Florida Man on the Run

100 Mississippi River Songs: A Great River Road Playlist

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When planning our Great River Road trip, I pondered what Mississippi River songs might be out there. To me every good road trip needs a good playlist. Like, how can you take a 3,000 mile journey without some music themed to that journey? The Mississippi River songs I’ve collected here draw from a wide array of sources. I leaned heavily on blues and blues-inspired music, sounds which draw on the heritage of those who have called the Mississippi River home. The blues have had a massive impact on music across America, so it makes for a great start to building this list.

However, I didn’t want to limit this Great River Road playlist to only songs about the river. Much like my Desert road trip playlist, I wanted songs which fit the feeling of the journey. It was also important to have a great mix of new and old. In fact, one of my favorite parts of this collection of Mississippi River songs is the pairs I included. Covering old songs and making them new is a critical part of the musical history of the river. At the end of the day, this Mississippi River playlist is a deep collection of songs that tell stories and will keep you entertained no matter where you are travelling.

Pairs of Mississippi River Songs

One of the first ideas I had for my Great River Road playlist was finding some song pairs. Covering blues staples is a time-honored tradition I wanted to show up here. Out of the 100 Mississippi River songs I choose for this playlist, 14 of them are pairs. What I loved most about these is how different each artist makes their version sound. Hearing classics brought to life in a new way pays tribute to the original. I hope you enjoy listening to these pairs as much as I do!

When the Levee Breaks (Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe / Led Zeppelin)

The original version of this song was done by Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe. It’s an all time blues classic about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. The duo recorded it in 1929, just two short years after the devastating floods.

The cover included in this playlist was done by Led Zeppelin. This was the first version I heard of the song. It remains one of my personal favorite Led Zeppelin songs. The cover version retains much of the lyrics, however, musically it becomes its own haunting track. Together they are a great way to see how the music of the Mississippi River can evolve over time. Without a doubt, both had to make it onto my Great River Road playlist.

Cross Road Blues/Crossroads (Robert Johnson / Cream)

Perhaps no song embodies the blues more than Cross Road Blues by the King of Delta Blues, Robert Johnson. Despite very little of Johnson’s body of work being recorded, his reputation as a master of the blues was well known in the Mississippi Delta. Produced Don Law recorded Cross Road Blues in the late 30s, though it didn’t become popularized or widely known until the 1960s. It’s this late revival, almost 25 years after Johnson’s death, that lead to perhaps it’s most famous cover.

Cream, led by Eric Clapton, recorded a cover of the song titled simply Crossroads. While lyrically the song is nearly identical to the original, musically it is fully transformed. Like most of the Mississippi River songs in this part of the playlist, Clapton and company put their distinctive stamp on the music. The mournful picking in Johnson’s version is replaced with a up-tempo blues rock sound. Both songs are absolute classics definitely worthy of inclusion on anyone’s Great River Road playlist.

Statesboro Blues (Blind Willie McTell / The Allman Brothers)

Statesboro Blues is the most well known track from the distinctive voice of Blind Willie McTell. His sound draws heavily from the Piedmont Blues tradition, but even among contemporaries he stood out. This was due to the wide range of styles he performed, the 12-string guitar he used, and his skill with a slide guitar as well. Despite not being a Delta Blues musician, Statesboro Blues is a must have for pretty much any list of Mississippi River songs.

The Allman Brothers recorded a version of Statesboro Blues which gives the song a southern rock kick. Like the other pairs before it, the lyrics are close to the originals but it’s the music that changes. Unlike our previous pairs, the music of the Allman Brothers is far more heavily influenced by the blues and the other music of the region like bluegrass and country.

Back Door Man (Howlin’ Wolf / The Doors)

Howlin’ Wolf not only has one of the best names for any blues man, but perhaps none more fitting. His distinctive voice is pure blues. Having grown up playing the delta blues, he became famous as part of the Chicago blues scene. This blending of sounds and approaches, makes Howlin’ Wolf one of my personal favorite blues musicians.

