50 Greatest City, State, And Town Songs – #19: “Maybe it Was Memphis” by Pam Tillis
“Maybe It Was Memphis” by Pam Tillis
Album: “Put Yourself In My Place”
Chart Peak: #3
City, State, or Town: Memphis, Tennessee
The legendary Pam Tillis hit the top 5 for the third time in the 1990s with the third and final Memphis based song on the countdown. However Pam takes a totally different look at the musical city by examining not only the music but the art and the true country style life that makes up much of what many people see as a crowded city in their minds. Not to mention it’s a honor in itself for a city to be the center of one of Pam Tillis’s songs.
The lyrics surround a girl who is enjoying life on the front porch of her Memphis home with a boy that is apparently far from home and not used to the new lifestyle. Well love just strikes her and she begins to wonder, maybe it was Memphis. One of the messages in the song is just that, what sparks love in an instant like that. That is of course the basic message of the song, but hidden deep beneath the romantic storyline and the message of “where does love come from”, this song actually acts as a cultural tribute to more than just the music and beauty of the southern city.
Hidden within the story are references to several cultural icons that have come from the city of Memphis. In a line in the second verse Pam sings “read about you in a Faulkner novel/Met you once in a Williams play” both references to famous southern figures in the arts and literature. Tennessee Williams was a well known and popular play wright and author that resided in the city of Memphis, Tennessee. While popular writer William Faulkner was a Mississippi native he was one of the most influential southern writers in history thus using his work as a popular reference had more meaning than just relating the male figure in the song to Faulkner’s books.
So while “Maybe It Was Memphis” was made popular by Pam Tillis as a song of southern love, it also contained an artistic element significant to the history behind Memphis and that allowed attention to more than just it’s musical fame as the home of Elvis and many rising stars. Pam made this a traditional and effective love song that not only told a magnificent and intriguing story, but also briefly payed tribute to the history of the great city outside of the music industry.