Sunday, April 24, 2011

Georgia on our minds

By Al Tays

You've got to be in the right mood to listen to a slow song. If you're all jazzed up and jonesing for a little "Johnny B. Goode," well, "Stormy Monday" just ain't gonna do it for you.

But when you are relaxed enough to enjoy a slow song, there are few better than "Georgia on my Mind."

"Georgia on my Mind" was proclaimed the state song of Georgia on this day in 1979. The song had been a No. 1 hit for Ray Charles in 1960, so why the delay? Well, it seems Charles, who was born in Albany, Ga. (but grew up in Florida), performed the song for the Georgia state legislature on March 7, 1979, and a little more than a month later the legislature adopted it as the official state song, replacing an earlier one called "Georgia."

Funny thing about "Georgia on my Mind." It's not definitively about the state of Georgia. It was written in 1930 by two Indiana University students, Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell. Gorrell's lyrics can be interpreted as referring to a person or a place, and Carmichael had a sister named Georgia.

"Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind."

"Georgia, Georgia, a song of you / Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines."

"The road leads back to you."

"Georgia on my Mind" is the only song for which Gorrell ever wrote lyrics. After college, he became a banker.

Another oddity about the lyrics: Charles picked the song up at the second verse. In the first verse, the singer sings "I'll go back to Georgia / 'Cause that's where I belong." (Now this sounds more like a reference to a place, but again, it could be a person.)

After living in Georgia for five years, this displaced Yankee developed a fondness for this "old sweet song." So let's hear it one more time. "Johnny B. Goode" will just have to wait.

Contributor Al Tays might be a Left Coaster from Boston, but he has a proud history in Georgia that includes playing a round of golf at Augusta National and sharing a zip code with Travis Tritt.


  1. I just got the new Rhino CD of a live Tony Joe White concert circa 1970. It has a splendid version of "Rainy Night in Georgia" - a song I have always appreciated more than "Georgia on my Mind."

  2. This should be the state song of Georgia: