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Homegrown 0

The Best Songs About Arkansas


This story first appeared at The Ozark Echo.

If you grew up in Arkansas in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, you might remember staying up until midnight to watch AETN’s sign-off video. The video ran every night for years on channel 13, Arkansas’ PBS station.

Waylon Holyfield’s Arkansas (You Run Deep in Me) was coupled with the state’s scenic vistas glowing in a VHS haze to create a brazen salute to Arkansas’ people and places. Holyfield’s song was written to commemorate Arkansas’s 150th anniversary in 1986. The song became an anthem of pride throughout the state and was made an official state song in 1987.

Holyfield was born in Mallettown, Arkansas, graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1965, and moved to Nashville in 1972 to write songs for a living. He found great success in country music, scoring his first number one hit in 1975 with Don Williams’ recording of You’re My Best Friend.

Arkansas (You Run Deep in Me) was written 14 years after Holyfield left the state. The song is about leaving a place one loves and remembering it fondly. “Oh, I may wander, but when I do,” Holyfield sings with his grand synthesized orchestra, “I will never be far from you. You’re in my blood and I know you’ll always be. Arkansas, you run deep in me.”

It is a sentimental tune filled with imagery that would make any native’s heart swell, written in the vein of the Wilburn Brothers’ “Arkansas” or Glen Campbell’s Arkansas.

Oddly enough, many of the best songs about Arkansas were written about the state from the perspective of someone who has left, or is leaving, its borders. Holyfield’s memory is by far the most romantic; others see Arkansas in a different light. The best see Arkansas as it really was.

I have selected the best songs about the state of Arkansas with an unscientific criteria based on my personal preference and a song’s subject, historical relevance, and “catchiness.” Songs from Henry Thomas, Big Bill Broonzy, A.E. Ward and His Plowboys, Jimmy McCracklin, Jimmy Driftwood, Gossip, and Sufjan Stevens all made the list.

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Justin Gage is a historian, writer, Arkansas enthusiast, and publisher of The Ozark Echo.

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