10 Of The Best Songs About Utah: Beehive State Playlist

Written by Laura Macmillan
Last updated

Utah is a landlocked state famous for its Great Salt Lake, which is the largest in the Western Hemisphere. It also has five national parks, making it a beautiful state to visit on vacation.

With so much good stuff going for it, there’s no surprise that many songs feature Utah. And in this post, we’re going to take a look at ten of the best songs about Utah from a range of bands and musicians. Let’s get started.

1. “Salt Lake City” by the Beach Boys

Up first, we have “Salt Lake City,” which has the classic sounds of the Beach Boys, but instead of singing about California sand, it’s all about Salt Lake City and Utah attractions.

The second chorus mentions a park called the Lagoon, which is a popular amusement park about 20 miles north of the city.

Most fans associate the Beach Boys with the sun and the ocean, but in “Salt Lake City,” they sing their appreciation of wintertime, too. They promise to come to the city soon, whether it’s for the Lagoon or skiing.

2. “The Ballad of Billy the Kid” by Billy Joel

Billy Joel’s famous song “The Ballad of Billy the Kid” mentions Utah as it describes Billy the Kid’s cross-country journey running from the law. The lyrics talk about how he stole from people saying “Well he robbed his way from Utah to Oklahoma.”

Though it’s about Billy the Kid, the famous outlaw from the Wild West, the story told in the song doesn’t match up with what historians know of the outlaw. 

Some music critics think the last verse is about Billy Joel himself because he grew up in Oyster Bay, Long Island, which he mentions in the song.

3. “Utah Carol” by Marty Robbins

Like “The Ballad of Billy the Kid,” “Utah Carol” also tells a story about life in the west. The singer and his partner, Utah Carol, were like brothers. They were out riding horses when they found cattle stampeding towards Lenore, their boss’s daughter, on her own horse.

Utah Carol set out to save Lenore, but he fell off his horse when he tried. He used Lenore’s red saddle blanket to distract the herd from Lenore.

However, he wasn’t able to save himself. At the hero’s funeral, they wrapped him in the blanket that saved Lenore.

4. “The History of Utah” by Camper Van Beethoven

Camper Van Beethoven is a rock band with ska and punk influences. Their song “The History of Utah” tells about Joe, a man of contradictions. His father was a police chief, but he was a gambler.

Joe wanted to leave that life behind, so he stole shopping carts and moved to the desert in Utah.

The song goes on to tell the story of Joe’s children and explain how the singer knows this story to tell. It takes on a mythical feeling towards the end, like a tall tale.

5. “Utah Tribute” by Chris LeDoux

Chris LeDoux wrote this semi-autobiographical song “Utah Tribute,” which was inspired by how many times he’d travel to Utah and perform concerts there.

LeDoux was born in Mississippi but moved west to Wyoming as a teenager. He started working in the rodeo, which explains the lyrics in the song about a young cowboy writing music.

LeDoux goes on to sing about how it felt to hear the crowd singing along at his shows and how he loved seeing the same people over and over, watching them grow up.

He says that he grew up right along with them, wrapping up a touching song. LeDoux deftly expresses gratitude for his fans with this track.

6. “Ballad for a Friend” by Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan always tells a story with his songs, and “Ballad for a Friend” is no exception. It starts with the narrator sitting near the railroad track, watching the train leave.

While he and his friends used to enjoy imagining where the trains go, he knows this one is taking his friend to the graveyard.

A diesel truck hit the narrator’s friend and dragged him down the road in Utah. Someone transported his body back to his town so his family could bury him.

The singer references the tears his mother and sister cry to really hit home the loss of his friend. The song’s tempo and tone are appropriately mournful, creating an emotional Utah song.

7. “The Great Salt Lake” by Band of Horses

The Great Salt Lake is the Western Hemisphere’s largest saltwater lake, so it’s not surprising that it would inspire musicians to write songs about it. It’s often called “America’s Dead Sea” because the salinity allows people to float freely in the water.

You can see how this information impacts Band of Horses with their song “The Great Salt Lake.” It tells the story of a party on a boat in a salt lake, but the meaning goes even deeper.

The singer acknowledges that he’d stand by his friend falling apart and would steer through the great salt lake. These words make the listener envision a lake of salty tears the friends are navigating.

8. “I Lost My Sugar in Salt Lake City” by Johnny Mercer

Horns start this song on a bright note that quickly turns slightly somber when Johnny Mercer begins singing. He tells the story of how much he regrets going to Salt Lake City with his sweetheart.

In Salt Lake City, his partner met a man from Kansas City who bought her gifts and sweet-talked her out of her current relationship. She got spoiled with nice cars and fancy jewelry.

The singer thinks that the woman knows she was wrong to leave him and will reap what she sews. Still, he cried when the relationship ended and wished things would have turned out differently.

9. “Salt Lake City” by the Dwarves

The Dwarves are a punk band, and “Salt Lake City” is a love song…sort of. The singer proclaims he’d do anything for his sweetheart except go to Salt Lake City.

Apparently, the couple has already crossed the Rio Grande, visited Disneyland, and went to the Pacific Ocean. But Utah is completely off-limits. 

The lyrics joke about Provo, the Osmonds, and Mormonism. The singer claims he won’t go because he’s not pure or pretty and doesn’t want them to try to change him, but everything is very catchy, not mean-spirited. And fans of the Offspring will love hearing Dexter Holland’s voice in the bridge of this song.

10. “Friend of the Devil” by the Grateful Dead

This Grateful Dead hit mentions several cities as the narrator runs from Reno chased by dogs. While Utah is only mentioned in passing, the lyric creates a vivid image. The narrator spends the night in a cave in the Utah hills, hiding from everything chasing him.

The repeated line through the verses of this song is that friends of the devil are friends of the narrator. With the thought in mind that the narrator is running from the police, it creates a visual of people on the wrong side of the law helping him find his way until he’s safe.

Summing Up Our List Of Utah Songs

These musicians all portray different aspects of Utah, including the desert and the Great Salt Lake.

The songs tell stories about friendships, relationships, heartbreak, and heroics.

Whether you’re literally traveling to Utah or taking a trip through music, these songs will make a great playlist.

Let us know which ones we’ve missed off our list 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.