Musicians name-checking Utah and Salt Lake City in interesting (and often-offensive) ways
Published: September 13, 2012 05:50PM
Updated: September 13, 2012 05:56PM

There is a Rattlesnake Raceway in the Nevada desert, but there is no such thing as a Rattlesnake Speedway in the Utah desert.

Nevertheless, Utahns are grateful that in what many consider one of Bruce Springsteen’s signature songs, “The Promised Land,” much of the action seems to take place in Utah:
On a rattlesnake speedway in the Utah desert
I pick up my money and head back into town
Driving across the Waynesboro County Line
I’ve got the radio on and I’m just killing time

In Utah, there is a Wayne County — not Waynesboro — but we’ll lay claim to being the setting of the song.

Despite Bob Dylan name-checking Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and Idaho — and snubbing Utah — in his anti-war anthem “Let Me Die In My Footsteps.” there are many songs where Utah is either a central element or a tossed-off detail written by some of our favorite musicians. It could be the history, culture, religion, conservatism, or scenic beauty, but for some reason, Salt Lake City and Utah evoke much sentiment in balladry.

(Dylan’s funniest song, “Talkin’ Hava Negilah Blues,” mentions Utah, by the way.)

The following is by no means a complete list, but the song lyrics cribbed here are some of the most offensive, loving, and beguiling lines about our beloved Beehive State. If I am missing anything major, please let me know at

It was a paradise for lizards when young Brigham saw it first
He said “I’ve seen some nasty deserts, lord, but this one here’s the worst”
Then the lord called down to Brigham, said “I got a great idea --
I want a mighty city and I think I want it here” ...
Well, Brigham kicked a prairie dog and muttered in his beard
Said, “You’ve put me through some changes, Lord, but this one’s really weird”
The Lord just laughed at Brigham, said, “You’d better get to work
The next time I check in here, I want paradise on earth.”
-- “Salt Lake City,” Grateful Dead

Down in Utah
The guys and I dig a city called Salt Lake
It’s got the grooviest kids ...
There’s a park near the city, yeah
All the kids dig the Lagoon now
It’s full of all kinds of girls
And rides and we’ll be flyin’ there soon now
And girl for girl
They’ve got the cutest of the Western states
-- “Salt Lake City,” Beach Boys

On a rattlesnake speedway in the Utah desert
I pick up my money and head back into town
Driving cross the Waynesboro county line
I got the radio on and I’m just killing time
Working all day in my daddy’s garage
Driving all night chasing some mirage
Pretty soon little girl I’m gonna take charge
The dogs on Main Street howl ‘cause they understand
If I could take one moment into my hands
Mister I ain’t a boy, no I’m a man
And I believe in a promised land
-- “Promised Land,” Bruce Springsteen

I’m pulling in to the LDS nation looking for a community station
Cause I’ve heard about the kids in Salt Lake City
And how they fight to be set free and how they fight
For you and me
-- “SLC Radio,” Amy Ray

Sad, I’m sittin’ on the railroad track,
Watchin’ that old smokestack.
Train is a-leavin’ bit it won’t be back ...
A diesel truck was rollin’ slow,
Pullin’ down a heavy load.
It left him on a Utah road.
They carried him back to his home town,
His mother cried, his sister moaned,
Listin’ to them church bells tone.
-- “Ballad for a Friend,” Bob Dylan

Here’s a foreign song I learned in Utah:
-- “Talkin’ Hava Negilah Blues,” Bob Dylan

And now my friends you’ve asked me what makes me sad and still
And why my brow is darkened like the clouds upon the hill
Run in your ponies closer and I’ll tell to you my tale
Of Utah Carol my partner and his last ride on the trail ...
On his funeral morning I heard the preacher say
I hope we’ll all meet Utah at the roundup far away
Then they wrapped him in a blanket that saved his little friend
And it was this red blanket that brought him to his end
-- “Utah Carol,” Marty Robbins

This is the city of vacant looks, questionable Gods, and multiple wives
The angel on the temple, he’s in a silent way
I’ve got a feeling, he’s kind of blue today
Here in Salt Lake City.
Sometimes this city feels like the only place we’ve ever been
Salt Lake City, come a little closer and let me lick the salt again ...
I know why you left me, I still blame this town for that.
Salt Lake City, you swear you’re never coming back.
I’m sending you a postcard, it’s a wagon full of pioneers.
Greetings from the Zion Kingdom, see you in a couple years
-- “Salt Lake City,” Jerry Joseph

All alone on my own here in this old town of Salt Lake City
Gotta find work, forget the hurt and how she put me down
For a man who didn’t care but with fast talk and curly hair
He took her from me and Salt Lake City ...
Night has come, day is done, but there’s no job to be found in Salt Lake City ...
And think of all the times that she said that she loved me
But that’s just a mem’ry in Salt Lake City
I should pack my things and go but my heart keeps saying no
Some day she’ll come back to me and Salt Lake City
-- “Salt Lake City,” Hank Williams Jr. (and others)

