Reminds me that I long to be
I wish I was homeward bound
Home, where my thought's escaping
Home, where my music's playing
Home, where my love lies waiting silently for me
It's become something of a cliche to say "the world is getting smaller." While the world isn't physically shrinking, improving technologies of communication and travel make planet Earth seem like it's not such a big place after all. That feeling fades away rather quickly, however, when you've been away from home for awhile and, for whatever reason, cannot get back there at will. When you become homesick, even a relatively small distance can seem endless.
One popular way to cope with homesickness is by singing about it. Hence, the abundance of Homesickness Hymns.
Homesickness Hymns are, naturally, songs in which the primary theme centers on missing one's home and family and yearning to return to them. Done well, they can be among the most relatable songs of all — after all, who hasn't felt homesick at least once in their life? If done poorly, however, they can come across as whiny, or even ungrateful for the opportunities life has given the narrator.
Homesickness Hymns can take many forms, but most of them generally fall into two categories: the literal and the metaphorical.
A literal version of the Homesickness Hymn is Exactly What It Says on the Tin — it tells a story of a person who is away from home for whatever reason, and they are dying to get back to their home, family, and/or lover. One particularly common variation is the "Tired of Touring" song, in which the narrator is a touring musician or celebrity who is sick of being on the road and just wants to get home and rest up.
Other songs, however, take the metaphorical approach. In these songs, "home" is not necessarily an actual physical location or person, but symbolic of a state of stability: where a person feels safe, secure, provided for, and loved. It can also be symbolic of more specific things, like spiritual comfort.
Compare and contrast "Leaving the Nest" Song, with which the Homesickness Hymn often overlaps. Contrast Wanderlust Song, which is this trope's thematic opposite: they're about being sick of home and wanting to set out on a journey. Is not necessarily a religious song despite its title.
- The Dillards: A number of the band's songs focus around a country boy missing his home.
- "Never See My Home Again" is sung by a country boy who waxes nostalgic for the rural beauty and family he has back home, but suspects that the continual road stretching on before him will keep him away for good.
- "The Old Home Place" tells about a man who left his homestead for a job in town after falling in love with a town girl. However, the girl was unfaithful to him, the homestead was torn down, and now he wishes for death.
- When Jalan Crossland isn't lampshading the craziness of the small town West, he's singing about how much you miss it when you leave.
- "Bosler" (written before the eponymous town was destroyed in a 2012 fire), is framed as a letter by the artist to their girlfriend, asking them to run away to Bosler and live a simple life.
- Allan Sherman's song "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" is sung from the point of view of a boy at 'Camp Granada' where "they say we'll have some fun if it stops raining". He hates it there and begs to be taken home, until the final verse, when the rain stops and the campers can go outside and do fun activities.
- "Oh My Sweet Carolina" by Ryan Adams is about a nomadic ne'er-do-well who has been all over the place, but misses his home in North Carolina and wonders what compels him to roam.
- "Detroit City" by Bobby Bare is about working in a car plant in Detroit but missing his hometown down south: "Last night I went to sleep in Detroit City, and I dreamed about those cottonfields and home..."
- "Come Monday" by Jimmy Buffett is one example of the "musician weary of touring" theme, as it details a narrator who's finishing up a summer of touring and looking forward to Monday, when he'll be back home with his lover.
- John Denver has a couple of famous examples:
- While the song doesn't offer any specifics on where he is, "Take Me Home, Country Roads" is about a man who misses his home and family in West Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains by the Shenandoah River note , and is driving to get there as fast as he can.
- The narrator of "Leaving on a Jet Plane" (originally titled "Babe, I Hate to Go", but changed after its first release) is homesick before he even leaves home: the song has him saying goodbye to his lover, promising that he'll return with her wedding ring. While Denver wrote the song and performed it first, the song is most famously known as performed by Peter, Paul and Mary.
- Joe Diffie's hit song "Home" offers up a cornucopia of the narrator's memories of home growing up, and expresses longing for that simpler, more comforting time.
- "Mama, Don't Forget to Pray for Me" by Diamond Rio is sung from the perspective of a man who's moved away to a new job where he is very successful, yet he's unhappy because he bitterly misses his home and family, and fears that the pressures of his current life may change him for the worse.
- Subverted in "Green Green Grass of Home", most famously recorded by Tom Jones, where the narrator sings of home and the people around him, only to realize that it was only a dream as he awaits execution on Death Row.
- "I'm Already There" by Lonestar. A man on the road because of his work calls his family at home out of loneliness. When his children ask when he's coming home, he tells them he's already there with them in spirit.