One of the reason I picked this particular song was the fact that I just really wanted to have some of The Doors on this playlist. The Doors have such a unique sound and I felt like they’d really fit the vibes I wanted for my Great River Road playlist. Being able to pair these two amazing musicians together through this classic blues track was just icing on the cake.

Ball N’ Chain (Big Mama Thornton / Janis Joplin)

It’s impossible to have a playlist of Mississippi River songs and not include Big Mama Thornton. There were so many fantastic choices, that I ultimately couldn’t settle on just one. For her pairing, I went with Ball N’ Chain. The song is quintessential blues and Big Mama Thornton. It has a somewhat surprising cover, that radically transforms the sound. Choosing this one also let me avoid a more “controversial” pairing, but I don’t want to spoil the second song on this list just yet.

Janis Joplin (or more appropriately Big Brother & The Holding Company) covered this song. Like the pairing with The Doors/Howlin’ Wolf, this version pulls much more from the rock sounds of the 60s. The cover is also much, much longer as well. At 9:28 seconds, it’s the third longest song on this whole playlist. Listening to the two together is such a wonderful way to pass the time on the road.

I Just Want to Make Love to You (Muddy Waters / The Rolling Stones)

Honestly, what a combination of powerhouse musicians playing the same song. Muddy Waters is a blues icon (who shows up multiples times on this list) and this song is an absolute classic. He is just a man who has a simple request and a way with words and a guitar. Does it really get any more blues than that?

Well, you can definitely give it a try when you’re The Rolling Stones. Perhaps more than any other rock n’ roll band, they embraced the sounds of blues and infused it with their own take. Their crisply timed cover of this one is 100% Stones and a great fit on this Great River Road Playlist.

Good Morning School Girl (Sonny Boy Williamson / Jonny Lang)

Sonny Boy Williamson stands out among many of his peers on this list of Mississippi River songs thanks to his preferred instrument, the harmonica. He was the premier blues harmonica player in his day, and the original version of Good Morning School Girl put that front and center. The other instruments in the song simply serve to support Sonny Boy Williamson’s excellent harmonica work.

This gets flipped in the cover by Jonny Lang. Recorded when Lang was only 15 (!!), the cover has a different feel thanks to the rest of the instruments getting their say. Jonny Lang’s voice is distinct and clear in the song, and his guitar work is fantastic as well. Put altogether and this is an amazing update of a absolute blues classic. Lang’s version was the first I heard and has stuck with me as one of my favorite songs to this day.

Blues Mainstays, Classics, and Deep Cuts

It’s impossible to make a list of Mississippi River songs without including a healthy does of the Blues. Beginning with the iconic, acoustic sounds of the Mississippi Delta region, the blues has influenced countless other styles. You can head to the birthplace of the blues as your travel down the Great River Road in Mississippi. However, blues stretched well beyond these humble beginnings. Artists such as B.B King, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf took their sounds from Mississippi to Chicago, and then to the world. This is the biggest category on my Great River Road playlist, but it all makes for good listening on the road.

Good Morning Blues – Leadbelly

No list of songs with such a heavy focus on the blues could leave off Leadbelly. Good Morning Blues speaks to that feeling we have all had, where you simply got the blues and ain’t go no idea why.

Feel Like Goin’ Home – Muddy Waters

Muddy Waters has already made one appearance on this list of Mississippi River songs, but it’s impossible for that to be the only appearance. Since I made this as my Great River Road playlist, this song really spoke to my desire to get home at the end of a long two weeks.

Blues Man – B.B. King

If anyone can speak to being a blues man, it’s the man himself B.B King. No list that includes blues on it couldn’t include B.B. King, which is why this is only the first of two songs I’ve got on this list.

Hound Dog – Big Mama Thornton

Now, I considered including this song as part of the blues cover pairs. However, I felt that it was important that Big Mama Thornton get sole credit for this classic. Plus, it gave me a chance to include two songs by her on my Great River Road playlist.

