painful memories.
Summing Up Our List Of Songs About Baltimore
From the city lights to the inner harbor, Baltimore can trigger beautiful and emotional melodies and lyrics. Many musicians in diverse genres have shared a connection to the city and the feelings that it evokes.
Next time you’re cruising down I-83 approaching the beautiful harbor and skyline, throw on some of these songs to get in the right mindset for the wonderful city and the music that has been inspired by it.