10 Of The Best Songs About South Dakota: Mount Rushmore State Playlist

Avatar photo
Written by Laura Macmillan
Last updated

With roughly 895,000 citizens, the relatively small state of South Dakota has been the focus of much art and expression over the years. From the Black Forest to the rolling plains, there have been countless songs written about beautiful South Dakota.

And in this post, we’re going to take a look at ten of the best songs about South Dakota, The Mount Rushmore State. Let’s get started.

1. “South Dakota Morning” by Bee Gees

Starting off our list is a band that needs no introduction. Though not among the most famous of their many tracks worldwide, “South Dakota Morning” has proven itself an anthem of the state for decades.

Coming from their 1973 album “Life in a Tin Can,” this track plays an esoteric and slightly violent tune for the state.

The beautiful ballad plays a gentle sound with lyrics that can snap you out of the near-lullaby. Singing on all the mornings they’ve seen in the state, they speak of the need to kill a stranger as they watch an eagle soaring overhead.

Full of metaphor and meaning, the track is a somber and gorgeous introduction to the list.

2. “Deadwood, South Dakota” by Nanci Griffith

When it comes to the stories of the Wild West, there are few towns more notable than Deadwood, South Dakota.

Drawing the likes of the Earps, Wild Bill Hickok, and Calamity Jane, the city is a symbol of the romantic ideas of the West. But Griffith uses “Deadwood, South Dakota” as a platform to discuss the damages of settlers.

Rather than glorify the Wild West, Nanci Griffith speaks on Thasunke Witko, better known as Crazy Horse. One of the leaders of the Lakota people, Crazy Horse, surrendered after a lengthy fight for his people’s independence only to be executed.

Overall, Griffith uses this song to discuss the plight and the erasure of indigenous peoples. Referring to the town as a place “where the white man does as he pleases” it’s a strong critique of the way that history gets ignored as people move on.

3. “Hills of South Dakota” by Becky Schlegel

Becky Schlegel’s ballad “Hills of South Dakota” is another heartfelt, somber track about Mount Rushmore State.

With nothing but acoustic guitars and a sorrowful voice, Schlegel sings a song about a sad farewell.

Though she sings about heartbreak, there’s a tender tone that hints at something brighter.

Highlighting the hills of South Dakota and the unique nature therein, Schlegel’s painting of the rolling hills calls all Dakotans home.

4. “South Dakota” by Afroman

Not every song is a ballad, and we should state right off the bat that this is a very adult track.

Afroman is known for his raunchy, often sexual tracks, and “South Dakota” aims to take the belt in such a competition.

Still, if you don’t mind the adult topics and lyrics at play, “South Dakota” is a fun song about the difficulty of finding someone to spend your night with. The adult comedic track tells the story of Afroman going from city to city in the state, eventually passing the night alone.

While not quite as popular as tracks like “Colt .45,” it’s certainly one of Afroman’s raunchiest.

5. “Kadoka, South Dakota” by The Living Sisters

Afroman might be struggling to find someone to spend his nights with, but The Living Sisters are surrounded by loved ones.

The group of four women sings an adorable Christmas track here, celebrating the quaint beauty of Kadoka, South Dakota. Through the song, the four sing about the unique beauty the city holds.

Highlighting a roadside diner that’s little more than a hole in the wall and the view of Mount Rushmore, it’s a heartwarming love song to the city and the people within.

6. “I Gotta Gal I Love (In North And South Dakota)” by Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra needs no introduction, and he’s having just as easy of a time finding someone to love.

Some may even say he’s found himself with an excess, and even he states that he’s above the quota.

Here, Sinatra sings about being in love with two different women from both states. There’s no difference between his love, but they don’t seem to agree with him.

By the end of the song, he’s headed back to the girl he loves in Tennessee instead.

Related: Check out our list of songs about Tennessee here.

7. “Misfits” by Neil Young

Even the legendary Neil Young has a track about Mount Rushmore state! Young’s song focuses on a few different outlooks, but South Dakota comes in on the mention of a lone red rider.

In some ways, the song has a hint of optimism with the worst already being dealt with. However, there’s still a somber tone to the majority of the track.

Discussing substance abuse and disenfranchisement, it’s a classic song by a classic artist if a bit of a downer at times.

8. “South Dakota” by Jakey

One of the newest songs on the list, Jakey, comes through with a rap track that highlights some of the lesser-known features of the state.

The artist focuses on the smaller traits of small-town life, mentioning the details that most wouldn’t be familiar with.

Discussing snowy roads, slow internet, and dropping out of college, Jakey’s track is an instrumental banger with hype vocals.

It’s undoubtedly the highest energy of any of the songs on this list, and perhaps any focused on the state at all.

9. “Big Foot” by Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash’s voice is one of the most recognizable in American history. But make no mistake, Cash isn’t singing about the mythical Big Foot.

Instead, he’s singing about a Native American chief of the Minneconjou Sioux, indigenous to South Dakota.

Like Griffith’s track above, this song is more of an activism story, drawing attention to the treatment of the land’s indigenous people.

Singing about Wounded Knee, South Dakota, Johnny Cash talks about Big Foot’s people surrounded on location by General Custer’s 7th Cavalry.

With three hundred civilians, an accidental gunshot led to Big Foot being killed and a massacre of the Minneconjou people. Though it became known as a victory, the event was truly one to remember, as Cash states that South Dakota won’t forget Big Foot.

10. “Rapid City, South Dakota” by Dwight Yoakam

The final song on our list is another cowboy tune. Here, Yoakam sings about a hitchhiker running away from his life in Rapid City, South Dakota.

The boy has plenty of reasons to leave, according to him. His friends are too country, his father was abusive, and his only income was pumping gas.

Through the song, it’s difficult to see if there’s a happy ending. One thing is certain, though – things move slowly in Rapid City.

Summing Up Our List Of South Dakota Songs

The Mount Rushmore State has more than just ten songs written about the beauty and life in South Dakota.

There are art pieces, novels, historical pieces, and so much more to explore! The culture and quaint lifestyle of South Dakota can’t be beaten, but they can be put into a song.

Did your favorite song about South Dakota make it onto our list, or are there additions we should’ve made?

Let us know your favorite South Dakota song and we’ll add it in!

Photo of author

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.