Vicksburg Blues – Hugh Laurie

Not every blues classic needs to be from a long time ago. Hugh Laurie is a master on the blues piano, and I just really enjoyed this song when I found it. So here it is for you to enjoy as well!

Rollin’ Stone – Muddy Waters

Muddy Waters shows up a lot on this list, and this classic piece embodies blues to its fullest. Especially the blues that Muddy was famous for. When we were traveling the Great River Road in Mississippi, we had a chance to see a wonderful exhibit on Muddy Waters at the Delta Blues Museum.

Lucile – B.B. King

This one is perhaps my favorite B.B King tune. The storytelling and guitar work are fabulous. I could listen to B.B tell stories and strum on ol’ Lucile for hours on end.

Highway 49 – Howlin’ Wolf

Howlin’ Wolf is joined by a number of great musicians, including Eric Clapton, on this track. He sings about Highway 49, one of the major highways in Mississippi. Where this famous highway intersects with Highway 61, it forms the “crossroads” where legend holds Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil.

Blues-Inspired Tracks

Not every one of these Mississippi River songs have a direct connection to the river. Sometimes you just want a song that has all the right sounds. The ones which fall in this category pull a lot of their sound from those blues classics. Yet, they strike their own paths and tell their own stories. For me personally, many of my favorite songs on this list can be found below.

Through the Valley – Shawn James

This song by Shawn James is a wonderful spin on the well known Psalm. His voice cuts through powerfully, while being backed by a simple instrumental that evokes much of those early blues sounds.

Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan

Dylan was heavily influenced by blues, though his sound is now synonymous with the music of the 1960s and those influences can often times be missed. I wavered on the inclusion of him on this playlist, but this song invoked a feeling of rambling down the Mississippi River. We might have had a direction on this trip, but it could easily have gone any number of ways if we had more freedom to simply wander.

Purple Rain – Prince

What can be said about this classic that hasn’t already been written. It’s Prince, it’s Purple Rain, it was going on any playlist of Mississippi River. That’s really all there was too it.

Hold On – Alabama Shakes

This song came smashing onto the scene back in and propelled Alabama Shakes to a Best New Artist Grammy Nomination (which they should have won). Lead vocalist Brittany Howard brings power and soul to the track, with the band slamming a great R&B rock beat behind her. A song I can listen to no matter how many times it comes on the radio or one of my playlists.

Take Me to the River – Al Green

Al Green brings the funk of the 70s and really puts a happy tune to a song that isn’t really that happy if you really listen to the river. It’ll definitely get you grooving as you wind along that mighty river.

Pride and Joy – Stevie Ray Vaughan

This was one of many songs that I knew would be on this playlist no matter what. Stevie Ray Vaughan could tell a story in a song and this is one of his best. The blues sounds are clearly there, right alongside his ripping guitar.

Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry

There wasn’t any way the “Father of Rock n’ Roll” was gonna be left off my Great River Road playlist. Not only was Chucky Berry revolutionary in evolving the rhythm and blues into rock, but he could tell one hell of a story as well. Johnny B. Goode tells that story of a boy from Louisiana, making this one an easy inclusion on a list of Mississippi River songs.

I’m A Man – Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley was a heavy influence on many of the other artists on this playlist, including the likes of Tom Petty, The Beatles, and Elvis Pressley. His first single, I’m A Man, clearly defines his sound and it’s immediately apparent why he was such an influence on other artists.

Yer Blues – The Beatles

The Beatles weren’t really subtle when naming their bluesiest recording. However, this one brings it and sounds quite different than many of their other work.

At Last – Etta James

When I think of how to craft a good playlist, I feel that you need a good mix of artists and tempos. Etta James “At Last”, fit perfectly on this playlist as a nice slower song that still fit in with everything else that surrounded it.

Blue Suede Shoes – Elvis Presley

No list of Mississippi River songs could leave out Elvis. There were any number of songs to choose from and I almost paired him up with Big Mama Thornton and the song Hound Dog. However, I decided to give both Elvis and Big Mama Thornton their own moments to shine. Blue Suede Shoes is an iconic rock n’ roll song full of blues sounds, making it a perfect fit here.

