One of the top three topics for song content and also a prominent idea for a great number of movies. There is something about “going home.” There are hundreds to choose from, and everyone would choose a different selection of their Top Songs About Home.
Whether we are actually at home or away from it, this sentiment always strikes a chord. And we can relate in one way or another to most of the scenarios the songs are written in.
So, I decided to select some of my favorite songs about home. But some of them look at the subject differently. Let’s start by being rather conventional with the first choice, with something everyone will know.
From his album “Poems, Prayers & Promises” was a song written mostly by husband and wife Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert. Originally composed for Johnny Cash, it ended up with John Denver, and he finished it off, adding his inimitable style and vocal.
He also changed the lyrics, which originally weren’t “West Virginia” but “Massachusetts.” I think he did the right thing there. A monster success for a singer who at the time was having great success. He modeled himself as the “home-lovin” country boy with his songs. An image that appealed to America if not so much elsewhere.
Not personally being a Country Music fan doesn’t matter; it still has enormous appeal. And if you want one of the best songs about going home, this is at the top of the list. Great song and a great performance from an artist sadly missed.
On to a masterpiece from one of the great writers of our time. I know a little bit of personal information about this, but that’s another story. It was written by Paul Simon while he was waiting for a train. Going back to London from a small town in Lancashire, England.
Today there is a plaque on the wall at Widnes Station that marks the event. It is quite a surreal tourist attraction. It was stolen once and had to be replaced. At first thought, this hardly seems likely, but true it is.
Paul adds his natural sincerity to a wonderfully crafted song. If you have ever heard him sit down and play it with just a guitar and nothing else, you will know.
Why was he in the UK?
Having made the first split from Art Garfunkel, he wanted to try the folk clubs in the UK. He loved England and met a girl named Kathy (yes, the one of “Kathys’ Song” and “America” fame). As his success grew in the UK, she, being shy, couldn’t cope. They drifted apart.
“Homeward Bound” was an extension of his loss at the time. Very few could do that as he could. A great number of his early famous songs came from this period, but once again, that is another story. “Homeward Bound” stands as a reminder of that period. A “musical plaque” if you like.
So while we are talking about the UK, let’s stay over there. Madness was an interesting band, to say the least. For the first two albums, people couldn’t get to grips with whether it was serious or not. They had this playful, tongue-in-cheek feel about them and an act that was hardly serious at all.
This was a shame as it played down the fact they were good musicians and the songs were good. Written by bass player Carl Smyth and guitarist Christopher Foreman it had a sting in the tale about home. It was the story of Carl’s early life in North London.
It all sounds very jolly, and isn’t it nice to be here. But he leads you on a bit until the killer line at the end, “Something tells you that you’ve got to get away from it.” A very clever representation of what many teenage kids feel about home sometimes.
So the last song was about wanting to leave home. Let’s have one that talks about leaving it and coming back. This song at the time brought Tom Jones international recognition. This archetypal coming home song, in many ways, proved a huge success for him. You could say that it was the launching pad for a career that still, in 2021, goes on.
First recorded by John Darrell in 1965, it was also covered by Jerry Lee Lewis before Tom Jones got hold of it. It has a very country music feel to it, but the Welshman’s voice was anything but country. More like a soul singer, which was his great love, of course.
This was a contentious song at the time written to defend the State of Alabama. This itself is interesting because many people associate Lynyrd Skynyrd with Alabama because of that. They were actually from Florida.
Nevertheless, it was written in response to Neil Young and his song “Southern Man.” Neil’s song spoke in rather unflattering terms about the South and its history and record on slavery. What Neil said in the song was quite true, of course. The boys from Florida took umbrage, rose to the bait, and wrote and released “Sweet Home Alabama.”
More than just a song
It was always a bit more than a spat between a great singer-songwriter and a great band. It also deals with perceptions on the racial problems “down South.” The Governor of Birmingham, Alabama, gets it in the neck as well with the lyric comment, “does your conscience bother you?”
Despite all the tension and the dramas, it remains a classic from the period. Great song and another great band, some of which we lost too early.
Let’s leave all the history lessons behind and go back across the water. Let’s visit the catalog of the greatest and most influential band there ever was or will be. And let’s take a track from one of their masterpieces, Sergeant Pepper.
For a change, this was a song written by both Lennon and McCartney. Lennon provided the chorus and McCartney the verse. George and Ringo weren’t on the recording, and the strings were arranged by Mike Leander. It’s a true story based on a 17-year-old girl who ran away from home to be with her older boyfriend.
Another one of those Beatles songs that fully demonstrate their genius. It pulls together the girl’s emotions, “stepping outside she is free” and the parents “our baby’s gone.” And then the killer line, “she’s leaving home after living alone.” You are left to decide who is right and who is wrong. Great lyrics with a beautiful tune with sympathetic strings.
Let’s take one more from the boys, this one with a story you could write a book about. McCartney wrote it in Scotland and originally thought it would suit Ray Charles. Tom Jones was offered it but declined, so McCartney did it himself in Abbey Road in early January 1969.
McCartney played piano, Lennon played bass to start with. George was on guitar with Billy Preston on extra keyboards and a couple of session musicians wading in on overdubs. It was produced by Glyn Johns, who McCartney asked to produce. At this time, Paul was not speaking to John and George.
