A small state of inspiration is a dangerous thing.

Image source: David Maiolo/Wikimedia.
Music has as many meanings as there are emotions. It can be celebratory or mournful, spiritual or lascivious, angry or soothing. But when the subject is Rhode Island, the emotions involved seem to run to humor and sentimentality. Join us now as we explore the cheesy world of songs about Rhode Island. Did we miss one? Drop us a line at stuffie@quahog.org.

Rhode Island in the Limelight: Music, N-Q
Rhode Island in the Limelight: Music, R
Rhode Island in the Limelight: Music, S-Z

"Ann and Hope Waltz"
by Mary Lee Parington

Performed by Pendragon as part of a medley on their 2005 CD Artistic License.

"The Ballad of Anne Hutchinson"
by Jacob Haller

From his 2011 album Circumstantial Evidence. The "Ballad of John Henry"-style song tells the story of Anne Hutchinson's fight against religious persecution.

Listen here.

"The Ballad of the Gaspee Affair"
by Robert Archetto

Composed by Robert Archetto in 1972; recorded in 1975 in commemoration of Rhode Island's 350th year. The Lyrics tell the story of one of the first acts of rebellion by American Colonists against the British Empire.

Click image to see bigger.

"Blackstone Valley"
by Plainfolk

From the 2006 CD, Past Due.

"Blackstone Valley" is the unofficial anthem of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor. You can download it for free (as of June 2015) from the Plainfolk Music Showcase on the Plainfolk website.

"Block Island Days"
by Rob Raroux

From the 2006 CD Block Island Days.

"Block Island Ferry Jingle"

"Bombardment of Bristol, Rhode Island"
by Sam Hinton

From the 1999 album Library of Congress Recordings, March 25, 1947.

"This ballad tells the story of the first bombardment of Bristol, Rhode Island by the British on October 7, 1775, during the American Revolution."

"Buddy Cianci"
by Zumo Kollie

Anti(?)-Buddy-for-Mayor song from 2014. Note: contains explicit lyrics.

"If you're feelin' unlucky, vote for Buddy."

"Can't Stop The Feeling... School Is Closed!"
by Matt Glendinning

Moses Brown School head Matt Glendinning announces a snow day with his 2017 parody cover of Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop The Feeling." This is Glendinning's third snow day song.

"Chafee Come Back"
by Billy Mitchell

A parody to the tune of 1977's "Baby Come Back" by Player, lamenting a perceived lack of quality between the Rhode Island gubernatorial terms of Lincoln Chaffee (2011-'15) and Gina Raimondo (2015-'19).

"Chooch to Gooch: The Ten Steps of Disco Dancin'"
by Bobby Braciola

Not a lot of Rhode Island references in this song (unless you count all the fabulous gooch-ness), but plenty in the video.

"Clay Head"
by Atwater-Donnelly

From the 2006 CD Block Island Days.

Clay Head is a high bulge of land on the northeast side of Block Island. It's a popular spot for walkers, bird watchers, and other nature lovers. Sample lyric:

As I walked the Clay Head Trail
One fair and early morn,
The colors splashed inside my soul,
My heart she was reborn,
My heart she was reborn.

"Cranston Sinner"
by the Blackstone Valley Sinners

From the 2002 CD It's a Sin.

"Crescent Park"
by Phil Medeira

From the 2018 album Providence.

Phil had this to say about the track:

Crescent Park, an old school amusement park, was literally a half mile from my house, as the crow flies. It was a much further walk, because the crow would be flying across a body of water called Bullock's Cove. Riverside was the town across the tracks, which all of us in Barrington considered beneath us. Barrington was the upper crust town with secrets and sorrow just beneath the surface. Of course, my dad was a pastor there, so we weren't well to do; we just lived there.

The pull of a forbidden place is as old as time itself, whether it's a tree in the Garden of Eden or Pleasure Island for Pinocchio. Crescent Park was the closest amusement park to Barrington, yet we usually went to Lincoln Park in Dartmouth, 45 minutes away. I don't know why. They had the better roller coaster, I guess.

One day, a neighbor boy named Richard and I snuck off to the park, and as the song says, experienced the rides, deep fried food, cigarettes, and nausea. Our parents never knew until I confessed to my mother. I was never good at keeping my own secrets—yours, yes; mine, no. Being a preacher's kid meant you had verses swimming around your head like "Your sin will find you out," so I would just cut to the chase and bare all.