Summertime – Louis Armstrong & Ella Fitzgerald

I honestly recommend making the trip along the Mississippi River in the early summer to get the best chance of weather along the entire route. So putting this sultry, warm track by the incomparable Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald was a no brainer. Just make sure you don’t lose sight of the road as you listen.

St. Louis Blues – Herbie Hancock (ft. Stevie Wonder)

This one checked a lot of boxes for me. It includes a great Mississippi River city (St. Louis), features a fantastic piano, some wonderful harmonica work, and the great Stevie Wonder as well.

Piano Man – Billy Joel

I wouldn’t say that I’m secretly a huge Billy Joel fan, just that a lot of his songs end up on a lot of my playlists. While I’d normally aim for a less well known track, this one is exactly what worked for my list of Mississippi River songs. So when the song fits, play it I say.

Dazed and Confused – Led Zeppelin

Each band has their own sound, but not many are as iconic as what was created by the great Led Zeppelin. They were featured earlier in this article for their pairing on When the Levee Breaks. I also picked Dazed and Confused because it’s one of my favorites and filled that need for a more hard rock n’ roll with blues inspirations I had for this playlist.

Jackie and Wilson – Hozier

Of all of Hozier’s work, this song may be the most directly blues-inspired. It tells a compelling story of a man enraptured by a woman, yet unable to escape his own vices long enough to even speak to her. It’s one of the few tracks on this list that I regularly went back and played one more time before moving on.

Was I Right or Wrong – Lynyrd Skynyrd

Lynyrd Skynyrd truly defined the sound of an entire genre of music from the 70s that was filled with the influences of blues, bluegrass, and rock n’ roll. This track isn’t as well known as many others, yet it tells a powerful story of loss and the costs of fame.

Where the Devil Don’t Go – Elle King

This song from Elle King has a driving pace, but the musical arrangement in the back is clearly blues-inspired. Plus, being an outcast from society fits lyrically with the songs in this section of the playlist.

Pearl Cadillac – Gary Clark Jr.

Gary Clark Jr. is a fabulous musician, and an even better guitar player. There could have been a lot of different songs from his collection that would have fit on this Mississippi River playlist, but Pearl Cadillac was the one I settled on. It’s not overpowering, but the music shines through strong with it’s blues influences readily apparent.

Right Place, Wrong Time – Otis Rush

This one is really just all blues, with Otis Rush lamenting his inability to find a woman to call his own. You can just hear the passion and pain come through in his voice and work on the guitar.

The Devil Wears a Suit and Tie – Colter Wall

I’m a huge fan of every song on Imaginary Appalachia by Colter Wall, but this is the one which fits the blues theme of this Great River Road playlist the best. This one could just as easily come from the 1920s and 30s delta blues without anyone thinking twice.

Instrumental Mississippi River Songs

Not every great song needs lyrics. There are times where a great story is told simply in the music itself. I loved the idea of giving the listeners of this Great River Road playlist a “break”. Those long and lonely stretches of road are where these instrumentals really come to life. While I would normally write a small snippet for each song, I think that the wonderful music can speak for itself here.

‘Round Midnight – Thelonious Monk

Blue Train – John Coltrane

So What – Miles Davis

West End Blues – Louis Armstrong

Contributions from (and about) New Orleans

Of course, no collection of Mississippi River songs would be complete without New Orleans. The Big Easy has had a mighty big impact on the music of America. The wonderful sounds of New Orleans do a great job of spicing up this playlist. The city has also inspired countless songs as well. Which means the songs themselves are a great mix of styles, keeping you on your toes.

Walkin’ to New Orleans – Fats Domino

Fats Domino croons this ode to his hometown and the reasons why he is leaving the woman he loved. You hopefully won’t be Walkin’ to New Orleans like Fats did, but maybe you can listen to this one while you’re walking AROUND New Orleans instead!

