Georgia on My Mind

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"Georgia on My Mind"
Single by Ray Charles
from the album The Genius Hits the Road
B-side "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny"
Released September 1960
Genre Jazz, soul, blues, traditional pop
Length 3:35
Label ABC Records (USA), Stateside/EMI (UK & Europe)
Writer(s) Hoagy Carmichael (music)
Stuart Gorrell (lyrics)
Producer(s) Sid Feller
Ray Charles singles chronology
"Tell the Truth"
"Georgia on My Mind"

"Georgia on My Mind" is a song by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell, closely associated with the cover version by Ray Charles, a native of Georgia, who recorded it for his 1960 album The Genius Hits the Road. It became the official state song of the State of Georgia in 1979.[1]

Original version[edit]

1930 original recording as a Victor 78, 23013-A, featuring Hoagy Carmichael and His Orchestra.
Air National Guard Band of the Southwest - 2.65 MB

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Written in 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael (music) and Stuart Gorrell (lyrics). Gorrell wrote the lyrics for Carmichael's sister, Georgia Carmichael.[2] However, the lyrics of the song are ambiguous enough to refer either to the state or to a woman named "Georgia". Carmichael's 1965 autobiography, Sometimes I Wonder, records the origin: a friend, saxophonist and bandleader Frankie Trumbauer, suggested: "Why don't you write a song called 'Georgia'? Nobody lost much writing about the South." Thus, the song is universally believed to have been written about the state.

The song was first recorded on September 15, 1930, in New York by Hoagy Carmichael and His Orchestra with Bix Beiderbecke on muted cornet and Hoagy Carmichael on vocals. It featured Eddie Lang on guitar. The recording was part of Beiderbecke's last recording session.[3] The recording was released as Victor 23013 with "One Night in Havana". In 2014, the recording was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Cover versions[edit]

The song has been covered by many artists, significant among them: Richard Manuel, Louis Armstrong, Frankie Laine, Dean Martin, Glenn Miller, Brenda Lee, Zac Brown Band, Michael Bublé, Michael Bolton, Dave Brubeck, Anita O'Day, Mildred Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald, Rebecca Parris, Gerald Albright,[4][5] Jo Stafford, Gladys Knight, Gene Krupa, Grover Washington, Jr., James Brown, Usher, Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, Nat Gonella and The Georgians, Django Reinhardt, Khalil Fong, Wes Montgomery, John Mayer, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Willie Littlefield, The Righteous Brothers, Tom Jones, Maceo Parker, Crystal Gayle, Van Morrison, Willie Nelson, Coldplay, The Joel Haynes Trio (with Denzel Sinclair) and the Spencer Davis Group (with Steve Winwood on vocals), Tony Rice, Lou Rawls, Arturo Sandoval, instrumental version by Oscar Peterson, and Al Hirt.[6] Bing Crosby recorded this song twice: in 1956 with Buddy Cole and his trio and in 1975 with Paul Smith and Band for the LP A Southern Memoir, The Hi-Lo's, 1956, Kapp Records LP [KL-1027]-The Hi-Lo's & The Jerry Fielding orchestra.

Frankie Trumbauer had the first major hit recording in 1931, when his recording made the top ten on the charts. Trumbauer had suggested that Carmichael compose the song. Another 1931 hit version was Mildred Bailey's vocal made with members of Paul Whiteman's Orchestra (Victor 22880).

The song was a standard at performances by Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks in the late 1950s and early 1960s, where it was sung by pianist Richard Manuel. When The Hawks split off on their own and became The Band, they kept the song as part of their repertoire. They recorded a studio version of the song for Jimmy Carter's presidential bid in 1976, which was released as a single that year as well as on their 1977 album Islands.[7]

Cold Chisel's version of the song appeared on the album Barking Spiders Live: 1983 and has become a staple of their live shows. Guitarist Ian Moss still performs the song and a live version is included in his Let's All Get Together album.

The song is also associated with the Spirit of Atlanta Drum and Bugle Corps. "Georgia" was originally featured in their 1979 show and the corps continues to perform it today. Currently the piece is performed as a warmup or in a formal setting by Spirit's members and alumni.

Ray Charles[edit]

It was not until Ray Charles' 1960 recording on The Genius Hits the Road, that the song became a major hit, reaching the number one spot for one week in November 1960 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. On March 7, 1979, in a mutual symbol of reconciliation after conflict over civil rights issues, he performed it before the Georgia General Assembly (the state legislature). After this performance, the connection to the state was firmly made, and the Assembly adopted it as the state song on April 24.

Although there is no actual evidence to that effect, according to the 2004 film Ray, Charles was lifted from a supposed lifetime ban implemented since 1962.[8][9]

This version of the song was played with a video montage each time that Georgia Public Television went off the air nightly. With the advent of 24-hour broadcasting, it is rarely used now, the last time being in 2009 for the permanent sign-off of GPB's analog TV stations on February 17.

The song was used as the theme song to the CBS sitcom Designing Women (set in Atlanta), initially as an instrumental (performed by Doc Severinsen), and later in a recording by Ray Charles. Charles' version was also sampled for rap group Field Mob's 2005 single, "Georgia", featuring Jamie Foxx and Ludacris. Lil Wayne also uses the song in his satirical song about George W. Bush called "Georgia Bush".

Sometime after 2000, Charles invited the Italian singer Giorgia Todrani to sing the song with him after learning she was named in honor of the song.

Jamie Foxx and Alicia Keys, backed by Quincy Jones and his Orchestra, performed a new arrangement in honor of Ray Charles at the 2005 Grammy Awards.

Willie Nelson[edit]

Willie Nelson recorded "Georgia" on his 1978 album Stardust. It was released as single, peaked at #1 for a single week and total of 16 weeks on a country chart.[10] A year later, Willie Nelson won a Grammy award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1978) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 84
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 1
Canadian RPM Top Singles 86
Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks 16

Cultural significance[edit]

  • In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named "Georgia on My Mind" the 44th greatest song of all time.[citation needed]
  • The title of the song was used as the state of Georgia's license plate slogan exclusively from January 1997 through November 2003
  • The song was one of the songs of the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta.[citation needed]
  • In the television show Quantum Leap, the Ray Charles version of the song is used in several episodes. Most often, it is used as a leitmotif associated with the star-crossed relationship between Al Calavicci and his beloved first wife Beth, who had remarried when she believed Al dead at the hands of the Vietcong. It is the last song heard in the series' finale, "Mirror Image", as Sam returns to the events of "M.I.A." to inform Beth that Al was still alive, preserving their marriage.
  • The song is featured at the end of the House episode "Saviors" performed by Hugh Laurie.
  • The Ray Charles version is prominently heard in the 2004 biographical film Ray, during the end credits and at the last scene, where Mr. Charles (Jamie Foxx) is honored by having been lifted from his life-time ban in Georgia and by having Georgia On My Mind as the state's theme song.
  • The Willie Nelson version was featured twice in the Monk episode, "Mr. Monk and the Red-Headed Stranger", when Willie offers to let Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub) accompany his backing band on clarinet during a live radio broadcast of the song in honor of it being Monk's late wife, Trudy's favorite song (Monk instead whistles the melody this time around due to mysophobia and the clarinet not being played by Monk himself; Willie later compliments him on his whistling of the song's melody). The song is featured again at the end of the episode when Monk plays clarinet while Willie sings, both in front of where Trudy is buried.
  • Lil Wayne samples the song for his rap "Georgia Bush".
  • In an interview with a Turkish newspaper, Hurriyet, former Pink Floyd member Roger Waters stated: "I was about 15. In the middle of the night with friends, we were listening jazz. It was Ray Charles's version of 'Georgia on My Mind'. Then I thought, 'One day, if I make some people feel only one-twentieth of what I am feeling now, it will be quite enough for me."[11]
  • In 2013, Bennett the Sage of That Guy with the Glasses claimed the Ray Charles version to be the best #1 song in Billboard history, stating "At the end of the day, this is one of the most beautiful songs to ever be put to record...if this is the best song to ever hit #1, is this also the best song in pop history?...I wouldn't have any objections if it were."[12]


The original lyrics, including the commonly excised introductory verse, are in the Georgia Code under license. The location in the 2011 code is section 50-3-60, Official song.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "State Song". Georgia Secretary of State. 1979. 
  2. ^ The Hoagy Carmichael Collection Retrieved June 30, 2012.
  3. ^ Cad, Saint. "10 More Famous Songs With Unknown Originals". Retrieved 21 June 2013. 
  4. ^ "New Beginnings overview". 
  5. ^ "Gerald Albright - New Beginnings". 
  6. ^ Al Hirt, The Greatest Horn in the World Retrieved April 6, 2013.
  7. ^ Morris, Chris, Liner Notes to Islands CD release 
  8. ^ "32 Years Ago This Month: Ray Charles Serenades the Legislature". Retrieved January 18, 2013. 
  9. ^ Robert Fontenot, Guide. "How did racism affect Ray Charles?". Retrieved June 9, 2012. 
  10. ^ Willie Nelson's "Georgia on My Mind" Chart Positions Retrieved June 30, 2012.
  11. ^ "In Turkish: Roger Waters & Cinar Oskay roportaji, ‘Muziginizin hatirlanmasi sizin icin onemli mi?’". Hurriyet. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  12. ^ "The Top 20 Best Number One Songs", That Guy with the Glasses, August 20, 2013.

External references[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Save the Last Dance for Me" by The Drifters
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 number one single (Ray Charles version)
November 14, 1960 (one week)
Succeeded by
"Stay" by Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs
Preceded by
"Do You Know You Are My Sunshine"
by The Statler Brothers
Billboard Hot Country Singles number-one single
(Willie Nelson version)

June 10, 1978
Succeeded by
"Two More Bottles of Wine"
by Emmylou Harris
Preceded by
"She Can Put Her Shoes Under My Bed (Anytime)"
by Johnny Duncan
RPM Country Tracks number one single
(Willie Nelson version)

June 3-June 10, 1978
Succeeded by
"Night Time Magic"
by Larry Gatlin