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Features Relays Edition

Artists show their love for Iowa through song

Photo: Sarah Laughlin

We all know Chicago is Frank Sinatra’s kind of town and “there’s nothing you can’t do” in New York City, but for the most part, the flyover states are lacking on musical love. There aren’t many ballads about Boise or hip-hop beats praising North Dakota. But, for some reason there are a plethora of songs about Iowa — and surprisingly, Des Moines. So sit back, relax and assail your ears with 10 eclectic songs about Iowa.

1. “Iowa” by John Linnell

Better known for his comedic rock songwriting under the guise of They Might Be Giants, Linnell released an album in 1999 called “State Songs.” Though Linnell doesn’t feature all 50 states, Iowa makes the cut with a track that is a little bit electronica, a little bit word jazz and possibly the catchiest (and most comical) chorus ever: “Iowa is a witch, she’s a witch.”

2. “Iowa” by Slipknot

It’s no shock that fans are surprised to learn that this heavy metal ’90s group hails from the great state of Iowa. In fact, members of the band can be spotted around Des Moines, and the band has stated that they often derive inspiration from their home state. This almost 15 minute long track comes from the band’s similarly titled 2001 sophomore album. Expect the usual heavy metal vibe but prepare for a view of Iowa that is not often seen.

3. “The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines” by Joni Mitchell

Though dry cleaning is typically not a “sexy” profession, Mitchell’s crooning jazz standard recounts an encounter with a charmer from Iowa’s capital. The track is featured on her tenth studio album, “Mingus,” which was dedicated to and recorded with jazz musician Charles Mingus in the months before his death.

4. “Interstate 80 Iowa” by Heywood Banks

While this 45-second song might not be a musical accomplishment, it’s one of the most geographically accurate ditties out there about Iowa. Artist Heywood Banks is a comedian, musician and songwriter, among other things, who brought us other cultural gems like “Toast.” Some Iowans may find it offensive that the most used word in Banks’ song is corn.

5. “It Sure Can Get Cold in Des Moines” by Tom T. Hall

Everyone knows that February in Des Moines can be brutal. When temperatures plummet and snow swirls in menacing drifts, there is nothing less appealing than heading outdoors. The traditional twang of this song combines harmonic guitar and the sharp tones of the harmonica to transport any listener back to what Des Moines might have been like decades ago.

6. “Dez Moines” by The Devil Wears Prada

So the spelling is a little creative, but this song still warrants recognition. Recorded by the Christian metalcore band, The Devil Wears Prada, the track has very little to do with Iowa’s capital lyrically. The Ohio band gained acclaim through an appearance at Warped Tour as well as the inclusion of “Dez Moines” in the videogame Guitar Hero World Tour.

7. “Iowa” by Dar Williams

In a country ballad style, Dar Williams works to disprove the myth that Iowa, as one of the Midwestern flyover states, is flat. Her heartbroken lyrics call wistfully for the hills of Iowa, which do, in fact, exist — just ask anyone who has ever done RAGBRAI.

8. “The Iowa Indian Song” by Bing Crosby

Mimicking the tones of “traditional” tribal chants, Bing Crosby uses his bygone charm and crooning style to show the Heartland some love. And, obviously, the lyrics focus largely on corn.

9. “The Iowa Song” by Josh Connor

Country singer Josh Connor grew up in Iowa and though he no longer lives in the Hawkeye state, the artist finds it important to return to his roots. What could be better than Iowa? “It’s peace and love and corn.”

10. Iowa Beef Experience

Even though this is not a particular song, a band bold enough to call itself the Iowa Beef Experience cannot be ignored. While the 1986 Iowa City based band is now defunct, the garage punk band recorded three albums in their seven-year career.


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