FREEDOM – Jon Batiste

Jon Batiste earned a number of Grammy nominations and awards for Freedom and the album We Are. While the song doesn’t reference the city of New Orleans directly, it definitely feels like you’re in the Big Easy. I wanted to put it on as I strolled down Bourbon Street and enjoy the beat with all the other sights and sounds.

Toulouse Street – The Doobie Brothers

Much like the next song on this list, Toulouse Street has a similar feel and connection to the city of New Orleans. It recounts a night spent walking the streets of New Orleans and it’s effect on the Doobie Brothers.

House of the Rising Sun – The Animals

There are countless versions of House of the Rising Sun, but really there is only one version that is widely known. The Animals made this song iconic, and perhaps no other song is so strongly identified with a city or idea as House of the Rising Sun is with New Orleans.

I Been Hoodood – Dr. John

Perhaps a warning to not cross the wrong woman in the city of Voodoo. The last thing you’ll want to have happen when you’re in New Orleans is to get hoodood like Dr. John sings in this song.

Born on the Bayou – Creedence Clearwater Revival

Creedence Clearwater Revival are one of those bands whose sound defined an entire decade of music. Born on the Bayou both musically and lyrically calls to life in the swamps of Louisiana, making it’s inclusion on the part of the playlist an easy one.

Go to the Mardi Gras – Professor Longhair

There is perhaps no festival so closely associated with one city as Mardi Gras is with New Orleans. Go to The Mardi Gras just pulls you immediately and makes you want to dance along the streets of New Orleans. So, pop this one on as you begin to roll into the Big Easy towards the end of your trip down the Mississippi River.

The Battle of New Orleans – Brother Dege

An ode to battle that raged in the city of New Orleans, but not one of history. This battle is against god and mother nature, against Hurricane Katrina. Brother Dege tells a simple story, but an important one for a city which has faced its fair share of troubles, especially in the aftermath of that terrible storm.

Bluegrass, Country, and Southern Rock: The Cousins of Blues

Many musical traditions pull from the same roots as blues. The guitar being central to much of these styles, there is often overlap in their sounds and origins. As music evolved through the 20th century, the influences of earlier music and sounds can be hear yet presented in new or interesting ways. This category of the playlist brought together many different sounds which come from these roots and represent that simultaneous evolution of theme, sound, and instrumentation that lets these unique styles shine.

Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man – Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn

Two lovers who simply wouldn’t let the mighty Mississippi River stand in the way. This was a perfect song that had to make any top 100 list of Mississippi River songs. Not to mention two of country’s biggest stars in Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn.

Ghosts of Mississippi – The SteelDrivers

Before Chris Stapleton became famous on his own, he was the lead singer of The SteelDrivers. Once I found this song, it quickly became one of my absolute favorites. Not only is it included on my Great River Road playlist, but I have started putting it onto pretty much any playlist it fits into.

The Ballad of Curtis Loew – Lynyrd Skynyrd

There were tons of songs I thought about making this list of Mississippi River songs by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I went with this one because of the story he tells here. For me, the best Skynyrd songs are those which pull from the band’s deep south roots and their lives.

Can’t You See – The Marshall Tucker Band

Another of my favorite bands, this all time classic wasn’t a hard choice to include. So often the blues were about life beating you down for whatever reason, and the music being a way of overcoming that. Can’t You See is a perfect way to highlight the influence of blues in later musical genres like Southern Rock.

Jambalaya – Hank Williams

Hank Williams had a massive influence on so many acts that came after him. This song felt the most appropriate to include on a list of Mississippi River songs, though so many others could have made the cut simply because they all fit with the rest of the music.

I Had Me a Girl – The Civil Wars

The Civil Wars were a powerful duo, who I was a big fan of when they were still together. I Had Me a Girl is one of my favorite songs by them, so it’s the song I picked to make sure they got a spot on this playlist.

Old Number Seven – The Devil Makes Three

Jack Daniels is famous the world over. Simply by the title of the song, you know this is gonna be an anthem to that delicious amber liquid. The Devil Makes Three pours out an amazing song dedicated to Old Number Seven (and alcoholism). Like many of the songs I’ve included, this one is another favorite from this band.