- "The John B. Sails" is a Bahamian folk song first published in 1916, though the song itself may be much older than that. It details the narrator's sailing misadventures, punctuated by his pleas to the Captain to let him go home. The song has been recorded many times by many artists under several different titles, with the most successful versions being "Sloop John B." by The Kingston Trio and, later, The Beach Boys.
- "I Miss My Home" by Gaelic Storm is a lighthearted variation on the theme, where the narrator travels to Dublin, Paris, and New York City, and despite getting his fill of drink, women, and merriment, he constantly dreams about returning home.
- "Five Hundred Miles", a folk song attributed to folk singer Hedy West, is about a traveller who is far from home, lonely, and broke, but is too ashamed of his current state to return. While the song has been covered countless times, the most commercially successful version was recorded by Bobby Bare in 1963.
- "Home! Sweet Home!" by John H. Payne and Henry R. Bishop, is an Older Than Radio example, having been written in 1823. It was particularly popular among soldiers fighting on both sides of the American Civil War.
'Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home!
- "Fare Thee Well Northumberland" by Mark Knopfler tells the story of a man who regrets having to leave home and knows he will miss it, but he is "bound to ramble and roam." Unlike many examples of this trope, the narrator outright states "I would not gamble on my coming home."
- Irish and Scottish folk music seem to produce a disproportionate number of these songs. Stereotypically, the Irish examples (e.g. "Lone Shanakyle") will be from the perspective of emigrants fleeing the potato famine, and the Scottish ones will be about exiles from the Jacobite rebellions, but they tell a variety of other stories as well, such as...
- "Caledonia" by Dougie MacLean focuses on missing home.
But let me tell you that I love you, that I think about you all the timeCaledonia you're calling me and now I'm going home
- "Poor Wayfaring Stranger", a.k.a. 'I Am a Poor, Wayfaring Stranger", is a traditional folk song hymn probably first published in 1858, telling of an itinerant pilgrim who wanders the earth, while yearning for Heaven. During the U.S. Civil War and for some time afterward, it was known for a time as the "Libby Prison Hymn", reportedly inscribed by a dying Union soldier in Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia. Burl Ives recorded the song on "The Wayfaring Stranger" album and utilized it as the theme song of his radio program during the 1940s. Actor and singer Jos Slovick performed it as part of the soundtrack to the 2019 movie 1917.
I am a poor, wayfaring stranger,
While traveling through this world of woe,
But there's no sickness, no toil nor danger,
In that bright world to which I go.
I'm going there to see my father, I'm going there no more to roam,
I'm only going over Jordan, I'm only going over home.
- Europe's power ballad "Homeland" is about growing up, moving away, and moving on, yet still yearning to return to the home of one's youth:
So far from my homeland,I'm lost in time,My soul's still searchin',For that peace of mind,Those sacred landscapes,Come miles around,And my heart's still beatin',For those country grounds.
- Iron Maiden's ''Stranger in a Strange Land" is sung from the perspective of an explorer who is freezing to death in the Arctic, while lamenting how he's alone and far from home and family. In the last verse, he is found frozen to death a century later.
- A later, more uplifting case is "Coming Home", where Bruce Dickinson sings about flying the band's plane on the verses and how happy is returning to England in the chorus.
- "Home Sweet Home" by Mötley Crüe was written as a reaction to being on the Shout at the Devil tour, which lasted a whopping eighteen months. Needless to say, the band were quite sick of being on the road by then, but once they finally did get home, they didn't know what to do with themselves.
- "Inis Mona" by Eluveitie is told from the perspective of a well-respected Druid who spent much of his youth obtaining a Druidic education, and while he doesn't regret that choice, he does find himself yearning for the home and times of his youth.
- "Mama, I'm Coming Home" by Ozzy Osbourne is a darker, more ambivalent take on the "coming home to a loved one" formula; the narrator talks about how the relationship is far from perfect (in fact, at times it seems downright toxic), but he's ready to come home to her anyway. While the popular lore says that Ozzy wrote it for his then-wife Sharon Osbourne ("Mama" was his pet name for her), the lyrics were in fact written for Ozzy by Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead.
- "Paradise" by Tesla takes the cycle of homesickness full circle, as it starts off with the narrator regretfully leaving his lover behind, and spends most of the song missing her over relatively mournful music. However, at the end as he starts his journey home, the band explodes into a fast tempo and acrobatic guitar solos.
- Jazz singer/bandleader Bob Crosby recorded a song called "Way Back Home" with his band The Bob-Cats, in which the singer reminisces about his home where everything is the very best, and wonders why he left.
- Crosby also did "Dear Hearts and Gentle People" which has a similar theme, though that one is less regret that he left and more looking forward to returning.
- Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday recorded "Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?" for the 1947 musical film New Orleans. It quickly became a jazz standard. Ironically, songwriters Louis Alter and Eddie Delange were both from the Northeast.
- Michael Bublé's hit single "Home" is about a man who acknowledges how lucky he is to be a famous globetrotting musician...but he misses his lover and longs to return. The song ends on an up note with the line, "I'll be home tonight, I'm coming back home."
- "Georgia On My Mind" was originally written by pop musician Hoagy Carmichael and his roommate Stuart Gorrell in 1930 after Carmichael's saxophonist jokingly said he should write a song about the state of Georgia, and the song took on this theme of homesickness. When Georgia native Ray Charles covered the song years later in 1960, it took on a new significance and poignance, especially when Charles performed the song before the Georgia General Assembly as a symbol of reconciliation after years of activism and struggle stemming from the Civil Rights Movement. After the performance, the Assembly adopted the song as the official State Song of Georgia.
- Bing Crosby has a couple of examples:
- Composer Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" is about Dreaming of a White Christmas back home instead of in LA with its sunny weather. Bing's version of the song is the greatest-selling single of all time.
- "I'll Be Home for Christmas" is about a soldier in World War II singing about wanting to be back home rather than being at war.
- "Blue Bayou" by Roy Orbison is about a man who's moved off for working reasons, and all he can think about is saving up money so he can return to this friends and family on Blue Bayou.
- "Homeward Bound" by Simon & Garfunkel is another entry in the "musician on tour misses their home and their lover" format, as it comments on how empty the road starts to feel after awhile.
- "3000 Miles" by Echosmith (then known as "Ready Set Go!") is about them missing their home in California while touring.
- "Rivers of Babylon", a 1970 song by The Melodians, has lyrics adapted from Psalms 19 and 137, the latter of which were about the Israelites' longing for their home while they were held in Babylonian captivity. In 1978, the song received a disco cover by Boney M.
- The Beatles provide some examples:
- "All My Loving" provides an example of preemptive homesickness; the narrator hasn't left home yet, but he pours his heart out to his lover about how much he will miss her while he's gone, and how he will be faithful during his absence.
- "Two of Us" is about two travellers who are on their way home, and eager to get there.
- Russian Alternative Rock band Bi-2 has two songs that reference homesickness on their 2017 album, Horizont Sobytiy (engl. Event Horizon):
- A song called "Rodina" (engl. "Homeland") talks about the yearning to return home after being away for so long. It describes tearing up at the sight of pictures of birch trees, the songs of nightingales and sleeping among blackthorn bushes. The song concludes that even though your homeland may be widely known as the Empire of Evil, it is impossible to not love the places that are close to your heart.
- The lyrics to "Pora vozvrashyatsa domoy" (engl. "Time to return home") deal with an immigrant's desire to return home to a house which is still vivid in his mind, even if it may already have been razed to the ground. While said home may not be the best place, sometimes the heart triumphs over reason and that connection to place becomes one's greatest desire.
- "Can't Find My Way Home" by Blind Faith takes a metaphorical approach to "home"; depending on the interpretation, in this case "home" refers to either getting clean from drugs or spiritual salvation:
Well, I'm near the end and I just ain't got the timeAnd I'm wasted and I can't find my way home."
- "Turn the Page" by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band (and later famously covered by Metallica) is one of rock's most vivid examples of road fatigue, as it's told from the perspective of a world-weary, burned-out musician who's grown sick of being on the road and just wants to get home and be away from that life for awhile.
- Setting aside its overwrought cowboy analogy, "Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi is fundamentally about the loneliness and seeming meaninglessness of the touring lifestyle.
- "Home" by Daughtry takes a less severe look at touring weariness: while the narrator is tired of being on the road and wants to go home to his significant other, he insists that he's "not running" and doesn't "regret this life I chose for me" — he's just tired and wants to rest.
- "2000 Miles" by the Deluxtone Rockets is about missing one's sweetheart while on the road. "2000 miles but my heart is still back home with you. / So many miles away, my love for you still burns so true."
- "Desperado" by Eagles is about getting tired of aimless selfish excess and returning to a place of stability and love:
Desperado, you ain't getting no youngerYour pain and your hunger, they're driving you homeAnd freedom, oh freedom, that's just some people talkingYour prison is walking through this world all alone
- "Home" by Foo Fighters is about longing to be home, but the song refers not only to literally being away from home, but the feelings of loss and heartache that come with moving on to new stages in life.
