Boston has a rich musical history that dates back centuries, with a variety of genres and styles emerging from the city over the years.
From folk and rock to hip-hop and jazz, Boston has been a hub for music and musicians of all kinds.
In this article, we’ll take a look at 17 songs about Boston that capture the spirit and culture of the city.
Some of these songs were written by Boston-based musicians, while others were written by artists who were inspired by the city’s unique charm and character.
From classic rock anthems to contemporary hits, these songs have become a part of the city’s cultural fabric, played at sports events, local bars, and celebrations across the city.
Whether you’re a lifelong Bostonian or just passing through, these songs will give you a sense of the city’s history, culture, and vibe.
So sit back, put on your headphones, and let’s explore some of the greatest songs about Boston.
1. I’m Shipping Up to Boston – Dropkick Murphys
To begin with, we have this folk punk song that is usually associated with the city of Boston.
Released in 2005 and included in the album The Warrior’s Code, the song was re-recorded in that same year and took part in Martin Scorsese’s movie The Departed.
The inspiration for the track comes from a Woody Guthrie folk piece, he was an excellent writer but most of their compositions weren’t recorded.
The song tells the story of a man who had an accident and lost his wooden leg, he is now shipping up to Boston to find his leg.
2. Midnight Rambler – The Rolling Stones
Although The Rolling Stones have a long story of performing iconic concerts in the city of Boston, this track is related to this city due to a different thing.
Released in 1969, this song is part of the album Let It Bleed.
The track tells the story of Albert DeSalvo, who confessed to being an infamous figure in history: The Boston Strangler.
Assuming the identity of a killer on the prowl, the main character goes by the name “The Midnight Rambler” and seems to relish his infamy, much like numerous actual serial killers.
3. Dirty Water – The Standells
Dirty Water was released in 1965 and included in the album of the same name.
Despite being an L.A. band that didn’t have any bond to the city, the song became a source of pride for Boston.
The title obviously refers to the polluted Charles River, but the song is more a celebration of Boston than ecological awareness.
The song is now an anthem and has become the band’s best-known and most successful.
4. Boston – Kenny Chesney
Released in 2005, Boston by Kenny Chesney is a country song that takes part in the album Be as You Are (Songs from an Old Blue Chair).
The track is about a girl from Boston and describes how she looks and acts but the connection to the city comes from somewhere else.
In the words of the singer, most people he knew in Boston were from the New England area.
Many of them had moved there to experience a different lifestyle, and he became friends with a significant number of New Englanders.
5. The Boston Rag – Steely Dan
This song is a jazz track by the American band Steely Dan that was released in 1973 and included in their second studio album Countdown to Ecstasy.
The song narrates the story of a youth endeavoring to discover his path in life, while the city of Boston serves as the contextual setting for his journey.
6. Boston – The Byrds
In 1969, the band The Byrds released a compilatory album called Preflyte.
In it, there were songs previously recorded during 1964 when the band wasn’t even named that way.
Among these tracks, we can find Boston, a love song about a boy who is in love with a girl who lives in Boston, Massachusetts.
The singer feels sad and longs for his beloved, claiming that he can’t stand staying in a place where they can’t be together.
7. Mass Ave – Willie Alexander & The Boom Boom Band
Included in their 1978 album Sperm Bank Babies, this track is an energetic piece that evokes the rock and roll feeling.
The song pays homage to Massachusetts Avenue, a famous public road in Boston, and describes the sounds and sights of the city while driving through it.
8. Bill Lee – Warren Zevon
Featured on the 1980 album Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School, this song pays tribute to Bill Lee, the pitcher of the Boston Red Sox/Montreal Expos.
Lee was a baseball player known for his deviant views and active involvement in counterculture movements during his playing years from 1969 to 1982.
Through the lyrics, Zevon delivers a brief narrative from Bill Lee’s perspective about the mundane and hypocritical aspects of baseball dugout culture, while also highlighting his passion for the game and his desire to win.
The concluding line leaves the interpretation of the content to the listener’s imagination.
9. For Boston – The Hold Steady
This song is a cover of the traditional Boston College fight song For Boston and was released on the 2007 EP Stuck Between Stations.
The Hold Steady’s version features their signature rock and roll sound, with guitars and drums accompanying Craig Finn’s vocals.
The lyrics pay homage to the city of Boston and its cultural landmarks, referencing places like Fenway Park, the Charles River, and the North End.
The song has become a favorite of fans of both Boston College and The Hold Steady, and the band has performed it at various concerts in Boston and around the country.
10. M. T. A. – The Kingston Trio
This American folk singing group recorded and released this song in 1959 and thanks to that, the track became a hit.
The song is about an absurd tale of a man who was trapped in Boston’s subway system.
The man protagonist of this story was named Charlie and at that time known as the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA).
Nowadays, the song is close to Boston culture, inspiring the CharlieCard, a smart card used to pay for transportation in the Boston area.
11. Ladies of Cambridge – Vampire Weekend
12. Roadrunner – The Modern Lovers
13. Somerville – Pernice Brothers
14. Boston – Augustana
15. The Rascal King – The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
16. Homecoming King – Guster
17. Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond
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