We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

Last week’s Census report revealed that D.C.’s black population had plummeted—causing observers to declare that Parliament’s D.C.-inspired tune “Chocolate City” is now inaccurate. What should replace it as local musical cliché? A sampling of other songs about Washington is below; list your other suggestions in the comments.

Song: ”Bourgeois Blues”

Artist: Leadbelly

Year: 1938

Relevance: High. The late bluesman wouldn’t feel very out of place in today’s real estate market: “I tell all the colored folks to listen to me/Don’t try to find you no home in Washington, D.C./’Cause it’s a bourgeois town.”


Song: “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”

Artist: The Postal Service

Year: 2003

Relevance: Medium. “I am a visitor here/I am not permanent,” the song declares, in an homage to Washingtonian transience. But the song’s lonely title is undercut by word of young families opting to reside in urban neighborhoods.

Song: “Washington, D.C.”

Artist: Gil Scott-Heron

Year: 1982

Relevance: Medium. The political-rap progenitor is off base with the assertion that “citizens of poverty are barely out of sight,” and a reference to knifings on 14th Street NW: Today’s District hides its downtrodden and dines at fancy 14th Street eateries. On the other hand, “tourists craning rubber necks” are eternal. And did the line “overlords escape in the evening with people of the night” prefigure Eliot Spitzer and David Vitter?

Song: “Washington, D.C.”

Artist: The Magnetic Fields

Year: 1999

Relevance: Low. An ode to the District in the form of a love song about a D.C. resident, the song’s lyrics have nothing to do with demography or life in the city. But the declaration, “Washington, D.C./it’s paradise to me” by a band whose fans tend to look a lot like the newcomers the Census found—young, white, and over-educated—may now take on a new meaning.


Photo of Leadbelly via Wikimedia Commons