Some days' lists are more random than others. Today's is the product of a conversation at pub trivia last night, with a teammate who grew up in Toledo, Ohio. Toledo, Ohio (founded 1833; pop. 293,201) is not to be confused with Toledo, Spain (founded c. 600 B.C.; pop. 80,810); one is a World Heritage Site, and one is an industrial city on the Maumee River. Nevertheless the name "Toledo" is fun to say, a lilting amphibrach (three syllables, short-long-short), and it lends itself to musical phrasing.
That's the only explanation I can think of for its showing up in an unusual number of popular songs. I had three in my iTunes, and my friend Joe (the trivia teammate) came up with two more without even thinking about it. What other medium-sized cities have this many songs written about them? If you can think of some, leave them in the comments section.
1. "Because of Toledo," The Blue Nile. The saddest, most beautiful song on the album High, and possibly its emotional centerpiece: "Because of Toledo/I got sober and stayed clean . . ." Listen to a live version here (the song itself starts around 1:19).
2. "Lucille," Kenny Rogers. Of course. "In a bar in Toledo/Across from the depot/On a barstool she took off her ring."
3. "Saturday Night Toledo Ohio," John Denver. This was Joe's contribution. I have no trouble admitting my ignorance of the works of John Denver, but this appears on two of his albums, and was a staple of his live shows. It's not very complimentary; the first line is "Saturday night in Toledo, Ohio, is like being nowhere at all."
4. "Tina Toledo's Street-Walking Blues," Ryan Adams. This one might be cheating, as it's not about Toledo at all, but about a young woman who supports her kid by working as a prostitute in New York City. "Tina Toledo" is presumably her street name, though, and she must have picked it for a reason, right?
5. "Toledo," Elvis Costello. From the album he made with Burt Bacharach, Painted from Memory. I was trying to remember the exact words to this song last night, and mangled it; the relevant lines go, "But do people living in Toledo/Know that the name hasn't traveled very well/And do people living in Ohio/Dream of that Spanish citadel?" Do they?