John handed it over to Phil Spector to produce without Paul knowing. Spector applied his overdubs in London. But his behavior, abuse of substances, and his general state of mind caused the extra musicians to walk out. It all ended up in court, which is another story.
So what is the song about?
That seems to be a closely guarded secret. Many opinions have been forwarded and conflicting stories even by McCartney himself. Is the “Long and Winding Road” metaphorical or a vision of something Paul was aware of. We will probably never really know.
In late 1968, John started negotiations to buy a new house. Sometime in early 1969, John finally got his mansion called Tittenhurst Park in Ascot. Have you seen the length of the driveway? A great song, sometimes not fully appreciated by Beatles fans. Nevertheless, something special and certainly one of the top songs about home.
Written by Sam Cooke, he released it first in 1962. It was then covered by UK band the Animals in 1965 as a tribute to Cooke, who had recently died. Sam Cooke was one of the original soul singers, if you can put it that way. Eric Burdon’s vocals added a Blues feel to it.
This was a great song at the time, and listening back is as good as it was. Boy missing girl. An age-old story but one beautifully portrayed here with Cooke’s lyrics and Burdon’s vocals.
Incidentally, it was the last recording that was made with Alan Price on keyboards. He left the band before their 1966 American tour, not wanting to fly.
Leave London and cross the English Channel. Follow the E40 motorway through France and Belgium, and six hours later, you arrive in Amsterdam. On the way up to the capital, you pass through The Hague, home of Golden Earring.
If you haven’t heard this band, then you’ve missed out. Formed before the Beatles, these guys are still at it and still better than half of what is around today.
A different kind of song about going home
This was a song about a boy on his CB radio heading home, “his hands wet on the wheel.” Driving through the night, it was ‘”half-past four, and I’m shifting gear.” Not your classic love song, just someone in a desperate hurry to get home.
Driven on by a ferocious rhythm from a great drummer, this one rocks along. Great guitar riffs and a powerful vocal. What else do you need?
A song that has had many interpretations of its meaning. But it isn’t that complex. It is about a soldier who served in the Vietnam war returning home and not wanting to be reminded about it. This is one of the saddest songs about home when you think about it.
He became disillusioned with life in America and left to go to Spain, where he knew he’d be happy. The final verse was cut from the original recording without an explanation. The lyrics are now lost.
It is a different sort of song in that the man went home and then knew he had to find another place to call home. Perhaps making a representation that our home, wherever it is, is all we need. One of the best songs to come out of the Elton John/Bernie Taupin collaboration.
Formed in London in 1970, Supertramp was one of the most underrated bands of the 70s and 80s. They produced brilliant work, and this track is a good example.
The music was always good, but it was the lyrics that often elevated their work to a higher level. This song is about a man taking the long way home, so he doesn’t have to spend time with his wife. This is because she thinks he’s “part of the furniture.”
But there’s a secondary, deeper meaning to this song. It is that we are all seeking our home. A place where we are comfortable. And wherever that is is nothing to do with geography or xenophobia. It is about where we are almost happy. Quite right.
This song was given the name of Green River but is all about a holiday venue in California. This was a song that John Fogerty wrote about looking forward to going back. It wasn’t necessarily back to his home. It was just a place he loved to go every year on holiday with his family.
The way it was produced gave it a Bayou, Southern country-rock feel. Something that Creedence encouraged in the years of playing together. They were actually from San Francisco. A good song with a nice sentiment. It shows you can still write love songs about a place, and they don’t have to be slow.
Time for a bit more personal nostalgia now. The first time I heard Carole King’s Tapestry, I had to sit down. I had never heard an album that had such an amazing feel to it. And this song was at the head of the queue.
Beautifully crafted, it creates the emotion and the longing of wanting to be home. Still has the same effect on me today. Carole King at her finest.
Back in the early 70s, I worked at nightclubs in the Northeast of England and lived in Durham. It was a very special 18 months for me in many ways. This song was the last song I played before I left to go home to London.
I have never forgotten it or the emotion it created in me that night. And while I vowed to go back one day to that beautiful city with its castle and river, I never did.
The song was written by Roger Whittaker and is a love song for the Northeast rather than just Durham. Is there a better song about leaving a place and feeling love for it? I haven’t heard of it, if there is.
The Notting Hillbillies were a band formed by Mark Knopfler to explore some “pseudo-country rock” music ideas he had. They released one album, Missing…Presumed Having a Good Time, which is where this track comes from.
It is one of those songs that just stops you in its tracks. There have been some great guitar solos over the years that have brought people to tears. Top of my list is Dave Gilmour at the close of “Comfortably Numb.” But this is easily second. Kopfler at his sentimental best ripping your heart out.
It has a near gospel-type message to the lyrics if you want to interpret it that way. A man bemoaning his fate who has just given up on life and wants to go home. Great vocals, great guitar, leaving the best to last on this list, but there is still one to go.
Let’s stay with the man. This was an instrumental song that was part of the soundtrack to the film “Local Hero.” It was Knopfler’s first attempt at a film soundtrack and established him as a writer at a higher level.
This particular song has been played and recorded both slow and fast. But it has that certain something that is both happy and poignant at the same time. A fitting end to our look at the top songs about home.
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Top Songs About Home – Final Thoughts
Well, there you have it. Those are my songs about home I feel need proper recognition. They may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they are all great examples of how a single topic can have many interpretations.
Until next time, let the music play.