There’s just something about Michigan that inspires musicians to write songs about it. Whether it’s the stunning scenery, the friendly people, the Great Lakes, or the factories of Detroit, Michigan is one of the most recognizable states in America.
With roughly 10 million people, it’s no surprise to learn that there are a plethora of songs written about the state. Whether you call it the Great Lake State, Wolverine State, or Mitten State, there’s a song applauding it.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at 15 of the best songs about Michigan. Let’s get started.
1. “Especially in Michigan” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
When one thinks of Red Hot Chili Peppers, California is usually the first place to come to mind. Based in the Golden State, the four-piece band has a discography that heavily features the state dozens of times, often directly by name.
But with “Especially in Michigan,” Red Hot Chili Peppers pay testament to the birthplace of Anthony Kiedis.
“Especially in Michigan” serves as an energetic embracing of the Great Lake State in every possible way. Focusing on Michigan, the lyrics invoke Huckleberry Finn, fishing, and the local Detroit Lions and Tigers sports teams.
With an amazing guitar solo, exciting vocals, and touching lyrics, it’s a favorite of locals and tourists alike.
2. “Lake Michigan” by Rogue Wave
“Lake Michigan” by Rogue Wave has a deep focus on the state, but primarily highlights the beauty of Lake Michigan.
With green living in mind, it brings attention to the lack of pollution in Lake Michigan and how lovely the nature there truly is.
The song was written as a critique of common stigmas against the Great Lakes. Many that haven’t visited assume they’re dirty and filled with runoff from the many cities that border them.
In contrast, the Great Lakes are mostly unpolluted and even protected by many laws. Rogue Wave highlight just how gorgeous the areas are with their track.
3. “Michigan and Again” by The Accidentals
“Michigan and Again” by The Accidentals is a lovely, heartfelt tune dedicated to the natural beauty of the great state.
The band sings about the stunning scenery of Canada’s Daughter, from the cold water to rolling fields.
If you’ve never seen these sights, The Accidentals’ music video shows them in their full beauty. If you have seen them, the video is still stunningly charming.
The band sings about the difficulty of leaving their home and the sights that bring them home again. This reflective tune has a soothing rhythm and enchanting vocals.
4. “Detroit Rock City” by Kiss
Kiss is a name that needs no introduction, and songs like “Detroit Rock City” are part of the reason why.
Though the band’s reputation is known for party songs and showmanship, “Detroit Rock City” looks into a real tragedy that involved one of their fans.
Inspired by a fan’s death, the lyrics are rumored to reference a head-on collision. Though this hasn’t necessarily been confirmed, fans tend to lean towards this as the primary inspiration for the iconic song.
Despite the macabre inspiration, the song is relatively upbeat and full of signature Kiss sounds.
Related: Check out our list of songs about Detroit here.
5. “Roll Me Away” by Bob Seger
Bob Seger has several songs about Michigan, but “Roll Me Away” was chosen as the best of the bunch.
Through the song, Seger references a handful of places Michigan natives know and love.
From Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island to the Great Divide, most of the song focuses on the state’s natural beauty.
The song’s narrator meets a woman and has a few drinks with her before wordlessly getting on his motorcycle with her and driving away.
“Roll Me Away” brings feelings of restlessness and indecisiveness to the mix. Rather than focusing solely on the state, Seger looks at how the wilderness helps soothe sorrows away.
6. “Panic in Detroit” by David Bowie
Bowie’s “Panic in Detroit” brings attention to one of the darker times in modern U.S. history.
Inspired by the Detroit 1967 Riots, much of the track comes from stories told to Bowie by Iggy Pop.
For five days, the Detroit riots caused an enormous amount of destruction and damage. With thousands of destroyed buildings, over 7,000 arrests, and 43 deaths, Bowie seeks to capture this tragedy in his song.
The opening riff is intense, full of 70s rock elements, and will make you want to play this song on repeat.
7. “Going to Michigan” by The Extra Glenns
The Extra Glenns don’t focus on Michigan quite as heavily as most of the songs on this list do. Instead, “Going to Michigan” centers mostly on a trip to the state.
“Going to Michigan” is far from friendly, looking at a gripe between the narrator and an unknown partner.
Both find things to dislike about each other, but there seems to be some level of care and understanding between them.
A touch of the fingers turns to a buzzing in the brain, though it’s difficult to tell if it’s a positive sensation.
8. “The Big Three Killed My Baby” by The White Stripes
The White Stripes are known for their catchy songs that often dip into the political realm, and “The Big Three Killed My Baby” fits the shoe perfectly.
The Big Three in question refers to Chrysler, GM, and Ford, three of the largest automobile manufacturers in the nation.
