Top ten country songs about farming -- ahead of Farm Aid this weekend
Photo courtesy of farmaid.org
David Allan Coe famously said that the perfect country and western song requires the following five components: Mama, trains, trucks, prison, and gettin' drunk. With all due respect to Mr. Coe, one subject seems absent: farmin'. Farming has been a part of country music since -- well, we guess the two pretty much have always gone hand-in-hand, huh?
In 1985, Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young organized the first Farm Aid benefit concert in Champaign, Illinois, inspired in part by Bob Dylan's comments at the earlier Live Aid benefit that he'd hoped some of the money raised could go to Americans in danger of losing their farms to foreclosure. Farm Aid has raised over $40 million to date to foster a family farm system of agriculture. This year's event is being held on Saturday in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and features organizers Nelson, Mellencamp, Young and Dave Matthews, along with Kenny Chesney, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Jamey Johnson, and more.
In Farm Aid's honor, here are ten country songs that pay respect to farming. Don't be scared -- we left John Denver out of this one... though another John D. does show up once or twice.
10. Alabama - "Song of the South"
Country greats Alabama played the first two Farm Aid concerts back in '85 and '86, though their ode to a bygone era of farming wasn't released until late 1988.
"Well somebody told us Wall Street fell, but we were so poor that we couldn't tell. Cotton was short and the weeds were tall, but Mr. Roosevelt's was gonna save us all."
9. Cadillac Ranch - Chris LeDoux
Alabama's failed farm family moves to town, gets a job and buys a warshin' machine. Chris LeDoux's on the other hand? They become slightly more entrepreneurial. We like where this one ends up because seriously... who wants to pitch hay when they can get drunk in the barn?
"There's a bar in the barn and the place stays packed 'til the cows come home at the Cadillac Ranch."
8. Tom T. Hall - "Who's Gonna Feed Them Hogs"
Hog farmin' ain't easy, and Tom T. Hall asks an age-old question.
"Four hundred hogs, they just standin' out there. My wife can't feed 'em and my neighbors don't care. They can't get out and roam around like my old huntin' dogs. Here I am in this dang bed and who's gonna feed them hogs?"
7. Travis Tritt - "Where Corn Don't Grow"
Waylon Jennings first recorded this song in 1990, but Travis Tritt had a Top Ten hit with his version in 1996. The moral of the song's story? City life sucks.
"I think it kinda hurt him when I said, 'Daddy, there's a lot that I don't know. But don't you ever dream about a life where corn don't grow?'"
6. Hank Williams, Jr. - "A Country Boy Can Survive"
Bocephus continues the "City life sucks" sentiment, but in his typically jingoistic style.
"Because you can't starve us out and you cant makes us run, 'cause we're them old boys raised on shotgun. And we say grace and we say 'Ma'am' and if you ain't into that we don't give a damn."
5. Blake Shelton - "Country Strong"
And once again, a country singer exalts country livin', albeit in a slightly more cheerful manner than does Bocephus.
"CAT Diesel Power cap pulled down low, makin' that bacon, row by row. Can't get them muscles at the YMCA, it's from choppin' cotton, cuttin' corn and slingin' that hay. Been heavy liftin' since the crack of dawn, no doubt about it that boy's country strong."
4. Joe Diffie - "John Deere Green"
An ode to a girl... and a tractor: Part I.
"In John Deere green, on a hot summer night, he wrote 'Billy Bob loves Charlene' in letters three foot high. And the whole town said the boy should have used red, but it looked good to Charlene in John Deere green."
3. Jason Aldean - Big Green Tractor
An ode to a girl... and a tractor: Part II.
"I can take you for a ride on my big green tractor. We can go slow or make it go faster. Down through the woods and out to the pasture. 'Long as I'm with you it really don't matter."
2. Johnnie Lee Wills - "Milk Cow Blues"
This blues song's become a western swing standard, and has since been covered by everyone from Cliff Bruner and the Texas Wanderers, Doc Watson and George Strait to Elvis, Willie and Johnnie Lee Wills, little brother to Bob.
"If you see my milk cow, please, drive her on home. 'Cause I ain't had no milk and butter since my cow's been gone."
1. Maggie's Farm - Bob Dylan & Co.
Seeing Bob Dylan perform with Willie Nelson and Tom Petty at the inaugural Farm Aid back in 1985? Yeah, that woulda been okay, we guess.
"No, I aint gonna work on Maggie's farm no more. Well, I wake up in the morning, fold my hands and pray for rain. I got a head full of ideas that are drivin' me insane."
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.