Birmingham, Birmingham
The greatest city in Alabam’
You can travel ‘cross the entire land
But there ain’t no place like Birmingham

Randy Newman said it best: there truly is no place quite like Birmingham, and our homegrown musicians as well as artists from the farthest corners of the country have penned songs about the Magic City and about our great state. So, we dug through some musical archives to find the songs that mention “Birmingham” and “Alabama,” resulting in the ultimate Birmingham, AL, playlist.

Birmingham’s turbulent history within the Civil Rights Movement spurred artists from across the country to weigh in through song. Richard Farina’s “Birmingham Sunday,” recorded by Joan Baez, remarks on the tragic loss of four African-American girls who were killed by the 16th Street Church bombing.

On Birmingham Sunday a noise shook the ground
And people all over the earth turned around
For no one recalled a more cowardly sound
And the choirs kept singing of freedom

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Neil Young chimed in with “Alabama,” and Lynyrd Skynyrd famously countered with “Well, I hope Neil Young will remember a Southern man don’t need him around anyhow” in their ubiquitous anthem loved across the globe, “Sweet Home Alabama.” A few decades later Muscle Shoals native Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers elucidated the complexity of these rock relationships in his storytelling rock song, “The Three Great Alabama Icons”:

And Neil Young always claimed that “Sweet Home
Alabama” was one of his favorite songs. And legend
Has it that he was an honorary pall bearer at
Ronnie [Van Zant]’s funeral, such is the Duality of the
Southern Thing.

Patterson Hood also sheds some much-needed light on our city’s journey of racial reconciliation, healing and growth in his song “Birmingham”:

Most of my family came from Birmingham
I can feel their presence on the street
Vulcan Park has seen its share of troubled times
But the city won’t admit defeat
Magic City’s magic getting stronger
Dynamite Hill ain’t on fire any longer
No man should ever have to feel He don’t belong in Birmingham

In his stirring song of loneliness and longing, Jason Isbell croons, “Somebody take me home through those Alabama pines.” Northern Michigan native Kid Rock waxes nostalgic about his summertime teenage exploits, sweetening the memories with a big, fat nod in the chorus to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s famous song:

While we were trying different things
And we were smoking funny things
Making love out by the lake to our favorite song
Sipping whiskey out the bottle, not thinking ’bout tomorrow
Singing Sweet Home Alabama all summer long

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An equally country-fied yet legitimately Southern Trace Adkins belts out, “I’m from Ala-Freakin-Bama, Ala-Freakin-Bama, Tell me what’s it to ya, Ala-Freakin-Bama.” Similarly, Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra, a jazzy swingin’ bunch, exude buoyant delight in their “Birmingham Bounce”:

The Heart of Dixie down in Alabam’
There’s a place we all love called Birmingham
Everybody starts rockin’ and shuffling their feet
When the drums start playing that solid beat
Everybody’s dancin’, jumpin’ too
When the music starts rocking, nobody’s blue
A funny little rhythm with a solid sound
Is the boogie-woogie jump we call ‘Birmingham Bounce’

And you can’t talk about musical inspiration without mentioning love. Alabama native Emmylou Harris sings, “I would walk all the way from Boulder to Birmingham if I thought I could see, I could see your face.”

One gem we unearthed was Ethel Waters’ extremely entertaining and delightful rendition of “Birmingham Bertha” about a woman scorned (It’s worth a watch!):

All night, all night, rode that train
In a native coach from Birmingham
Just looking for my loving Sam
I can’t get him off my brain
And beyond a question of doubt
My aim in life is to straighten him out
Nobody’s fooling Birmingham Bertha,
She’s had schoolin’, Birmingham Bertha
Eye for eye, tooth for a tooth’s my plan
Just treat me halfway fair and I’m on the level,
Give me air and I’m just a she-devil
He’s on my mind
I intend to find that man
But I’ll admit, I’m just the worst simple Simon that you know
I gave him my diamonds and all my dough
But you can bet it, he’ll regret it
He’s gonna get it and so
Don’t expect 2 dollars worth o’
Sympathy from Birmingham Bertha
Like the police, I never release my man

Hank Williams found solace in the rhythm of our state, crooning, “There all my fears and cares were lost, There in your arms, with all of your charms, We danced to the Alabama Waltz.” And we’d be remiss not to mention the soul-stirring lyrics of Billie Holiday’s romantic ballad, “Stars Fell on Alabama”:

My heart beat like a hammer
My arms wound around you tight
And stars fell on Alabama last night

We lived our little drama
We kissed in a field of white
And stars fell on Alabama last night

I can’t forget the glamour
Your eyes held a tender light
And stars fell on Alabama last night

And leave it to the band Alabama to provide us with the perfect grand finale in their song, “My Home’s In Alabama”:

Took my songs and dreams to Nashville and then on to L.A.
Up to New York City, all across the USA
I lost so much of me but there’s enough of me to say (that my)
Home’s in Alabama, no matter where I lay my head
My home’s in Alabama, Southern born and Southern bred

Well I’ll speak my southern English just as natural as I please
I’m in the Heart of Dixie, Dixie’s in the heart of me
And someday when I make it, when love finds a way
Somewhere high on Lookout Mountain I’ll just smile with pride and say that my
Home’s in Alabama, no matter where I lay my head
My home’s in Alabama, Southern born and Southern bred

These songs capture the complexity of our rich past and all that we love about our state. So, escape from the stresses of daily life for a bit, and enjoy this compilation of songs that will make both Birminghamians and Alabamians proud.

We hope you enjoy!

Did we miss a song? If so, let us know by emailing [email protected], and we’ll add it to the playlist!


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