But there’s one thing I’ll never do, not even for you
I’m not going to Salt Lake City
There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you except to walk among the Osmond crew
I know you’re planning for a latter day and you can’t betray what you know in Provo
But there’s one less town on the globe and if you must go there you’re going alone
I’m not going to Salt Lake City even if they tell me I can stay
Even if they resurrect my brain I don’t wanna go there I don’t wanna go insane
I’m not pure and I’m not pretty and I’m not going to Salt Lake City
I’m not living in Hello Kitty and I’m not going to Salt Lake City
-- “Salt Lake City,” The Dwarves

They march, the Latter Day Saints
Salt Lake’s sick residents
They want you to repent
The want your 10 percent
They march, the Latter-day Saints ...
They slam the door in your face
They’re smiling at me too
You want me more but I want nothing from you ...
I slam the door in your face!
-- “Salt Lake City Sunday,” Fad Gadget

If Heaven ain’t a lot like Detroit
I just as soon stay home
If they ain’t got no Eight Mile
Like they do up in the D
Just send me to Hell or Salt Lake City
It would be about the same to me
-- “Heaven,” Uncle Kracker

I lost my sugar in Salt Lake City
Oh, why did I go there?
... I cried my heart out in Salt Lake City
The day I heard the news
She left me deep in my solitude
With the Salt Lake City blues
Salt Lake City is renowned for its beauty ...
There’s salt beds and farm lands producing
Alfalfa, green, sugar beats and vegetables in the vicinity
But as far as I’m concerned
I don’t care if I ever set foot there again in Salt Lake City
That town is a nemesis to me
-- “I Lost My Sugar in Salt Lake City,” Johnny Mercer (and others)

I hope she cheats on you with a basket ball playa
Hope that she Kim Kardashianed her way up.
Don’t know the difference between a touchdown and a lay-up
Got you on Viagra in order for you to stay up
I may sound bitter, I’m a little bitter
Just a little bitter because you were with her
I’m Salt Lake City now I’m on up out the picture.
Remember how it was when I was with ya.
-- “Hope She Cheats On You (With A Basketball Player),” Marsha Ambrosius

Mormons are everwhere
Battalions of bicycling bachelors
With dark suits
And well cropped hair
We’re Mormons too
Have been since ‘72 ...
I sip luke-warm Sprite from a tin can
Sold to me by a hunchback silly bastard old woman
A hundred miles back
Who is probably the only person with good sense
In this part of the country ...
I hear all these male voices
Telling me that black people are inferior
And it’s OK to have more than one wife
And as the dry dry breath of the Utah sun warms me
I stand before a statue of jesus that is far too big
And has held these folks hostage for so so long
And I gaze up at the nostrils of the sandstone savior
And wonder if it
Can smell all this bull____
Cause I sure can
And I’m only 5 years old
In salt lake city
In 1973
-- “Salt Lake City 1973,” Shawn Mullins

It was Brigham Young who led the pioneers across the plains.
They suffered with the trials they had to face.
With faith they kept on going till they reached the Great Salt Lake
Here they heard the words, ”This is the place”
Utah! With its focus on family,
Utah! Helps each child to succeed.
People care how they live.
Each has so much to give.
This is the place! ...
Utah! With its pioneer spirit.
Utah! What a great legacy!
Blessed from Heaven above.
It’s the land that we love.
This is the place”
— State Song of Utah, “This Is the Place,” Sam and Gary Francis

I got the picture, that you finally sent
I read your letter, and I know what you meant
That’s you and me, in Salt Lake City
You sure look pretty.
Wish we could go back again.
-- “Don’t Get So Down On Yourself,” Chris Isaak

In Salt Lake City, performin’ for Mormans
Out of they garments before the mornin’, I’m charmin’
— “Bout Ta’ Bubble,” Tech N9ne

Just arrived Singapore, San Sebastian, Spain, 26-hour trip
Salt Lake City, coming in spring
Over the salt flats, a hailstorm brought you back to me
-- “Departure,” R.E.M.

