Home, home again, I like to be here when I can
And when I come home cold and tired
Its good to warm my bones beside the fire
— Pink Floyd
Culture may even be described simply as that which makes life worth living.
— T.S. Eliot
Homer’s “Odyssey” is about man’s struggle against temptation, monsters, and gods in his quest for home. As the foundational poem tells it, you can go home again, provided that you rid it of squatters. Modern songs, no less, express that love for home, either the satisfaction of having found it or the realization that you truly know what you have only after you lose it.
I compiled a few songs that carry that spirit, omitting ones with the word “home” in their title.
Madness “Our House.” Home and hearth figures prominently in English art. It’s no surprise that the now-universal metaphor for home, the Hobbits’ Shire, came from that land.
Our house it has a crowd
There’s always something happening
And it’s usually quite loud
Our mum she’s so house-proud
Nothing ever slows her down and a mess is not allowed
The Head and the Heart “Down in the Valley.” This indie folk band shares the road-weariness of touring, and how all the tedium and grind are worth the moment it all comes together at show time.
I know there’s California, Oklahoma
And all of the places I ain’t ever been to but
Down in the valley with whiskey rivers
These are the places you will find me hidin’
These are the places I will always go
These are the places I will always go
Bonus — check out their song “Shake.” Trust + chemistry = friendship. That’s home too. The melody and the video: pure joy.
Dream Academy “Life in a Northern Town.” The song was written as an elegy to a young musician who had died ten years earlier. Its snapshots of a northern English town, filmed for the video in 1985, evoke a cloudy place that as an ice-age European, I find homelike.
A northern town
Jason Isbell “Travelling Alone.” Home is where the heart is, as every vagabond knows. Isbell sings about the ultimate state of homelessness, being alone:
Damn near strangled by my appetite
Ybor City on a Friday night
Couldn’t even stand up right
So high the street girls wouldn’t take my pay
They said come see me on a better day
She just danced away
Morrissey “Every Day is like Sunday.” Many of the songs on this list are from England. There is something that cries for rivers of blood about the English people’s ancient love of home, so chronicled in their folklore, contrasted with the present diversity nightmare. The lyrics paint a survivor’s longing for death in a post-apocalyptic landscape that was once a sunny place. The opening vocals in “Sunday” are possibly my favorite of any song.
Trudging slowly over wet sand
Back to the bench where your clothes were stolen
This is the coastal town
That they forgot to close down
Armageddon, come Armageddon!
Come, Armageddon! Come
The Tuttles and AJ Lee covering “Hickory Wind.” Your life’s arc might lead you to “the riches and pleasures.” But should it all dissolve to lonesomeness, your thoughts will turn homeward:
In South Carolina there are many tall pines
I remember the oak tree that we used to climb
But it makes me feel better each time it begins
Callin’ me home hickory wind
Lonestar “Already There.” This song was heavily played during the height of U.S. troop deployment to Iraq, obviously meaningful to those who were missing their loved ones:
A little voice came on the phone
Said, “Daddy when you coming home?”
Maybe it’s just my interpretation, but those lines, beginning with “I’m already there,” read like the words of a fallen soldier who had finally come Home:
He said the first thing that came to his mind
I’m already there
Take a look around
I’m the sunshine in your hair
I’m the shadow on the ground
I’m the whisper in the wind
I’m your imaginary friend
And I know I’m in your prayers
Oh, I’m already there
Waylon Jennings “Luckenbach, Texas.” There is at least one industry compilation that ranks it as the all-time greatest Country song. It is about having drifted from home, as can happen between two people…
I don’t need my name in the marquee lights
I got my song and I got you with me tonight
Maybe it’s time we got back to the basics of love
… and in the bigger picture, as the song is a call for Country musicians to reclaim their roots:
Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas
With Waylon and Willie and the boys
This successful life we’re livin’
Got us feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys
Guns N’ Roses “November Rain.” This epic ballad ranks among Rock’s top-five all time greatest songs, with “Light My Fire,” “Tuesday’s Gone, “Stairway to Heaven,” and “Black.” But there is something else that’s special about it. The song’s closing lyrics are a salutary reminder that there is daybreak:
So never mind the darkness
We still can find a way
‘Cause nothin’ lasts forever
Even cold November rain