A Lyrical Journey Through Mississippi

Mississippi is home to a wide variety of musical landmarks and stories that have inspired countless songs, capturing the essence of the state’s rich cultural heritage and storied past. From soulful blues to rock anthems, the state’s influence resonates in the lyrics and melodies of artists across genres. Let’s explore the places in Mississippi that have been immortalized in song, shedding light on the unique sounds that make this state a true musical treasure.

Starkville City Jail – Johnny Cash

“Starkville City Jail” by Johnny Cash captures a unique moment in the legendary singer’s life, his arrest in Starkville for picking flowers (and, according to police records, public intoxication). The song reflects Cash’s rebellious spirit and knack for turning personal stories into compelling music. With its raw lyrics and simple melody, “Starkville City Jail” offers listeners a glimpse into a small, but musically significant, event in the singer’s storied life and career. In 2007, the city of Starkville symbolically pardoned the singer. And, in 2021, a Mississippi Country Music Trail marker was unveiled at the site.

Mississippi Queen – Mountain

“Mississippi Queen” by Mountain is a powerful rock anthem that tells the story of a chance encounter (presumably a romantic one) with a Cajun lady on the Mississippi Queen riverboat in Vicksburg. With its powerful guitar riffs and strong vocals, it’s no surprise that the song is considered one of the top classic rock songs of all time.

Uptown Funk – Bruno Mars

“Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson is a lively, funky track with an irresistible groove. The rhythmic hooks give the song a party vibe, but the lyrics are no less masterful, especially when Mars gives a shoutout to Jackson, Mississippi, a fact that has endeared the song to local fans. Smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy, indeed.

Jackson, Mississippi – Kid Rock

Kid Rock’s hard-hitting rock track embodies the intensity and rebellious spirit of the South. The lyrics are on the dark side, for sure, but we’d like to think that everything worked out just fine for the song’s troubled protagonist in the end. It’s likely that Kid Rock, a Detroit native, was thinking about the Mississippi River when he penned the lyrics. But, Jackson, is indeed a river city, thanks our location on the banks of the mighty Pearl.

Ode to Billie Joe – Bobbie Gentry

The Grammy-winning “Ode to Billie Joe” by Bobbie Gentry is set in the Mississippi Delta city of Greenwood. It tells the sad (but fictional) story of Billie Joe McAllister who died following a jump off the Tallahatchie Bridge. The song explores his family’s indifferent reaction to the news of his death, adding to the mystery of the narrative. The Tallahatchie Bridge is, in reality, only 20 feet off the water. Nonetheless, people were so inspired by the song that a local law was enacted to impose a $100 fine on anyone caught jumping off the bridge.

Tishomingo Blues – Spencer Williams

“Tishomingo Blues” by Spencer Williams is a classic jazz and blues song that captures the spirit of early 20th-century music. Named after Tishomingo, Mississippi, the original version had lyrics about longing to return to Tishomingo, offering a heartfelt homage to the area. A well-known rendition of the song appears on the soundtrack to the film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” which was filmed in Mississippi.

Walking in Memphis – Marc Cohn

Marc Cohn’s soulful anthem “Walking in Memphis” takes listeners through the vibrant scenes of a musician’s journey to find inspiration. The song’s real-life backstory took Cohn from Memphis to Tunica Mississippi, where he was transfixed by a local singer’s performance at the Hollywood Café, a local landmark mentioned in the song lyrics. “Walking in Memphis” beautifully captures the region’s musical and cultural importance to musicians around the world.

Mississippi Girl – Faith Hill

In “Mississippi Girl,” Faith Hill celebrates her Mississippi roots and the pride she has for her home state. The lyrics reflect Hill’s journey from her small-town beginnings in Star, Mississippi, to her emergence as a country music superstar. The song, which topped the country charts for two weeks in 2005, emphasizes the importance of staying true to yourself and never forgetting where you come from. It’s a message that captures Mississippi’s down-to-earth and welcoming spirit.

The Pascagoula Run – Jimmy Buffet

“Pascagoula Run” by Jimmy Buffett paints a vivid picture of a particular episode the singer experienced in his childhood home of Pascagoula. The song recounts Buffett’s wild adventures with his Uncle Billy, driving along Highway 90 in a red Jaguar convertible and visiting various honky-tonk bars. Visitors to Pascagoula can check out Buffet’s commemorative plaque on Highway 90 and spend some time at Buffett Beach, a public beach renamed in honor of the singer in 2017. For the true Parrot Head experience, be sure to stay a night or two in Biloxi at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville Resort.

Contact Visit Mississippi for More Travel Tips

No matter what part of the state you explore, you’re sure to leave inspired, musically or otherwise. Not sure where to begin? Download our tour guide to start planning your musical adventure today.