What’s the perfect song for DC?

by Eric Nuzum May 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm 121 Comments

A Musician's Yield

So “Empire State of Mind,” “New York, New York”–okay, we get it. A lot of people love NYC and want to sing about it. Okay, a lot of people, obviously, as there are hundreds of songs about New York City.

But what about us? We are the most powerful city on Earth. Shouldn’t we get something?

DC has a lot of great music, obviously. Bluegrass, hard core, go go, hip hop, jazz, and even opera. In fact, I’d put DC music up against just about any music scene in the country, if for no other reason than its eclecticism.

But songs about Washington? There we are a little slim.

The ones that come to mind aren’t particularly flattering: Bad Brains “Banned in DC”, “Mt Pleasant Isn’t Anymore” by The Evens, Skip James “Washington DC Hospital Center Blues,” Scapegoat’s “Walk in Washington,” and even Burning Airlines’ “Wheaton Calling.”

Sure, there’s Parliament’s “Chocolate City”–but that’s just cool because it’s Parliament. But that pales in comparison to NYC, which has 22 songs about it that start with the letter “P.”

So let’s co-opt a song. I am willing to use my power and influence as Lord of Petworth to unilaterally decree a song as DC’s theme song–but I’d like your help in picking. If you were going to adopt a song for Washington, DC–a theme song–what would you pick and why?

  • The Real Jason

    I’m currently working on a rousing folk rock number that encapsulates modern day DC quite well. Its titled “Frumpy Interns walking Pugs”.

  • rudysduo

    Magnetic Fields “Washington D.C.” hands down. “Washington D.C., is paradise to me…”

    • GDopplerXT

      This would be a great nomination except that (in my opinion) the “cheerleader” parts make an otherwise very good song totally cringeworthy.

      • ess

        I think that song is tailor-made to play at Nats games…I wish they did it along with Take Me Out to the Ballgame at the 7th inning stretch!

    • Hank Chinaski

      Beat me to it!

    • erin


  • KingKenny

    Although it’s got nothing to do with DC, I always thought that “Ten Storey Love Song” by the Stone Roses would make a good DC anthem, as a nod to our height limit.

  • Anonymous

    Local band UCB has a song called DC Roc

  • GDopplerXT

    Not trying to knock the up-and-coming artists, but there should be another related question: What’s the perfect song for DC by a band that people have heard of?

    • Eric in Ledroit

      magnetic fields and bad brains are hardly “up and coming artists”

      • GDopplerXT

        Yeah, fair point, I guess I just meant band that have had more popular success.

    • james

      “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” by Death Cab for Cutie?

      • Srh

        By postal service???

        • Heather

          good correction and my thought exactly.

  • LisaT

    “Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangsta” ?

  • Zevon

    Lawyers, Guns and Money

    • TaylorStreetMan


  • ontarioroader

    The Evens – Mt Pleasant Isn’t.
    I know, it’s for a neighborhood, not the whole city. Still a great song.

  • Mr. Poon

    “Babylon System” by Bob Marley

  • PG

    I can’t think of any, but it’s a pleasant surprise to see a Skip James song mentioned here.

  • JW

    Dylan “Gotta Serve Somebody”

  • Zevon

    “It’s a mass of irony for all the world to see”
    Washington DC by Gil Scot-Heron

  • ontarioroader

    The Postal Service – The District Sleeps Alone Tonight

    • laley


    • Susan


    • Andy(2)


    • shaun

      whatever anyone says about any other song +1 (yes I’m juvenile but this song is kinda perfect.. not happy per se but certainly evokes the emotions of a transient ever changing and unfamiliar city to anyone who has been gone for more than a year or so )

    • Denizen of Tenallytown

      I like The Postal Service as well as that song, but I think you could swap “The District” with “The City” or “The Surburbs” and the song would make just as much sense.

    • DCinDC


    • Anonymous

      Come on, kids. DC is for go-go. Not emo.

    • CDizzy24

      Agreed. Postal Service’s song makes me love this city even more every time I hear it.

  • BR

    “Welcome to DC” by local band Mambo Sauce.


  • DanceOff PantsOff

    Someone please alert the members of Fugazi to this glaring omission in their catalog.

    • JS

      I’d say Cashout is pretty relevant to the DC gentrification wave.

  • Herb

    I think that Easter Motors commercial is the perfect DC song

    Eastern Motors!
    where your job is your credit!
    number one in second chance financing!

    at Eastern Motors
    your job’s your credit
    at Eastern Motors
    your job’s your credit

    • Anon

      +100 I love this idea but it may have a rival with:

      Get the cash you need in a flash at Cashpoint!

