Maybe I am trying to make up for the dearth of South Carolina songs here, but I’m serving up a healthy helping of sweet songs of the south, from the Peachiest state around. Of course, I cap it all off with a lesser-known (and not highly regarded Dylan tune).
Georgia on my Mind: Penned by Willie Nelson, the definitive version rightfully belongs to the always-phenomenal Ray Charles, who simply delivers when it comes to vocals. When you think of Georgia this is the song that rightfully comes to mind.
The Devil Went Down to Georgia: Just kidding. This song sucks and so does Charlie Daniels.*
Fulton County Jane Doe: Brandi Carlile humanizes what is otherwise just fodder for tabloids and podcasts about murder. She takes Jane Doe of Fulton County, Georgia and speaks of the life that had to be at one point. Knowing the backstory and then hearing the lines, “Someone called you something sweet once. It was more than Fulton County Jane” breaks your heart a little. And, that, my friends, is why Brandi Carlile is one of the best songwriters around.
Midnight Train to Georgia: True story: I used to have a big St. Patrick’s Day party that included a stage and karaoke (don’t bother asking). My coworker, Rajan—a 70 year old graphic designer—got up and sang this one with me. Since then I have always thought of it as our song. Thank you, Gladis Knight, for bringing this song into my life. And thank you to the Indigo Girls for doing a bang-up cover. And thank you to the Pips for doing a version of it on The Richard Pryor show.
They Killed Him: Written by Kris Kristofferson and delivered with backup singer bombast by Bob Dylan on his widely-panned album, Knocked Out Loaded, this song is actually a bit of guilty pleasure for me. You probably have to be a true Dylan fan to want to listen to this one because it sounds dated and the lines are pretty ham-fisted. What I enjoy now though is listening in hindsight. On Rough and Rowdy Ways (2020), Dylan remincies about Martin Luther King (another of my favorite writers) and says, “I could talk about these guys all day.” Well, in “They Killed Him,” Dylan pays homage to the “man from Atlanta, Georgia” who “shook the land like the rolling thunder.”
*Blatant racism, homophobia, and feigned ignorance of sociocultural events aside, Daniels wasn’t a great songwriter either. His most well-known works, like The Devil Went Down to Georgia have credits with other writers. Besides, the devil should’ve totally won because his song was better. (But really, it’s a song about pure ‘Merica—in the form of fiddle playin’—being pitted against the evils of rock n’ roll music played by a band of demons. You know, totally not racist stuff…). But Daniels was a decent session musician who played with many decent humans. So.