10 Best Songs About West Virginia: Mountain State Playlist

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Written by Laura Macmillan
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West Virginia is known for its beautiful mountains, love of football, and fraught history—all of which are mentioned in the many songs about the Mountain State. While musically, West Virginia itself is known for its folk, these songs range in genre and style. 

With everything from jazz to punk to classic country, these songs about West Virginia are sure to have you tapping your toes and wanting to experience the state and its country roads yourself.

1. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver

The song “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” better known as “Country Roads,” was written and released in 1971 by John Denver. Since then, it has become one of his most famous songs and has been performed by other artists. In its release year, the single was certified gold and went platinum in 2017. 

It was enthusiastically received nationally and by West Virginians. Indeed, West Virginia University adopted it as the school song in 1972.

Denver’s song is played at many West Virginia events, ranging from sports to weddings, and West Virginia made it one of its official state songs in 2014.

2. “Charleston Girl” by Tyler Childers

Tyler Childers references the West Virginia state capitol, Charleston, and reflects on how the speaker feels when he travels across the Ohio River, the division between West Virginia and Ohio, and West Virginia and Kentucky.

The lyrics opine that crossing into the Mountain State makes him feel wild, referencing the state slogan: “wild and wonderful.”

Many songs by Childers about or references West Virginia, as he spent several years living between Kentucky and West Virginia. 

3. “16 Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford

Merle Travis wrote this song in the 1940s, and it was later made famous by Tennessee Ernie Ford. Travis was the son of miners, and his father inspired him to write the song.

The song is about mine workers in West Virginia and Kentucky and mentions how miners were paid in scrip. Miners could only use scrip at company stores.

This fact, coupled with the fact that workers usually lived in community-owned homes, made it impossible for miners of the time to build any savings or ever leave their jobs. 

The song has since been performed by artists from Elvis Presley to Tom Jones to Tom Morello. Ford’s version was inducted into the Library of Congress National Recording Registry in 2015.

4. “Remember” by Mac Miller

Mac Miller wrote this song for his deceased friend, Reen Mitrani, whom the rapper met at camp in West Virginia. 

Miller reflects on the time spent in the state as children and how nostalgic he is for those times in the Mountain State spent out in the woods with his friend.

The song was released on the album Watching Movies with the Sound Off and was one of several deeply reflective tracks on it.

5. “Union, God, and Country” by Steve Earle

This song is from the Steve Earle album, “Ghosts of West Virginia.” The concept album is about the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, a disaster that happened in 2010 in Raleigh County.

There were 29 miners killed in the explosion, and the album draws from interviews with survivors and families of the minors.

This song references the West Virginia University (or WVU) team colors, blue and gold, and the state’s fraught history in getting unions to miners.

The state was a battleground of the Mine Wars, home to the Battle of Blair Massacre and the Matewan Massacre.

6. “Morning Morgantown” by Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell wrote this song in the late 1960s after visiting Morgantown, West Virginia. The city is the home of West Virginia University, and the lyrics are about her experiences in the city as everything opened up for business each day. 

Her portrayal of Morgantown is positive and sweet, capturing the town as a peaceful oasis where its residents go about their day-to-day lives. Cheerful lyrics and an equally upbeat guitar contribution complement the scenes conjured up by the song.  

It is the opening song of her album Ladies of the Canyon, which has since been certified platinum and featured her best-known song “Big Yellow Taxi.” 

7. “Come Home to West Virginia” by Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr.

Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr. delivers a heartfelt love letter to his home state with his song “Come Home to West Virginia. It was released in 2016, and the American Idol winner touches on many beautiful aspects of living in the Mountain State.

His jazz tribute references his home of Logan County, the unforgettable white-water rafting, and the state’s famed fishing. In addition, he urges the listener to come to the Appalachian Mountains, where kids are free to play. Along the way, he namedrops the West Virginia Mountaineers football team and even mentions one of the state’s most notable exports: coal.

Some of the proceeds from the song went to the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, further reinforcing its credentials as a potential state anthem. 

8. “West Virginia My Home” by Hazel Dickens

This song was first released in 1976 by the bluegrass singer Hazel Dickens. She came from Mercey County and showcased a deep affection for her home state in the lyrics of “West Virginia My Home.” 

The narrator has long left the state, but her affinity for the Mountain State has never left her. Her lyrics lament that the speaker has paid a significant price for moving and that city life has taken its toll.

She compares it with her true home and longs to see her friends again and smell the honeysuckle once again. 

9. “Last Public Hanging in West Virginia” by Flatt & Scruggs

The song “Last Public Hanging in West Virginia” is an accurate account of the last public hanging in West Virginia. In the song, the speaker refers to a Johnny, which is John F. Morgan, who was hung in Ripley for the murder of Chloe Greene and her two sons. 

The execution took place in 1867 in Ripley, West Virginia. Shortly after, West Virginia became one of the first states in the union to ban public executions.

The song came out in 1966, nearly 100 years after the event, and appearances on the Flatts and Scruggs album Town and Country.

With their band, the Foggy Mountain Boys, the duo was a landmark in bluegrass music, and this song shows a softer side that imitates the historical melodies sung traditionally in Appalachia.

10. “Jamboree Jones” by Johnny Mercer

This song tells the story of a college in West Virginia—implied to be WVU—where everyone in the student body is obsessed with football except the titular Jamboree Jones.

He instead focuses on his clarinet playing. The team eventually goes to the Rose Bowl, where they don’t do well until an intervention from Jamboree Jones.

By the end of the lyrics, the narrator reveals that a picture of the game’s defining moment is now in the hall of fame, with Jamboree Jones in it. Johnny Mercer first sang the song in 1937 in the early part of his career. 

Summing Up Our List Of West Virginia Songs

These ten songs range dramatically in style and content, but all have to do with West Virginia.

Some are known worldwide and have become staple hits throughout West Virginia and far beyond, such as “Country Roads” by John Denver.

Others deal with the state’s rich history, like “16 Tons” by Tennesse Ernie Ford and “Union, God, and Country” by Steve Earle. 

No matter what, these songs will fill you with pride for The Mountain State.

But did we miss any off this list that should be on here? 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.