      • JohnnyReb

        I always loved Ourismann dealerships songs. “Ourismann Dodge” was a great country tune, and “Ourismann Chevrolet” was a catchy pop tune.

      • mv

        damn you guys, now I have the eastern motors and cashpoint ditties in my head!

    • Emmaleigh504

      +1 It’s surprisingly enjoyable for a commercial.

    • and another thing


  • Jay

    Army of Me, “Come Down To DC”. Great tune.

  • Anon

    Jackson Brown’s “Lawyers in Love”

    “God sends his spaceships to America, the Beautiful;
    They land at 6:00 and there we are, the dutiful;
    Eating from TV trays, tuned in to Happy Days;
    Waiting for WW III while Jesus saves (or something like that)”

  • JohnnyReb

    “Washingtron” by Tru Fax and the Maniacs!!! HFS used to play that back in the day… catchy little ditty, and I still secrectly refer to Arlington as Arlingtron.
    Off to the Youtubes to see if they have it!

    • JohnnyReb

      Dagnabbit – it was “Tru Fax and the Insaniacs” who sang the song…

  • anonymous

    what’s that old song that goes…

    “Rock Creek Park,
    Let’s do it in the dark”

    love that song.

    • bluementhol

      Donald Byrd & The Blackbyrds — “Rock Creek Park”

      Great song.

  • Anonymous
    • NE Groover


  • Anon

    I’ve got it!

    Elvis Presley’s “The Ghetto”

  • Max

    Whatever it ends up being, Ted Leo needs to have written it.

    • cia

      And if not, Ted Leonsis.

  • Hank

    not to be too picky, but the Evens song is called Mt. Pleasant Isn’t. “Anymore” is not in the song title.

  • thc

    I need to pull up my Fugazi collection, but I’d imagine they’d have something to contribute to this list.

    Also, local band ‘Gist’ has an album titled “Diesel City” with (I think) a few references to our fine city.

  • thc

    Hail to the Redskins!
    Hail Victory!
    Braves on the Warpath!
    Fight for old D.C.!
    Run or pass and score — we want a lot more!
    Beat ’em, Swamp ’em,
    Touchdown! — Let the points soar!
    Fight on, fight on ‘Til you have won
    Sons of Wash-ing-ton. Rah!, Rah!, Rah!
    Hail to the Redskins!
    Hail Victory!
    Braves on the Warpath!
    Fight for old D.C.!

    • anon

      That’s racist!

      • D

        Not if you’re cheering for them. THEM!

      • Anon

        shut up.

  • Hoping this is Funny

    “We are the World” obviously.

  • StubsDC

    Good Charlotte mentions DC a lot – “East Coast Anthem” is one. And, of course, the shout out to Hizzoner in “Celebrity” –

    “If you were caught and you were smoking crack,
    McDonalds wouldn’t event want to take you back,
    but you can always just run for mayor of DC.”

  • Casey

    Bad Brains – Banned in DC

    • thc

      good call.

  • thc

    Not really a DC song, but “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy could work.

  • thc

    Gist – Traffic on U Street

    The Dismemberment Plan – 13th and Euclid

  • J

    Waiting Room by Fugazi. Easy winner.

  • W-O-R-D

    Though not literally about DC, the Junkyard Band MUST be a contender with ‘The Word’. Angsty, uber-bassy, Reagan-era political go-go.

  • Another vote for Magnetic Fields … I’ll endorse anything that brings more attention to the strangely-ignored-by-the-masses-yet-arguably-best-collection-of-pop-songs-of-the-past-20-years 69 Love Songs.

    • Anonymous

      Who the heck are the Magnetic Fields? I’ve never heard of ’em til reading these comments. Do most people in the DC area know who they are?

  • Jim Ed

    Beat Rock by Tabi Bonney. The ultimate hip hop song for rolling around town with the windows down. Music video is an ode to DC as well


  • Anonymous

    Now look at them yo-yo’s, that’s the way you do it

    Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free

    I shoulda learned to be a gangsta or a politician (or better yet an election consultant)!

  • RJ Kochschlonger

    Let’s all just pool our spare change and commission Randy Newman to write a song called “Washington, DC.” Enough with these corny rappers named after girls and sea mammals, and has-been indie emo dorks who have only stepped on the ground here while walking between the tour bus and the Black Cat.

  • houseintherear

    “We Built This City on Rock and Roll”, by Starship, obvs.