Years later, I was home from college for a summer and wound up working at the park. Their "Comet" roller coaster was just a skeleton, out of service, and the next scary thing was the "Flying Fish," which I was in charge of. It was a small roller coaster with individual cars that looked like fish. (There's a sketch of a car in the lyric booklet of the record.)

It was a three person operation: one to get people seated and start their ride, and two brakemen—one for each of the hairpin turns the cars would careen through. The park was failing and that meant that I was the only person running the ride. I would start the ride, then run to the first brake, and then to the second.

Sometimes things were so slow that I would forget that I'd put a person on the ride, and they would be on the most terrifying ride of their life. No brakes! They would come crashing to the end of the ride, and I'm amazed no one ever got a bloody nose due to my slothfulness. I would be reading a book (I believe that summer it was a CS Lewis book called Perelandra), when BAM! Someone's ride would end.

I've been reading Stephen King's Joyland, about an amusement park, and it is so similar to my experience at Crescent Park. Seedy, scary, yet somehow a weird little community of summer workers like me and year-rounders like Mr. Perry who ran the place. At the end of the day, the folks across the tracks were no different than the privileged upper crusters in Barrington.

We recorded this song, like the others, live in the studio, with the exception of John Scofield's guitar, which he added later in New England, which seems appropriate. I tried to play the solo piano as if it were one of the shaky, unpredictable carny rides at the park, just like real life, I suppose... shaky, unpredictable, and occasionally thrilling.

"The Diva of the Silver Top Diner"
by Billy Mitchell

From the 2003 CD The Diva of the Silver Top Diner.

"The DMV"
by Billy Mitchell

Parody about the trials and tribulations of getting your license renewed, set to the tune of The Village People's "Y.M.C.A."

"Drivin' in Rhode Island"
by Ted Bird

From the 1991 album Made in America. Sample lyric:

Well, one thing that is really great about drivin' in the Ocean State:
It satisfies one's latent need for danger.
95, Thurber's Ave, let's see what kind of nerve you have
When you're confronted by a Toyota-wielding stranger.
You're gonna need all of your fingers on both of your hands;
Nine white knuckles around the wheel, one finger to salute your fellow man.

"Eldred's One Gun Batt'ry"
by Jon Campbell

From the 2000 CD Keep On Fishin'.

Covered by Marc Bernier on the 2010 CD Yup, I Said That. A Compilation of Artists Performing the 'Classic' Hits of Jon Campbell.

The song tells the true story of Conanicut resident John Eldred, who, in 1775, "lobbed cannonballs and cannonball sized stones at British ships from behind rocks on his farm north of Potter's Cove, until he finally tore out a sail and the British came ashore and spiked the gun."

"Exeter, Rhode Island"
by Jennifer O'Connor

From the 2006 CD Over the Mountain, Across the Valley and Back to the Stars.

"Expedition to Rhode Island"

Sung to the tune of "Yankee Doodle," this song describes the first attempt at cooperation between French and American forces at Newport in August 1778. Lyrics, with footnotes, can be found on AmericanRevolution.org.

"Federal Hillbillies"
by Jon Campbell

From the 2004 CD Catch and Release. Sung to the tune of the Beverly Hillbillies theme song. Sample lyric:

This is the story 'bout a man named Vito.
He lived up on Vinton Street,
Very incognito.
Put a dollar on the PowerBall
And sonofabeech he won.
He packed up the family
And he moved to Barrington.

"Fender Rhode Island"
Composed by Pat Daugherty

On New York Electric Piano's 2005 album Citizen Zen. This is an instrumental jazz track named for its lead instrument, the Fender Rhodes piano, which was named, not for the thirteenth state, but for its inventor, Harold Rhodes.

"Ferrying to the Isle of Block"
by Jon Campbell

From the 2004 CD Catch and Release. The song relates the harrowing tale of a particularly tempestuous crossing from Point Judith to Block Island.

"F.I.S.H. and Coffee Milk"
by Jon Hope

Most of this 2015 song's lyrical content is about the singer's hardships, with the occasional refrain (voiced by Alanna Buffi), "A cookie tastes better with coffee milk." Portions of the video were shot in and around General Street Park, between Admiral Street and Douglas Avenue in Providence. Note: contains explicit lyrics.

"Frederick's Of Galillee"
by Jon Campbell

"...if it's naughty and it's nautical, ol' Freddy's got the stuff."

