There are songs about Indiana and then there are songs about Indiana you’d feel proud to play for friends, guests, or family. Use this list for a touch of home.
Songs about Indiana
On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away
“On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away” is the state’s song and might not be your first choice for a night out on the dance floor. But despite its age (it was written in 1897 when Indiana was 81 years old), it makes for a lovely instrumental tune as part of a string quartet.
Still, it’s not hard to imagine a destination wedding playing this to remind everyone of home.
Back Home Again in Indiana
Speaking of home, “Back Home Again in Indiana” might as well be the state’s unofficial anthem. Performed for over 25 years at the Indianapolis 500 by Jim Nabors and recently by Straight no Chaser, you’d be excused for thinking it was the state’s official song.
Like its official brethren, this song doesn’t inspire much excitement on the dance floor. But it can be a beautiful instrumental rendition with a string quartet or brassy set of horns, like how Louis Armstrong performed it:
“Indiana Christmas” by Straight No Chaser
Speaking of the Bloomington acapella performance group, Straight No Chaser’s albums of soft instrumentals, vocals, and other title tracks make for a slew of hidden gems to play at a wedding’s first dance.
As one holiday anthem, their rendition of “Indiana Christmas” fits in nicely.
“I’m Going Back to Indiana” by Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5
A young Michael Jackson talks about his time growing up in Gary. It’s got a solid ’70s vibe to it that doesn’t feel dated, even today.
“Small Town” by John Mellencamp
No list would be complete without this Mellencamp favorite. Written about Mellencamp’s time growing up in the southern Indiana town of Seymour, it makes for a great casual song to play at the openings or closing of events.
The music video features a brief flash of Bobby Knight, too:
“Indiana” by John McLaughlin
Hoosier native Jon McLaughlin performs this brooding vocal tune with a piano and it makes for a subtle bit of instrumental background to any event or playlist.
“Indiana” by Melissa Etheridge
Sharing the same name as another contender, this one is also beautifully performed vocally or instrumentally with one or a few instruments.
Songs that mention Indiana
“Mary Jane’s Last Dance” by Tom Petty
Part of what inspired this list is the obvious need to include what may be the most popular of all Indiana songs in forty years. Despite its obvious overtone about marijuana and not really being about the state, “she grew up tall and she grew up right. With them Indiana boys on them Indiana nights” is a small town anthem everyone can get behind.
“Indiana Wants Me” by R. Dean Taylor
Evidently, Mr. Dean Taylor is wanted by the cops in this 70s performance. In it, he sings “Indiana wants me, Lord, I can’t go back there.” Why not is anyone’s guess.
Artists with an Indiana connection
A lot of these artists may have shed some of their Hoosier state ties, but these artists have produced some of the best music and performances in the last fifty years.
David Lee Roth and Van Halen
Born in Bloomington, the Van Halen frontman’s music is instantly recognizable from “Hot For Teacher” to “Everybody Wants Some”.
The Guns N’ Roses lead is from Lafayette and any of Guns N’ Roses songs, like “Paradise City”, “Sweet Child o’ Mine”, and “Welcome to the Jungle” make for a fun night on the dance floor.
Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds
Anyone driving on the highway near Downtown Indianapolis has seen the sign commemorating the south split in Edmunds’ name. The 12-time Grammy Award winner and music producer from Indianapolis has written over 50 top 10 pop and R&B hits.
“Every Time I Close my Eyes” makes for a beautiful slow dance song or instrumental version.
Who even remembers the winner of American Idol’s 8th season. The runner-up that year, however, was Adam Lambert. Born in Indianapolis despite claiming to be from Hollywood, he has gone on to become the frontman for Queen.
No one can replace Freddie Mercury, but Lambert’s performances are unique and fitting for the legendary rock and roll band: