Daily Top Five: Autobiographical Songs

Jonathan posted an excellent review of “Dime Store Cowgirl” today, which is an autobiographical song by Kacey Musgraves.

Today’s top five asks you to share your favorite autobiographical country songs, the ones where the artist/writer tells their own story in song.

There are so many of these I like, from Johnny Cash’s “Five Feet High and Rising” to Carlene Carter’s “Me and the Wildwood Rose,” but while making my list, I realized I couldn’t pick just one Dolly Parton song. So my top five is just songs by her. But please feel free to mix up the artists on your own list!

Here’s My Top Five:

  1. Dolly Parton, “Just Because I’m a Woman”
  2. Dolly Parton, “In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)”
  3. Dolly Parton, “Coat of Many Colors”
  4. Dolly Parton, “Shattered Image”
  5. Dolly Parton, “Backwoods Barbie”



  1. Some of my favorite autobiographical songs about PARTS of various artists’ lives:

    Emmylou Harris- “Boulder to Birmingham”
    Rodney Crowell- “The Houston Kid”
    Merle Haggard- “Mama Tried”
    Rosanne Cash- “September When it Comes”
    Iris DeMent- “Mama Was Always Tellin’ Her Truth”

  2. 1. Jason Isbell – Cover Me Up
    2. Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen – In the Next Life
    3. Canaan Smith – Bronco
    4. Aaron Watson – Fence Post (“for the most part”)
    5. Jason Boland – Farmer’s Luck (well his grandparents, but still a true story)

  3. Two obvious choices, I realize, but nonetheless undeniable favorites of mine:

    1. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” — Loretta Lynn
    2. “Coat of Many Colors” — Dolly Parton

    Then, of course, there is the greatest country artist of all time who has SO many autobiographical classics to choose from that I could easily make this list all about him. Limiting my selection to just one of his greats, I’d say this one probably touches me the most:

    3. “Hungry Eyes” — Merle Haggard

    Rounding out the list:

    4. “Saginaw, Michigan” — Faron Young

    And if “autobiographical” can be interpreted as encompassing stories of singers’ past lives, I’d like to conclude my top five list with:

    5. “El Paso City” — Marty Robbins

  4. Doug,
    For posterity’s sake, I’ll say that I’m confused by some of your choices? Are you saying that Saginaw Michigan”, for instance, actually happened to Young, because I don’t think it did?

  5. It’s hard to know what songs are actually autobiographical, but here’s a wish list for some current artists:

    Someday I’m Gonna Act My Age – Luke Bryan
    Watching My Brain Cells Die – Taylor Swift
    I’m The Only One Who Thinks I’m Funny – Blake Shelton
    Yes, We’re Still Married – Tim McGraw & Faith Hill
    One More Song Just Like All The Others – Jason Aldean
    Selling Our Souls For Some Success – Little Big Town
    How Am I Still Relevant – Reba McEntire & Kenny Chesney
    What’s Wrong With Radio – George Strait & Alan Jackson
    You Better Keep One Eye Open – Miranda Lambert
    Tighter Shirts – Hunter Hayes
    Anything For Attention – Kacey Musgraves
    Whine Some More – Eric Church

  6. Leeann,

    Thank you for calling me out on “Saginaw, Michigan.” In the clear light of day, I see it was a clunker of a choice. For one thing, I now see that the song was made famous by Lefty Frizzell, not Young. And I also now realize that neither artist wrote/lived the song. As such, and for the “sake of posterity” (choosing your words :-), I hereby withdraw “Saginaw, Michigan” and humbly insert “Texas in my Rearview Mirror” by Mac Davis in its place.

    As for “El Paso City,” I know that Marty Robbins has asserted that his signature story song, “El Paso,” as revisited in “El Paso City” was a fictional tale. However, I like to think that in the intervening years between “El Paso” and “El Paso City,” Robbins may have come to believe that the “El Paso” storyline, which reportedly came to him so effortlessly while driving through the city, was a repressed memory from a past life. This may be a big stretch of my imagination, but it’s what I choose to take away from the lyrics of “El Paso City” — a cool song regardless of its interpretation.

    Whether you agree with me or not, I really enjoy your comments and contributions to this site.

  7. Don’t these qualify?
    Drink a Beer – Luke Bryan
    Fire and Rain – James Taylor
    Mean – Taylor Swift (although her whole catalog could qualify)
    Me and Paul – Willie Nelson
    and this may be a stretch, but I thought Alan described this song as his personal feelings:
    Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning) – Alan Jackson

  8. “The Key to Life” – Vince Gill
    “Chasin That Neon Rainbow” – Alan Jackson
    “My Home’s In Alabama” – Alabama
    “I Go Back” – Kenny Chesney
    “Rough and Rowdy Days” – Waylon Jennings

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.