In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company – The Dead South

Who knew a bunch of Canadians would put out one of the best bluegrass songs of the last decade? If you haven’t already heard this song, I’d wonder where you’ve been in the last decade. In any case, I felt compelled to put some of my fellow countrymen on this list.

Songs About the Mississippi River

While I did look for all kinds of songs to put on this list, some of them demand to be included. The river itself has inspired countless songs. The stories told by these Mississippi River songs are often heartbreaking, yet they are also inspiring. No matter where you live, its possible to feel a connection to this great river through these songs.

High Water Everywhere – Charley Patton

No list of blues songs can leave off the legendary Charley Patton, widely regarded as the “Father of Delta Blues.” Like many songs about the Mississippi River and life along it’s banks, it deals with the regular floods that devastated the area. You can hear in this song what many of his contemporaries and proteges would later turn into the wide variety of blues heard around the world.

Black Water – The Doobie Brothers

Black Water is the first song I think of when I think of music related to the Mississippi River. The version of my playlist that we listened to on our drive down the Great River Road (and is linked at the bottom of this post) is lead off by this iconic song. Although, it was almost swapped out with the next song on this list.

Proud Mary – Creedence Clearwater Revival

Like a number of songs on this Great River Road playlist, Proud Mary was included before I even really started putting it together. It was such an easy choice as one of the most iconic songs about the Mississippi River. Cruising down the Mississippi River on a riverboat might not be the same experience as driving alongside it, but at least you’ll have this song on your playlist.

Mound City March – Illphonics

Illphonics ode to the STL also is one of the most distinct songs on this entire list of Mississippi River songs. It is a fantastic and funky homage to St. Louis and the river that is intrinsically tied to it.

Big River – Johnny Cash

While I didn’t chase a woman down the Big River like Johnny Cash did, I understand his woe some sentiment. The woman he was infatuated loved that Mississippi River more than him and despite his chasin’ she wasn’t gonna be his.

In The Mississippi River – Mavis Staples

Mavis Staples’s powerful vocals are joined by Charles Neblett on this simple song focused on Mississippi and the eponymous river. It’s a nice change of pace on the playlist that is heavily focused on the vocals.

Goin’ Down to Memphis – Townes Van Zandt

Goin’ Down to Memphis brings a real dive bar feel to the playlist which is a pretty nice change of pace. No matter which way you’re heading down the Great River Road in Tennessee, you’ll eventually be goin’ down to Memphis yourself.

Casino Queen – Wilco

The riverboats of the Mississippi have a long and storied history. Often that history sounds a lot like Wilco’s Casino Queen with gamblers losing it all while floating along the Mighty Mississippi.

The Spirits of St. Louis – Johnny Paycheck

Everyone can love a good song about an unforgettable woman. Especially, when you’ve drank every drop you can get in an entire city to try and forget her. The Spirits of St. Louis is a country classic that’ll make you want to hit up at least a few bars when you make it to St. Louis for a weekend.

Walking in Memphis – Marc Cohn

There are a lot of songs about Memphis, but I settled on this one from Marc Cohn as it’s one of my personal favorite piano songs. It speaks to a visit Marc made to the city of Memphis and many of us can picture ourselves in his shoes, taking our own walk in Memphis.

Modern Mississippi River Songs

Not every song on this list harkens back to the “good ole days”. I found there were plenty of musicians who created great songs worthy of inclusion. Some drew directly from the sources, while others just have that “feel” I was listening for. All of them fit with sound around them, making them feel just as natural to include on this list as any other.

Little Red Corvette – Prince

Pretty much the first artist I’d knew would have two songs on my Great River Road playlist was Prince. While Purple Rain was the obvious first choice, I went between a couple options for the second song. Ultimately, I settled on Little Red Corvette since it is my personal favorite Prince song and this is my playlist after all.

Talk – Hozier

This selection from Hozier is almost entirely down to his lyrical prowess. A song of powerful love and longing, it’s exactly the kind of song that fits a playlist like this. It’s slow burn brings a great change of tempo as well.

Morning Elvis – Florence + The Machine

This might have been the final song added to the entire playlist. That’s because it was added while we were actually on our Great River Road trip and stopping for the weekend in St. Louis. The album had just released a few days before and I kicked one song off the list to make sure this ode to Elvis made it. Hopefully, you’ll agree with it’s inclusion.

Shine a Little Light – The Black Keys

I really thought hard about what modern rock band I felt defined “blues rock” the best. It didn’t take me long to land on The Black Keys. There was a plethora of songs to choose from, but Shine A Little Light was the perfect fit. It highlights a record they made which didn’t get the appreciation it deserved, so this is my small way of helping.

Mississippi Delta City Blues – Chicago

The big band sounds of Chicago come blasting into this playlist through the funky sounds of Mississippi Delta City Blues. I’ll admit that I haven’t personally listened to a lot of Chicago but this song really got me grooving and that’s the most important part of any playlist for a road trip.

Honey Bee – Tom Petty

I’m a huge Tom Petty fan, and not just because he’s a hometown hero. Everything Tom wrote just oozes the influences he had from his childhood growing up listening to blues legends and early rockers. Honey Bee definitely lets these influences show through while still being clearly a Tom Petty track.

Ballad of Easy Rider – The Byrds

I wasn’t sure where to slot this relaxing hit from The Byrds. It’s a perfect song for a road trip playlist, and with the river references I decided to go ahead and put it on my Great River Road playlist.

Bottom of the River – Delta Rae

This is one that’s certain to get stuck in your head, because it certainly get’s stuck in mine. The powerful vocals carry the day, but the music builds through out. Yet, the sound of the chain throughout tells its own story when in combination with everything else. I love a good song that tells it’s story in many different ways.

What the Water Gave Me – Florence + The Machine

I am a huge Florence + The Machine fan, and What the Water Gave Me is my favorite song from their second album Ceremonials. It felt really fitting for a list of Mississippi River songs, even though it doesn’t make any clear reference to the river.

Colors – Black Pumas

Black Pumas were one of the many bands that I found while creating this list of songs. Colors immediately leaped out at me for inclusion. The conceit of the title is carried through out the lyrics, but done in such a wonderful way. The song also just simply rocks and gets you grooving, which is super important to me on long winding road trips.

Hopeless Wanderer – Mumford & Sons

When I think to why this song was included initially, I can’t exactly recall. I think I had been listening to some Mumford & Sons at work a few days before, and thought that Hopeless Wanderer would fit well with other songs I had already put on the list. It’s not particularly bluesy, but then again there is plenty on here that isn’t. So enjoy a bit of British folk rock while cruising along the Mississippi!

Wildflowers – Tom Petty

I honestly had a really hard choice to make with the second song from Tom Petty. Normally, I really try to avoid taking songs from the same record. Yet, here was Wildflowers just waiting to be put on the playlist and enjoyed over the many hundreds of miles we were going to drive. So I threw out my normal restrictions and took two songs from the eponymous Wildflowers album.

Keep Lying – Donna Missal

Donna Missal may not be the artist with the least amount of mainstream exposure on this list, but I’ve come across very few other individuals who know her. However, I’m a huge fan of her works and she absolutely kills it with the extraordinary vocals and powerful melody of Keep Lying.

Dull Gold Heart – Band of Skulls

Band of Skulls has found spots on pretty much every playlist I make because I love them. Dull Gold Heart is from their first EP and embodies the sounds and vibes of blues more than most of their other songs in my humble opinion.

River – Bishop Briggs

Sometimes, on a playlist made up of Mississippi River songs, you just got to have a song about drowning in a river. River, by Bishop Briggs, fit that need pretty neatly. As an added bonus its a catchy tune as well!

Sweet Jezebel – Mean Mary

Storytelling is such a key part of blues music, and Sweet Jezebel is a skillful story made into an amazing song. Mean Mary weaves a supernatural tale, surrounded by a beautiful guitar melody and some driving percussion. It’ll definitely be one that you’ll be putting on repeat or hearing in your head well after it’s over.

