10 Of The Best Songs About Idaho: Gem State Playlist

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Written by Laura Macmillan
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What comes to mind when you think of Idaho? For some, it might be the vast stretches of open land, while others may think of its cold winters. 

But for many music enthusiasts, Idaho holds a special place in their hearts. Some of the most iconic and influential songs in history mention the state. 

Whether it’s the lyrics or the melody, this list of 10 of the best songs about Idaho captures the unique spirit of the Gem State. Let’s take a look.

1. “Private Idaho” By B-52s

First on our list is “Private Idaho,” a hit song by the American new wave, post-punk band B-52s. The song was released as a single in September 1980 from their second studio album, Wild Planet. It was their second US Billboard Hot 100 entry at #74.

The song is a collaboration between band members Fred Schneider, keyboardist-singer Kate Pierson, and guitarist Ricky Wilson, with essential contributions from drummer Keith Strickland. 

In an interview with the band, the song’s meaning speaks to people from different angles. It’s not a slight about the state but sings of what Idaho or their piece of place means to them.

Others may believe there is a connection to the movie “My Own Private Idaho,” but the screen flick came many years after.

2. “Idaho” By BoDeans

The BoDeans are an American rock band from Wisconsin who released their song version of  “Idaho” in 1993. The song is about a man dreaming of a life in Idaho. There, he can be free from the world’s problems, albeit the problems still exist. 

The lyrics describe the idyllic beauty of Idaho and the breathtaking tranquility of a never-ending star-studded sky. It pertains to discovering the meaning of life.

“Idaho” is a classic example of the band’s brand of heartland rock, and it remains one of their most profound songs.

3. “Idaho” By Frankie Vallie & The Four Seasons

While most people think of Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons as a pop group from the 1960s, the band had many hits in the 1970s. 

One of those hits was “Idaho.” Released in 1969, the B-song is a tribute to the quality of life in the Gem State. It includes some beautiful imagery about the pleasure of the simple things in life. 

In addition, the lyrics refer to enjoying the pleasures of family life and missing what once was. As a result, the song provides an excellent snapshot of what life in Idaho offers.

4. “Idaho” By Josh Ritter

If anyone has a front seat to life in Idaho, it belongs to Josh Ritter, an American singer-songwriter from Idaho.

His song titled the same as the state name is a ballad about a young man’s love for his home state and youth. It tells the story of a young man who leaves Idaho to seek his fortune elsewhere. He eventually realizes that he misses the simplicity and beauty of the Gem State and a woman who continues to trespass on his memory. 

Critics and people in the business praise the song for its lyrics and Ritter’s ability to capture the essence of Idaho in just a few chords.

5. “Idaho” By Yonder Mountain String Band

Middle of our list is another song titled “Idaho” by Yonder Mountain String Band. This one is a true tribute to everything that makes the state great. It references animals, sights, cities and towns, and natural scenes that Idaho locals will be familiar with.

The song is a great tap into the nostalgic feeling of growing up in Idaho and reflects on the steadfastness and stability that the state gives its residents, so they always know that they’re home.

By focusing on all the beauty and homeliness of Idaho, this song inspires gratitude and appreciation in anyone who had the privilege in growing up there. It even sparks a sense of nostalgia in those who have never been! 

6. “Here We Have Idaho” By Sallie Hume-Douglas

A song list about a specific state would not be complete without the actual state’s anthem. “Here We Have Idaho” was written over a century ago back in 1915 and was adopted as the anthem in 1931.

This state-patriotic ballad highlights the natural beauty that Idaho is known and loved for. Not only that, it tells of a great sense of pride in hailing from Idaho and how the state is the perfect place for people to realize their goals and dreams. 

Even if you’re not from Idaho, listening to this classic can make anyone well up and smile.

7. “The Boise Song” By Jewel

Jewel’s song “The Boise Song” is a beautiful tribute to the city of Boise, Idaho. Listening to Jewel’s cute ditty, her famous voice shines through, as does her sense of humor in this piece.

The song, rarely performed in public, goes through the alphabet of cities and explains how residents of Boise prefer “Boy-see”—the pronunciation boy-see is a bone of contention. The song goes on to list what one can do and see in “Boy-see.”

Interestingly, aside from Jewel’s rendition, singer-songwriter Eilen Jewell may have a bigger claim to the song for having been born there.

8. “Idaho” By Train

Yet another titled “Idaho,” this is a poetically resonating song by Train. The band released the song in 1998. The lyrics speak of the complications and dangers of states like Texas or dullsville like Florida.

Perhaps composer Stafford allowed his experience or preconceived notions to dictate the words and the dangers he foretells. In Idaho, however, the singer feels confident that nature will guide him toward his goal of moving away from prying eyes.

The melodramatic message is about self-discovery and finding a safe haven called home. The sound is earthy and rustic, just like Idaho.

9. “Idaho” By Delta Spirit

Delta Spirit‘s “Idaho” is a raunchy, quick-tempered riff in the American Indie genre. It tells the story of a journey and fitting into your environment, no matter the stakes.

The lyrics are evocative, painting a picture of the rugged lifestyle and escaping the mundane. The song reflects on the idyllic simplicity of rural life and also about belonging regardless of where you end up.

Delta Spirit hails from California. They have undoubtedly experienced the rural effect of traveling, which includes overtures of locals picking out strangers and starting a brawl.

10. “Idaho State Fair” By Johnny Granger

You can’t complete a list of Idaho-themed songs without including an oldie. Johnny Granger personifies the cowboy lifestyle with this quirky and fun rendition about going to the state fair.

His song “Idaho State Fair” is a catchy tune that captures the excitement of the fairgrounds in this circa 1951 recording.

Some of the lyrics are eyebrow-raising. The gist describes various attractions at the fair, including a pretty woman who turns the heads of all the Stetson-wearing cowboys.

Overall, “Idaho State Fair” is an upbeat song that captures the spirit of the fair and the era, although to modern ears, it doesn’t play as well.

Summing Up Our List Of Idaho-Themed Songs

While Idaho may be best known for its potatoes, the Gem State has also given rise to some of the most iconic songs in American music history. 

From B-52s “Private Idaho to Jewell belting out an endearing rendition of “Boise” in her live performance, Idaho sings.

Lyrics are sometimes open to interpretation and reading between the lines to catch the feeling; however, regardless of geographical advantages or disadvantages, the state influences new generations of musicians and fans alike.

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Laura has over 12 years experience teaching both classical and jazz saxophone and clarinet. She now resides in California where she works as a session and live performer.