When songwriters want to bring a bit of realism to their song narratives, one way to do it is to introduce familiar and universal touchstones found in the actual world. So it's little surprise that a surefire technique is to drop in a well-placed reference to Coca-Cola to ground the tune in the real world. Here are 13 songs that mention the soft drink in its lyrics.
1. "Good Directions," Billy Currington
A gorgeous Hollywood woman stops by Billy's turnip stand to ask for directions, so he instructs her to first stop in at "a little country store with an old Coke sign" for some of Miss Belle's sweet tea before she hits the Interstate. Not having fallen off the turnip truck, he decides to track this beauty down before she drives out of his life forever. Suffice it to say, it ends well for our hero. This single topped the country charts in 2006, and may have increased the sales of sweet tea among eligible young men.
2. "When I Paint My Masterpiece," The Band
Bob Dylan wrote this song, but he gave his legendary backing musicians in The Band first crack at it in 1971. In the songwriter's typically cryptic style, he delivers a tale of European adventures that he finds fascinating if a bit wearying. When The Band's singer-drummer Levon Helm finally exclaims, "Oh, to be back in the land of Coca-Cola," the homesickness is made to feel real with that one simple reference delivered in decidedly un-Dylanlike straightforwardness.
3. "Ellsworth," Rascal Flatts
This 2007 tale from this Nashville trio is a bittersweet one about an elderly widow in an assisted-living facility who has a bit of trouble remembering things. That changes sharply when her grandchildren mention the town of Ellsworth, Kansas, and then the old woman's memories flow as if it's 1948 once again and she's a young lass courting her now-late husband. She reminisces about his blue DeSoto, his getting down on one knee to propose to her in his green Army uniform—and one of those indelible memories is of the young couple sharing "a couple of straws and a Coca-Cola."
4. "Drive-In," The Beach Boys
They're famous for being the ambassadors of the California surf sound, but they also know how to have fun on land, as heard in this 1964 ditty. When they pile into their woodie and head for the drive-in double feature, what's playing on the screen is of little importance. The snack bar gets their attention, and only when they return to their car with "a big buttered popcorn and an extra-large Coke" will the show begin.
5. "I'm Just a Girl," Deana Carter
Musicians longing for America while overseas is a running theme in songs, from Chuck Berry's "Back in the USA" to Bob Dylan's "When I Write My Masterpiece." Country siren Deana Carter's contribution to the canon is the title track from her 2003 album, in which she makes it plain that even though she's been to London and Paris, her heart calls out for the things that symbolize her American home. Included in her cure for homesickness are a "Coca-Cola sundae and a Beach Boys serenade."
6. "Having a Party," Sam Cooke
The big get-together is a common musical theme, but on this 1962 hit the legendary R&B crooner lets you in on his winning formula for a successful party. Not only has Cooke put in his song requests for the DJ that are guaranteed to get the couples on the dance floor, he also makes it known that "the Cokes are in the icebox."
7. "Hip to My Heart," The Band Perry
The debut single from this trio of siblings was a Top 20 country hit in 2010, in large part because of the flirtatious manner in which singer Kimberly Perry handles the song's main metaphor. She's head-over-heels for this guy, and when she tells him, "I like your lips like I like my Coca-Cola" because his kisses pop and fizzle, he's got to have carbonation in his head not to get the message.
8. "When Worlds Collide," Neil Young
In his 2009 saga of a road trip across the United States, the Canadian-born rocker ticks off the sights as he builds up the mileage while cruising in his hybrid-fuel 1959 Lincoln Continental. One moment, he's getting his kicks on the landmark Route 66, the next he's "floating along the Rio Grande/Coca-Cola in my hand." It's uncertain whether he's racing toward something or running from something else, but it's more than evident that Young is learning as much about himself as he is about his adopted home.
9. "Small Town Girl," Kellie Pickler
The 2006 American Idol contestant cowrote the title track from her debut album, in which she introduces herself to the country-music audience as the same unpretentious, homespun girl she's always been and always will be, despite her newfound fame. Among the ways she announces her small-town bona fides is by singing about her preferences for the simple pleasures, among which are "Coca-Cola and apple pie."
10. "Lola," the Kinks
This coy 1970 rocker with the "was she or wasn't she a she?" twist was a big hit in both the U.S. and UK, despite being banned by British radio — but not because of its mild gender-bending lyrics. Kinks frontman Ray Davies sings that his champagne "tastes just like Coca-Cola," but mentioning a brand name is a no-no on the state-run BBC airwaves. So the singer had to go back into the studio and dub in the replacement phrase "cherry cola" before he was allowed on the British airwaves to tell his tale about his confusing date with an unusual woman.
11. "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool," Barbara Mandrell
For this 1981 smash that emerged during a nationwide craze for anything that twangs, the country-music queen comes out of the closet as a longtime lover of the music and the lifestyle. She reminisces about the bad old days when, in her misguided quest to fit in with the rock ’n’ roll crowd, she would show her shame by turning down George Jones (who makes a guest appearance on the song) on her car radio and, when no one was looking, she would furtively partake in the uniquely down-home custom of, as she sings, "putting peanuts in my Coke."
12. "Americano," the Brian Setzer Orchestra
This neo-swing tune tells the tale of a foreign gentleman who is trying hard to assimilate into the American lifestyle — some may even say he's trying a bit too hard. He's duded up like a Texas cowboy and wishing for a Cadillac to complete the package. He does employ some less extravagant ways to fit in, such as his newfound affection for baseball and rock 'n' roll. His favorite food order is "a Coca-Cola, Joe, and a pizza pie to go." He'll do fine.
13. "Spin Me a Christmas," Aqua
This kitschy combo from Scandinavia are known for their screwy take on pop culture, exemplified in their Top 10 hit from 1997, "Barbie Girl." But on this Yuletide track, they make direct reference to the association between Coca-Cola and Santa Claus, specifically in the iconic imagery of esteemed illustrator Haddon Sundblom. With the line "If not for Coca-Cola/He would still have been green," the group refers to the urban legend that gives the soft-drink company a very prominent role in establishing the Santa we know and love today.
But it’s actually more truth than legend: Sundblom painted the jolly, red-suited "Coca-Cola Santa Claus” for a 1931 advertising campaign, re-creating the image every year through the 1970s. Before that, there really was no uniform image of Kris Kringle in popular culture.
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