The Rest of the Great River Road Playlist

This final category is really just a catch-all for the leftovers. Not every song I included really fit neatly with a category. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t have a little fun in including them anyways. I think it’s also important when making a playlist that you put what you want into it. It’s going to be your playlist, include what you want in it!

The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota – “Weird Al” Yankovic

This was honestly the first song I added to my Great River Road playlist. Before I had even started working out the basis for what would be included, this was on it. I found the song when researching the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota, which is a real place I actually visited when driving the Great River Road in Minnesota. So, of course it got included and I truly hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

La Grange – ZZ Top

I love ZZ Top. I love La Grange. I wanted it on this list of Mississippi River songs, despite the fact that it doesn’t have anything to do with the Mississippi River or really pull super heavily from the same musical roots. It’s really the reason I have this last category anyways!

Bloom – Donna Missal

I considered whether this fit anywhere else on this list before finally slotting it in here. I love Donna Missal’s work and Bloom just felt like a good song to include here.

Voodoo Child – Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix shows up twice on this list of Mississippi River songs, both in this category. Voodoo Child didn’t really fit anywhere else, and I wasn’t gonna just drop it in with the New Orleans songs because it had the word Voodoo in it.

I Am A River – Foo Fighters

Dave Grohl is a river, and you’ll be 100% sure of that by the end of this song. However, it’s not about any specific river. Not even recorded near the Mississippi River, since it was done in New York City.

Layla – Derek & The Dominos

Layla is another song where I wondered if it fit in with any of the categories I had. Ultimately, it didn’t feel right anywhere else. However, it definitely was worthy of inclusion and is a classic Clapton track.

Dark Necessities – Red Hot Chili Peppers

It’s hard for me to make a playlist of this length and not include some Red Hot Chili Peppers. They are one of my favorite bands, who also pack a massive discography. However, when choosing what song to include, I decided on one which you won’t hear all over the radio and comes from one of my favorite albums.

One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer – George Thorogood

While I wasn’t sure exactly what category this masterpiece would fall under, I knew it’d be on the list. It’s a classic, and tells a story that fits right in with any of the other blues tales on this Great River Road playlist.

All Along the Watchtower – The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Jimi’s second appearance on this list of Mississippi River songs is another all-time hit. While Jimi didn’t have any specific ties to the region, having two of his hits on here really fit the vibes I was looking for while cruising down the highway.

My Head’s In Mississippi – ZZ Top

Much like Jimi Hendrix, I felt that ZZ Top just brought the sound I wanted for our drive along the Mississippi River. I flipped back and forth about if this song was enough about the Mississippi River to include in that group of songs, but ultimately settled on placing it into this category. Either way, its a good time and get’s the blood flowing when it comes on.

What’s Coming to Me – Dorothy

I actually found this song as a suggestion while I was building the initial bones of the playlist. It didn’t go anywhere else on the playlist, but was too good for me to leave out. Dorothy really brings an edge that isn’t found on many other tracks, so I’m happy it made the final cut of 100 Mississippi River songs.

Final Thoughts on These Mississippi River Songs

Over the course of 100 Mississippi River songs, I think there something for everyone. However, the best part of making it to the end of the list is the link to the entire playlist! This public playlist is available through YouTube Music and covers over seven hours of music. It’s a super simple way to load up the whole playlist and then hit the road. This was the soundtrack of our journey down the Great River Road. However, it’ll also work for pretty much any trip you take. Unless you’re taking a desert road trip, then you’ll want my equally fantastic desert road trip playlist!

Ultimately, this huge collection of songs simply scratches the surface. There is certainly more than 100 Mississippi River songs I could have included on this Great River Road playlist. In fact, many of the artists included would make for great listening on their own. Take a listen to what’s here and then pick your favorites to build your own playlist around. I can’t recommend enough how important a good playlist is to enjoying a road trip!

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