KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee lawmakers have added two songs to the list of official state songs, including Steve Earle’s country rock anthem “Copperhead Road.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill to make “The Tennessee in Me” by Debbie Mathis Watts a state song on April 17. Lee signed the bill to add “Copperhead Road” to the list on April 25.
They are the 11th and 12th official state songs, joining others like “Rocky Top” and “Smoky Mountain Rain.”
Earle’s song tells the tale of narrator John Lee Pettimore III’s family history of moonshine making in East Tennessee and serving in the U.S. Army before returning home to grow marijuana, “up the holler down Copperhead Road.”
The Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter visited the state capitol in Nashville on April 20, a date strongly associated with marijuana in popular culture, to accept the honor and perform the song on the house floor.
He encouraged lawmakers to listen to his song “The Devil’s Right Hand” following the performance, another song from the 1988 “Copperhead Road” album about the dangers of guns.
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Earle has been outspoken in his political beliefs both through his music and in interviews. He is a vocal opponent of the death penalty and performed at a rally in protest of capital punishment outside the Tennessee State Capitol in 1999.
While 81 percent of 600 registered Tennessee voters polled in 2018 by Middle Tennessee State University said they support some degree of marijuana legalization, efforts to approve access to medical cannabis in the Tennessee General Assembly have repeatedly failed. Several cannabis-related bills introduced during the 2023 legislative session failed to gain lawmakers’ support.
According to East Tennessee State University, a road bearing the same name near Mountain City, Tenn. was changed to Copperhead Hollow Road to discourage people from stealing the original street sign. Theft of Copperhead Road street signs in other states have also been reported over the years since its release.