She drove west from Salt Lake City to the California coastline ...
She’s the salt of the earth
Straight from the bosom of the Mormon church
With a voice like wine
Cruising along in that Ford Econoline
Now her husband was a gambler, he was a Salt Lake City rambler
He built a golden cage around his silver-throated wife
Too many nights he left her crying with his cheating and his lying
But his big mistake was him buying her that Ford Econoline
-- “Ford Econoline,” Nanci Griffith

Back of the boat was painted wreckin’ ball
There was country music playing, but he don’t like it at all
And red fire poppin’ on the rained-down woody
His whiskey bottle spillin’ in a lake that’s made of salt
And look out Michael, there’s a note on the door
Saying, “Everybody listen, you’ll be the next Omaha”
Now, if you find yourself falling apart
Then I’m sure I could steer on The Great Salt Lake
-- “The Great Salt Lake,” Band of Horses

Well I’m going back to Utah
Utah is the place where I want to be
Utah, You tell me bout all the places that you
Wish you could see
Just give me my home, my girl, my friends, my family
Give me time to rest my mind, then we’ll have a party
-- “Utah,” The Osmonds

Reading the next resume
Raising his eyes up from the page
Showing no sign of surprise
Weren’t you the one I hurt?
Weren’t you the one that I betrayed?
Did you stay angry with me?
I forget you
I forget you
I forget Utah
-- “Utah,” John Linnell

I’m gonna hide away out beside that Utah Trail,
Moonlight as bright as day far out on that Utah trail.
There’s where I’ll settle down in peace where all is still,
In a little hut just built for two tucked away out in the hills.
There beneath the skies so blue in the golden summertime
Out where your friends are true and all nature is in rhyme.
Someone is waiting with a love that never fails
Waitin’ patiently to welcome me far out on that Utah Trail.
-- “Utah Trail,” Tex Ritter

He was the river boat gambler
He was the son of the chief of police
And old Joe
Did and said as he would
Took all the shopping carts from the mall
And took them to Utah
Which was Zion
He built an empire out of the desert
Out of the dust and the sand, just like Las Vegas
But he never took the rap that the Mafia did
And he thought the Indians were some lost 13 dudes
But he didn’t treat them any better
And they were never on his side ...
And old Joe had 13 beady-eyed babies
One of whom I used to go to school with
He’d drive his car at a 110 down the alley way
Throwing cinder blocks at trash cans
And I declare on this occasion
I’ve never seen this heaven or this place any differently
But now and then I dream of the flying saucers and they’re coming to take us away
-- “The History of Utah,” Camper Van Beethoven

If not for you
I’d never could have ever got this far
Yeah, you helped me grow
And I owe you more than you’ll ever know
And from the days at the Terrace Ballroom
Well, me made it up to Symphony Hall
I played my songs and you sang along
And man, we really had a ball
And you brought your little children
And I’ve seen ‘em all grow tall
Yeah, I watched you grow
And I owe you more than you’ll ever know that’s right
And all the wild and woolly cowboys
Dancin’ and yellin’ for more
Your hats and suites an cowboy boots
Stompin’ on a hardwood floor
And you waltzed those Utah ladies
Beneath the spotlight glow
-- “Utah Tribute,” Chris LeDoux

Red rock highway bakin’ in the sun
The police of the Beehive State, yeah their work is never done
I look in the mirror and see the flash of red and blue ...
I see the mustache, the badge
Yeah the pistol, the pen
He sees a guy like me to blame for the mess this country’s in
I know he’ll tell his wife tonight he made the world a safer place
I’m busted in Utah, the red rock desert sun
We’ve got the guitars, but they’ve got the guns
So we’re sitting by the side of the road because I broke the law
Best laid plans slipped right through your hands
I’m busted in Utah, busted in Utah, busted in Utah
I’m busted in Utah ...
So bluegrass bands with big plans and a psychedelic GMC
Should know that Utah is the longest way from point A to point B
There’s a whole lot of Jell-O and a lot of trampolines
-- “Busted in Utah,” Hot Buttered Rum

How green are the valleys, how tall are the trees
How cool are the rivers, how soft is the breeze
If it’s just like my dreams then I must go and see
For the Red Hills of Utah are calling me
So long I have waited since I was a child
Merely the thought keeps my heart running wild
I’ve waited so long now it’s hard to believe
The Red Hills of Utah at last I will see
-- “Red Hills of Utah,” Marty Robbins

I’ve been everywhere, man.
I’ve been everywhere, man.
Crossed the desert’s bare, man.
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I’ve had my share, man.
I’ve been everywhere.
I’ve been to Pittsburgh, Parkersburg, Gravelbourg, Colorado ...
Sioux City, Cedar City, Dodge City, what a pity.
-- “I’ve Been Everywhere,” Johnny Cash

When I was young my dad,
Would treat my mom real bad,
every time the Utah Jazz would lose.
He\’d start a’ drinking,
and I’d start a thinking,
How am I gonna keep my mom from getting abused?
-- “Turn It Off,” from musical “The Book of Mormon”

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you or me
Says I, “But Joe, you’re ten years dead,”
“I never died,” says he.
“I never died,” says he.
“In Salt Lake, Joe,” says I to him,
Him standing by my bed,
“They framed you on a murder charge,”
Says Joe, “But I ain’t dead,”
Says Joe, “But I ain’t dead.”
“The copper bosses killed you, Joe,
They shot you, Joe,” says I.
“Takes more than guns to kill a man,”
-- “Joe Hill,” Alfred Hayes and Earl Robinson