Our Favorite Oregon Songs

Charting a lyrical map of the musicians who've been inspired by our state since 1960.

By Emma Mannheimer October 5, 2015

This summer, ambitious folkster Sufjan Stevens gifted us Carrie & Lowell, a beautifully elegiac album that recalls the summer trips to Oregon that Stevens made as a child with his mother, stepfather, and brother. Beaver State references abound, from Eugene to the Tillamook Burn to Spencer Butte, and the album even sparked a trend of tracking down all of the Oregon sites mentioned throughout. But Stevens isn’t the first to express his pride in the geographical offerings of our state in lyrics. We’ve compiled a gallery of some folks who had the same idea—and we even made a playlist for you! (Scroll to the bottom.) 

But of course, our list is just a start—who'd we miss?

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Lumberjack” by Johnny Cash, 1960

I lived on a farm out in Iowa
I pulled the corn and I worked in the hay
Got trapped by a girl but I wiggled free
Heard the Oregon timber callin’ me

An unlikely candidate for the audio manual on logging, Cash lends his vocals here to a song penned by Leon Payne. The tune evokes Oregon’s logging past—and from its toe-tapping melody, one can assume it played to plenty of hoedowns.

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“Eugene Oregon” by Dolly Parton, 1972

Eugene, Oregon, I’ll remember you for the rest of my life
And I won’t forget how good you were to me
Oh an’ I won’t be forgettin’ all the kindness that you show
To a homesick country girl a long, long way from Tennessee

Dolly gives Eugene a sweet and twangy anthem, recalling Oregon’s second largest city in her younger days. If the proclaimed Queen of Country remembers Eugene for the rest of her life, they’re doing something right down yonder.

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“Pastures of Plenty” by Woody Guthrie, 1988

California, Arizona, I harvest your crops
Well its North up to Oregon to gather your hops
Dig the beets from your ground, cut the grapes from your vine
To set on your table your light sparkling wine

Woah woah, talk about pioneer! Guthrie was into farm-to-table long before anybody knew the word “gluten.” His Columbia River Collection is a 17-track album devoted to the River of the West that snakes its way along Oregon’s northern border.

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Image: Aubrey Garner

“Twin Rocks Oregon” by Shawn Mullins, 1998

Yeah, I pulled off here
To watch the sun disappear into the ocean
‘Cause it’s been years
Since I smelled this salty sea

Mullins gives Oregon’s famed coast a “stop and smell the roses moment” in a nomadic exchange that makes us all want to abandon our jobs and wander aimlessly about the rocky coastline.

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“Mt. St. Helens” by Mirah, 2002

The mountain stood so large
We were humbled
We walked a high and lonely path

Sure, Mount St. Helens is technically in Washington—but we basically claim it for Oregon. One-time Portland dweller Mirah sings woefully of a relationship that proved just as destructive as the volcano’s 1980 eruption. 

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“So Long, Astoria” by the Ataris, 2003

So long Astoria
I found a map to buried treasure
and even if we come home empty handed
we’ll still have our stories

Pop punkers united over the Ataris’ 2003 release that paid homage to the 1985 cult film The Goonies. Your childhood may be gone, but Astoria lives on!

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“Oregon Girl” by Someone Still Love You Boris Yeltsin, 2006

Oregon girl- I’ve been around the world
but I’ve never seen another Oregon girl
Oregon girl- with your lips and your curls
I want a taste of that Oregon girl

If only we could get some clarity on the identity of this ‘Oregon Girl’… 

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“Portland, Oregon” by Loretta Lynn and Jack White, 2004

Well Portland, Oregon and sloe gin fizz
If that ain’t love then tell me what is
Well I lost my heart it didn’t take no time
But that ain’t all I lost my mind in Oregon

Donning her customary prom dress attire, Lynn casts sly sideways smiles at a young White as the two put into lyrics a sentiment (and perhaps, an evening) many Oregonians know well.

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