10 Of The Best Songs About Massachusetts: Bay State Playlist

Written by Laura Macmillan
Last updated

Massachusetts has a lot of things going for it: great colleges, a thriving economy, and historic towns. It’s no wonder so many talented musicians have written songs about it. 

Whether you’re a fan of classic rock, country, or pop music, there’s no doubt that Massachusetts has inspired some great tunes you’ll love. And in this post, we’re going to take a look at ten of the best songs about Massachusetts. Let’s get started.

1. “Shipping Up To Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys

“Shipping Up To Boston” is a song by the Dropkick Murphys that was released in 2005. The song is about a group of Irish immigrants who are “shipping up to Boston” to start a new life, accompanied by intense rock notes and Irish instrument influence.

It became an instant classic and is often considered one of the best songs written about Massachusetts. 

The Dropkick Murphys are a band with deep roots in the city of Boston, and their music often reflects the struggle and resilience of the working class. “Shipping Up To Boston” is a perfect example of this, and it has since been adopted as an anthem by many Bostonians. 

2. “Boston” by Augustana

As you can imagine, Augustana’s “Boston” makes references to the city and its suburbs as the lyrics describe the narrator’s longing for someone who has moved away. The song was released as a single in the early 2000s and became a top-ten hit on the Adult Top 40 chart. 

Its tempo starts slow and picks up at specific points but can generally be considered a sad song. Despite the slow lyrics, the song remains one of the most popular to date about Massachusetts.

And, if you can’t recognize it by the title, you’ll instantly remember and sing along to the lyrics within the first few chords.

3. “Boston” by the Byrds

“Boston” was one of the rarest songs recorded by the American rock band The Byrds and released on their 1969 album Preflyte. Despite being Los Angeles-based, this song is a poignant ode to a girl who lives in Boston. 

The narrator longs to catch a flight to the city to see the person he loves and knows he’ll never be happy where he lives unless they are together.

This group was known for its unique sound, which blended folk, country, and rock, and the song “Boston” is a prime example of their eclectic approach.

4. “Boston” by Kenny Chesney

Kenny Chesney’s “Boston” was released in 2005 as a part of his Be as You Are (Songs from an Old Blue Chair) album. 

Chesney grew up in East Tennessee, but he has always been drawn to the city of Boston and its history. Even though the narrator tells the story of a girl from the city, Chesney pays tribute to the strength and resilience of the people of Boston. 

His lyrics reference various Bostonian features, from the Red Sox to ferries, but the overlying themes make this one of the most heartfelt and beautiful piece about Massachusetts.

5. “Dirty Water” by The Standells

The Standells’ 1960s song “Dirty Water” is a kind of critique of Massachusetts’s capital city as it focuses majorly on the Boston Harbor and the Charles River. 

This river was once so polluted that people commonly referred to it as the “nectar of sewage.” Other lyrics touch on Boston University and even the infamous Boston Strangler

While the song focuses on Boston, people throughout the state enjoy the song. That is especially so due to the Boston Red Sox pumping it through the stadium after each win at home since 1997. 

5. “Whoever’s in New England” by Reba McEntire

“Whoever’s in New England” is a song by the American country music artist Reba McEntire. It was released in February 1986 as the second single from her album Whoever’s in New England

Reba sings the song from the perspective of a woman who wonders what her lover is doing in Massachusetts while she is alone in Texas. He frequently visits the state, saying it is for business.

Throughout the lyrics, she imagines all of the possibilities of what he could be doing and whom he could be with. The lyrics suggest that the narrator believes he is not simply attending meetings in Massachusetts and goes so far as to pack his bags in their hallway.

The song launched Reba into stardom in the country music world and earned her a spot at number one on Billboard’s US Hot Country Songs list.

6. “Roadrunner” by Jonathan Richman

“Roadrunner” is a song by Jonathan Richman that perfectly captures the feeling of driving around Massachusetts. The lyrics are simple and catchy, the melody is quick and upbeat, and it has garnered much recognition, such as ranking number 77 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Best Songs of All Time list in 2021 (jumping nearly 200 places since its ranking in the early 2000s). 

Richman has explained the song is a homage to Massachusetts Route 128, and the singer proudly declares his love for the state. In the lyrics, the narrator drives through the neon-lit roads of The Bay State, listening to the radio beneath beautiful moonlight so he doesn’t feel alone.

The song has become an unofficial anthem for Massachusetts, and it’s easy to see why. 

8.  “M.T.A.” by The Kingston Trio

Few songs have likely been written about metro rail, and this recording is one of them. The title references the Metropolitan Transport Authority (later the MBTA), which is responsible for Boston’s subway system.

Its lyrics tell a somewhat absurd tale about a man named Charlie who finds himself unable to get off one of the MTA’s carriages. Interestingly, “M.T.A.” was penned for Walter A. O’Brien, a politician who was running to be Boston’s mayor in 1949.

The song gained more widespread prominence when it became a hit for the folk band The Kingston Trio in 1959. It has since become a central part of Bostonian culture, so much so that the MBTA named its contactless smart card the “CharlieCard” in 2006.

9. “Massachusetts” by Bee Gees

Despite being British, the Bee Gees released this single about Massachusetts in 1967. The song is about a man who is longing to return home to Massachusetts.

He remembers the beautiful scenery and the happy times he had there, offering the listener a nostalgic feeling while remaining very catchy. 

After its release, “Massachusetts” became one of their most popular songs, making it number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 list and number one on the UK Singles Chart.

10. “Massachusetts” by Aaron Lewis

Last but not least is another song titled “Massachusetts,” recorded by Aaron Lewis, the former lead vocalist for the rock band Staind.

Through his lyrics, Lewis captures the essence of Massachusetts: the people, the places, and the sense of community. 

Unlike his band, this is very much a country song, and it is a heartfelt love letter to the Bay State. Lewis lives in the countryside and wrote the lyrics on the front steps of his home. 

Summing Up Our List Of Massachusetts Songs

There are a lot of great songs out there about Massachusetts, but these ten are the best of the best.

Whether you’re looking for a song about Boston, the Cape, or anywhere else in the state, you’re sure to find something you’ll love on this list.

So, crank up the volume and enjoy these classics about the Bay State.

And if you think we’ve missed any songs off our list, let us know, and we’ll add them in!

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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.