All three are also based in Detroit, the hometown of singer Jack White.
In the year this song was released, there were more than 1,200 automobile-related deaths in Michigan.
The entire song is a strong critique of the automotive industry, corporations, and the chokehold that manufacturing has on the city of Detroit.
9. “Michicant” by Bon Iver
Bon Iver’s “Michicant” doesn’t paint Michigan in the nicest light either. Much of the song focuses on the nostalgic innocence of tender youth, looking at ignorance and love.
The lyrics are dominantly esoteric and strange, making it difficult to know what precisely Bon Iver is trying to convey.
The music carries a feeling of loss and longing, but Bon Iver specifically states that the song refers to things one can no longer do anymore.
As one of Bon Iver’s best-known songs, the soothing sound puts the listener in a reflective mood.
10. “Detroit ‘67” by Sam Roberts
Heading back to Detroit, Sam Roberts focuses back on the city with “Detroit ‘67.” The song is a nostalgic look back on life in the 60s with a classic rock vibe.
“Detroit ‘67” looks at the man-made beauty of the city rather than the area’s natural beauty, waving to the enormous Ambassador Bridge that stretches to Windsor, Ontario across the Canadian border.
It’s worth noting that the name is likely a nod to the aforementioned Detroit 1967 riots.
Though the track is positive and nostalgic, hinting at the tragedies that occurred there still gives an underlining sullenness.
11. “Half Acre” by Hem
Hem’s “Half Acre” continues that note of nostalgia into bittersweet happiness, but happiness nonetheless.
The name refers to a torn piece of a map of Michigan that makes up a half-acre of land, presumably of the narrator’s hometown.
Much of the song focuses on homesickness and how we carry these memories. No matter how far you are from your hometown, Hem’s “Half Acre” is sure to make you want to head home for a visit again.
The vocals inspire an ethereal sound that’s gentle but impactful. The soft melodies perfectly complement this magical sound.
12. “America” by Simon & Garfunkel
Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon are two of the most well-known songwriters of their generation, and “America” helps drive that reputation home. Focused on a road trip between Simon and his girlfriend at the time, Kathy.
Much of the song looks into the nation as a whole as the couple board a Greyhound bus in Pittsburgh.
Shortly before this Greyhound, Simon and Garfunkel had played a show in Saginaw, with Simon claiming he’d had to hitchhike to the city over four days.
Throughout the road trip, the pair search for something undefined. Listeners hear Simon proclaim to Kathy that he’s unsure about a dream he’s chasing, with plenty of existential meanings in the line.
No matter what you take from the song, it’s a haunting and touching picture of the nation. With Michigan taking center stage as the place where this dream formed, it’s a heartfelt testament to the Great Lake State.
13. “Mona and Emmy” by Frontier Ruckus
“Mona and Emmy” looks back at childhood, told in a folky tune that almost borders onto bluegrass at times. Frontier Ruckus tells the story of a few Michigan natives and how their adulthoods have changed them.
Speaking on baptisms and long work hours, it’s a nostalgic and heartfelt look at how life can change us.
As the narrator speaks about knowing every road, it’s hard not to think of one’s own home and the memories there.
The song’s music video is as nostalgic and beautiful as the folky sounds.
14. “Michigan Left” by Arkells
For the 14th best song about Michigan, “Michigan Left” by Arkells brings another mention of the 1967 riots. Arkells’ song speaks about how the riots took over the streets of the city.
Past that, most of the song is much more uplifting, especially when combined with the soaring instrumentals and bright singing.
Looking into childhood neighbors, friends, and ideas of revolution, it’s a song of childlike wonder and beauty.
Although not as well known as other songs on this list, the energetic sound, fast tempo, and catchy lyrics make “Michigan Left” a serious contender.
15. “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot
The final song on the list tells the story of another tragedy, though one that few people outside of Michigan seem to know.
As the name suggests, Lightfoot looks at the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, a Great Lakes freighter that sank in Lake Superior on November 10th, 1975.
In the sinking, all 29 crew members lost their lives. The Edmund Fitzgerald was the largest ship on the Lakes at the time and remains the largest ship to have slipped beneath the waves there.
Lightfoot tells the story with acoustic and electric guitars, soaring vocals, and an enrapturing talent for storytelling.
Summing Up Our List Of Michigan Songs
Michigan is full of deep history, incredible beauty, and historic events that no one could forget.
Whether the song focuses on the waves of the Great Lakes or the streets during the ‘67 riots, there’s no shortage of topics to write about.
Did we forget your favorite song about Michigan? Let us know your favorites and we’ll add them in!