  • Lil Man

    Nonchalant 5 O’clock
    Why should I do right and suffer
    I rather do wrong making that loopy and that hustler
    instead of hot-dogs Im eating porks up in their smother
    And got a gang of loot up in the safe up in my covers
    On top of all that I push big fat Lex
    and got my hoes that in golf course just in case I feel
    Like flexing so I Mozex, for real though, who are you
    See, Im a big man

  • Anon

    “You’re My Miss Washington DC” by Nation of Ulysses. Oh yeah.

    • Anonymous


      Great choice

  • Neal – Som Records

    My three faves –

    “Rock Creek Park” – The Blackbyrds
    “Washington DC” – Magnetic Fields”
    “Bourgeois Blues” – Lead Belly

  • PG

    “Rumble” by Link Wray.

  • Still thinking Chocolate City is such a great historic song, we should just keep that.

  • FoxyBrown

    I can’t decide on the Elvis Presley Version or the Cartman South Park Version but for sure DC’s song is “In the Ghetto”

  • Pokerface

    Guns and Roses “Welcome to the Jungle”.

    • Anonymous

      ding ding

  • Jeremy

    Roy Ayers “DC City” is probably my favorite.

  • giacomo

    Wale – DC Chillin ft. Lady Gaga


  • shaun

    ooh, or how about anything by Jack Johnson? – wait, what??? the singer isn’t the same as the guy in PG – oops

  • Stoney_D

    “DC don’t stand for Dodge City” by the GoGo Posse


    • Jimbo Slice

      best one on here. definitely.

  • Rayful Edmond

    The only music solely tied to DC is Go-Go, therefore the perfect song must be by Chuck Brown.

    • Sammy

      Thank you! Can’t believe it took someone this long to mention the great Chuck Brown!

  • Marcus Aurelius

    Concur with “Lawyers, Guns and Money” by the late, great Warren Zevon.
    It’s not about D.C., but the title identifies what this town is crawling with.

  • and another thing

    Embassy Row by Pavement

  • Irving Streete

    True Fax and the Insaniacs: “Washingtron”

    “I worked as a waitron in the lounge at the Hiltron.

    Now I work for my Senatron and I live in Arlingtron.”

    • whee

      WHEEEEEEE yes!

  • Kate R.

    The Nation of Ulysses – Hot Chocolate City
    Q & Not U – And the Washington Monument (Blinks) Goodnight

  • fz
  • fivepercentyak

    Not a perfect theme song, but a really good tune with a verse about DC (and hooking up in a national mall bathroom no less…) – The Decemberists’ “The Bagman’s Gambit”:

    On the lam from the law
    on the steps of the capitol
    you shot a plainclothes cop on the ten o’clock
    and I saw momentarily
    they flashed a photograph, it couldn’t be you
    you’d been abused so horribly
    but you were there in some anonymous room
    and I recall that fall
    I was working for the government
    and in a bathroom stall off the National Mall
    how we kissed so sweetly
    how could I refuse a favor or two
    for a tryst in the greenery
    I gave you documents and microfilm, too

    And from my ten floor tenement
    where once our bodies lay
    how I long to hear you say
    no, they’ll never catch me now
    no, they’ll never catch me
    no, they cannot catch me now
    we will escape somehow

  • Caroline

    Smart Went Crazy, “D.C. Will Do That to You”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvnNcdzbqCU

  • DCUnionGuy

    Christmastime in Washington by Steve Earle

    I also quite enjoy replacing 1/2 of the chorus of Dirty Old Town (Pogues version) w/ ‘Sulaimon Brown’.

  • Anonymous

    there is nothing we could all listen to and think, washington, dc.

  • brian

    blackbyrds “rock creek park” – 70s howard uni jazz combo

    • Joe

      That’s what I was going to suggest. Beat me to it. So I can’t believe I’m the first to suggest: Marvin Gaye – Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)

  • Anonymouse

    Not sure if it would work as a theme for the whole city, but Tuscadero had a song called “Mount Pleasant.” http://youtu.be/9yUFFlaacAs

  • Anonymous

    except for Chocolate City, right?

  • anon

    No love for Thievery Corporation?

  • Anonymous
  • andy

    Warren G & Nate Dogg . . . Because you KNOW D.C.’s got to Regulate.

  • erc

    “Bourgeois Blues” -Lead Belly


  • PG
  • Wale has a lot of DC songs, “DC chillin” for example.

  • what

    honky tonk confidential – Rock Creek Crawl or Down in Washington

  • Tim

    Definitely “The City” by the Dismemberment Plan

  • mike

    yes, many people have heard of at least one incarnation of Stephen Merritt. The Magnetic Fields being his most popular although the 6ths being my fav. my vote is “Don’t go back to Rockville” by REM


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