From the 2000 CD Keep On Fishin'. Covered by Robbie O'Connell on the 2010 CD Yup, I Said That. A Compilation of Artists Performing the 'Classic' Hits of Jon Campbell.

"From Black Rock Beach"
by Rob Raroux

From the 2006 CD Block Island Days.

Black Rock Beach is located on the southern end of Block Island and is pretty secluded—so much so that uninhibited beachgoers are known to enjoy its solitude sans bathing suit. This acoustic tune describes the beach on a moonlit night.

"Galilee Gumbo"
by New York Minute

From the 2004 CD Gumbo Beach.

Band member Billy Mitchell (1946-2016) also produced solo versions circa 2014 and 2016:

"Good Night"
by Ted Lewis

During the World War II years, according to one of our correspondents, WJAR would play this song every night at midnight. At the end, the announcer would say, "To all our friends on the East Coast, good morning. To all our friends on the West Coast, good night. And to our friends everywhere, good luck."

"Healey's Hair"
by Billy Mitchell

A parody from the 2014 campaign season, set to the title tune of the rock opera Hair.

"Hello, School Is Closed"
by Matt Glendinning

Moses Brown School head Matt Glendinning announces a snow day with his 2016 parody cover of Adele's "Hello." This is Glendinning's second snow day song.

"He, Roger Williams"
by Slim Cessna's Auto Club

From the 2004 CD The Bloudy Tenent Truth and Peace.



"Holiday in Rhode Island"
by The Softies

From the 2000 album Holiday in Rhode Island.

I Know a Guy
by Billy Mitchell

From the 2011 CD Detour.

I'm So R.I.
by M3

Note: contains the N-word.

I Wish I Was Comin'
by Rob Raroux

From the 2006 CD Block Island Days.

by the Blackstone Valley Sinners

From the 2002 CD It's a Sin.

The Last Resort
Words and music by Glenn Frey and Don Henley

Frey and Henley were, of course, members of the Eagles, whose album Hotel California was huge in 1976. This song closes that album, and begins with the verse...

She came from Providence, the one in Rhode Island,
Where the Old World shadows hang heavy in the air.
She packed her hopes and dreams like a refugee,
Just as her father came across the sea.

You might wonder just how many Providences there are that the songwriters felt the need to specify "the one in Rhode Island." Well, there are quite a few, actually. Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, and Utah all have one. Additionally, look at maps of Iowa, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee and you'll find a New Providence on each one. And don't leave out Virginia—that's where you'll find Providence Forge.

Leavin' The Block Blues
by Martin Grosswendt and Kim Trusty

From the 2006 CD Block Island Days.

Little Rhody
Words and music by Timmy May

This version by David Kearsley is from 2012.

by Jon Campbell

From the 2004 CD Catch and Release.

"Manisses" is the Narragansett Indian name for Block Island.

Meet Me Under the Shepard's Clock
by Billy Mitchell

From the 2011 CD Detour.

Mohegan Bluffs
by Steve Burke

From the 2006 CD Block Island Days.

Movin' Right Along
by Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams

This song, from The Muppet Movie (1979), is sung by Kermit and Fozzie (Jim Henson and Frank Oz), new best friends, as they drive to Hollywood from Louisiana...

Kermit: Movin' right along we found a life on the highway,
Fozzie: And your way is my way—
Kermit: So trust my navigation.
Fozzie: California here we come, that pie-in-the-sky land.
Kermit: Palm trees and warm sand—
Fozzie: Though sadly we just left Rhode Island.
Kermit: (spoken) We did what?
Fozzie: (spoken) Just forget it.

My Buddy
by Henry Burr

This song was often played as a sort of unofficial theme song during former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci's political career.

My Dear Rhode Island Home
Words and music by James Rooney

Warwick resident Rooney composed this song in 1902, and it apparently was a popular selection in Newport in the 1920s.

My Rhode Island
Words by Mrs. Marianna Tallman, music by Mrs. Roscoe L. Chase

This tune won first prize in a song writing contest held by the Rhode Island State Federation of Women's Clubs in 1923.

My Rhode Island
Sheet music courtesy of the Smith-Appleby House Museum, on Flickr

Rhode Island in the Limelight: Music, N-Q
Rhode Island in the Limelight: Music, R
Rhode Island in the Limelight: Music, S-Z

What did we miss?

Can't find your favorite Rhode Islandy tune here? Drop us a line at stuffie@quahog.org and let us know what we overlooked!

This article last edited March 16, 2018

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