Our State Needs an Official Song

by | May 31, 1998 | Detroit Free Press | 4 comments

I love songs. Always have. There is a song in my head pretty much all the time, which sometimes causes problems, because right in the middle of, say, a big political press conference, I might drift off and begin to unconsciously warble, just loud enough for people to turn their heads.

Lou-ie, Lou-ie
Whoa, nooo,
Me gotta go.

But that’s just me. And this column is not about me. Well, it’s sort of about me. It’s about me as a citizen of my state, Michigan, which, unlike me, does not have a song. Did you know that? There is no official state song. Which reminds me of the old song about that:

Without a song, the day would never end,
without a song, the road would never bend

This is bad. I mean, if the road never bends, eventually we will drive right out of Michigan, and then we’ll be talking about whether Ohio has a state song. Which it does, by the way. It’s called “Beautiful Ohio.” Same goes for Wisconsin, with “On Wisconsin!” And Indiana, which has “On the Banks Of The Wabash, Far Away.”

(Hey, they’re Hoosiers. Whaddya expect?)

The point is this: Michigan, which has its own fish, fruit, lakes, streams, forests, hockey teams and pizza makers, should have its own song, too.

I have a suggestion.

It’s got good lyrics

The song I have in mind was written by a friend, the great singer/humorist Mike Ridley. He has been singing it for years, and every time he does, people ask him about it. Ridley, I should point out, was born and bred in Michigan, and loves his state like few people I have ever known. He went to school here, got married here, is raising his children here, and has played his guitar from Monroe to Mackinac, a musical Johnny Appleseed. Recently, even politicians have begun to nudge the idea of his tune as a state song. He even sang it in Lansing to kick off Michigan Week.

It’s called “Michigan Man.” These are some of the lyrics:

When I wander far away
A dream stays with me night and day
The road that leads to my home state
I am a Michigan man
Changing seasons paint the scenes
Like rainbow trout in hidden streams
The whitetail deer, the tall pine trees
I am a Michigan Man


I am, I am, a Michigan man
Ask where I'm from, I'll show you my hand
Lord above, I love this land,
I am a Michigan man . . ."

Now, OK. Before we continue. About the “man” thing. Remember that when Mike wrote the song, he was singing it himself. It would be hard for him to get up in a nightclub and sing “I Am a Michigan Woman.” I mean, there are clubs where that would go over. And there are those where it wouldn’t. And the latter are the kind where you get your face smashed into the cigarette machine.

But if the song were to go statewide, so to speak, Ridley says he’d be happy to fiddle with the lyrics to include Michigan Woman, as well as Michigan Man. It can be done. A minor adjustment. Meanwhile, check out the rest:

From the Keweenaw down to St. Joe
Kalamazoo east to Monroe
Sault Ste. Marie and back again
I am a Michigan Man ...
If I should die across the sea
On a peninsula you can bury me
And on my headstone it should read
"Here lies a Michigan Man" ...

Nice, huh?

It’s got a good beat

There are more choruses to the song, and even a bridge that has some authentic Indian lyrics, a nod to our heritage and history. The melody is simple, folksy, a campfire kind of thing.

The point is, it’s easy, memorable and original. For years we’ve had an “unofficial” state song, called “Michigan, My Michigan.” But its lyrics were written in the 1800s, and it sounds like it (“Thy mines unmask a hidden store, but richer thy historic lore”). And besides, the melody is stolen from the holiday song, “O, Tannenbaum,” which I always remember from the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. And while I have nothing against him, per se, I don’t want to sing my state song and picture Linus and his blanket.

No. We deserve an original. I called Candice Miller, the secretary of state, who said she would favor forming a commission to pick a state song. “‘Michigan Man’ would definitely be a strong candidate,” she said.

So if you’d like Michigan to adopt it, or any other song, you should contact your local legislator or the Secretary of State’s Office, at 430 Allegan, Lansing, 48918.

After all, as the old lyric says, without a song, the day never ends. And who can stay up that long?


  1. Beverly

    This is a great song!!!!

    • Trese

      Very catchy, and I love that I have a Michigan Man in my life!

  2. Katherine Slabaugh

    Great song for the state I love.. but women and certain people will go nits if women aren’t included…

    • Wilfred



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