- "Forever Together" by Foxy Shazam has the singer talk to the listener, saying things like "At the end of the day it's not funny, I miss my family far away" and "Travel's said to broaden the mind, but I'm just losing mine."
- "Christie Road" by Green Day, a song about nostalgia and memories of adolescence, refers to a place where Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt would go to get high as teenagers.
- James Taylor's "Carolina in My Mind", expressing how his homesickness is making him pine for the North Carolina where he grew.
- Journey has a handful of examples:
- "Faithfully" was written by keyboardist Jonathan Cain after considering how the band and crew were sacrificing family life for their music careers. While the song is primarily about missing loved ones, it does offer something of an upside:
"Two strangers learn to fall in love againI get the joy of rediscovering you."
- "Lights", while being fairly light on lyrical content, is another example of songs about being on the road and missing home. In this case, the narrator wants to "get back to my city on the bay."
- "Wheel in the Sky", in contrast, is less about missing loved ones (although one is mentioned) than simply being tired of constantly being on the road, not knowing where you'll be the following morning.
- "Faithfully" was written by keyboardist Jonathan Cain after considering how the band and crew were sacrificing family life for their music careers. While the song is primarily about missing loved ones, it does offer something of an upside:
- "People of the South Wind" by Kansas, while crouched in some fantastic imagery, is another song about the emptiness of traveling the world without a place to call home, and wishing it were possible to return to one's youthful home.
- "Louie Louie" (The Kingsmen's garbled lyrics notwithstanding) is about a Jamaican sailor looking forward to seeing his gal back home.
- Oddly for a band whose persona is so deeply centered on partying and sex, "Beth" by Kiss is a disarmingly earnest song where the narrator entreaties his lover to wait for him, hoping she'll be all right while he's gone.
- For all the controversies surrounding some of the verses in "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd, the song is at least partly about a traveller who is eager to get back to his family and his (likely rose-colored) image of his home state.
- "Gator Country" by Molly Hatchet is a tribute to the band's home state of Florida, talking about other states in the South they've been but saying "but I'm going back to the gator country where the wine and the women are free".
- "Utah" by The Osmonds takes a decidedly more chipper and upbeat approach to the theme; it focuses less on being homesick and miserable, and more about looking forward to going back to their home in Utah.
- The song How to Make Gravy by Paul Kelly is sung from the perspective of a man who's in jail over Christmas and wishes he could be back at home with his family.
- "My City Was Gone" by the Pretenders takes a look at "home" being lost to the passage of time as opposed to physical absence: while the narrator does go "back to Ohio" where she is from, she laments that what she remembers of her home turf is lost to progress.
- Queen's "'39" is about space explorers embarking on a 1-year journey, but realize upon returning to Earth that 100 years have passed due to time dilation.
- "Home at Last" by Steely Dan was written about the band regretting moving to Los Angeles from their native New York, though the raw emotions are a bit buried by an extended metaphor involving Homer's The Odyssey.
- "Two More Weeks To Go" by The W's is about the band's experience touring, and all the little things that grate on you after awhile — namely, playing the same songs ad nauseam and being crowded into a tiny tour van. "Two more weeks to go / then we can go home!"
- "Don't Cry" by Elvira T is about her missing her hometown of Saratov despite its flaws.
- In The Chipmunk Adventure, the Chipettes try to comfort a homesick baby penguin by singing the song "My Mother," which is set over a montage of said penguin chick remembering its happy life in the wild before captivity.
- In Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird, Big Bird is trying to find his way back home to Sesame Street after running away from his new adoptive family, the Dodos. Near the end of the film, Big Bird meets up with Sam and Sid Sleaze, a pair of wicked carnival owners who paint him blue and make him the star attraction of their carnival, "The Bluebird of Happiness". The song Big Bird sings, "I'm So Blue", is anything but happy, as he just wants to be back home on Sesame Street.
I'm a bluebird that's been dreaming of a rainbow I can follow,To that old familiar place I long to see.Friendly faces, a smile to greet me, or just a simple "Hello, how are you?"Oh, without them, I'm so blue,There's only one thing that will doTo make this heartache end,To be back home again.
- The movie version of The Wizard of Oz originally had a Dark Reprise of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," sung by Dorothy while being held captive by the Wicked Witch of the West.
- The Bible records songs the Jews sang after being taken into captivity in Babylon, making this trope Older Than Feudalism. Psalm 137 is one such song, containing the following excerpt:: "By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres. For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, 'Sing us one of the songs of Zion!' How shall we sing the LORD's song in a foreign land?"
- Robert A. Heinlein's "The Green Hills of Earth" tells the story of the eponymous song. Written by an inveterate space traveler, it's known to every spacer, and it can make even the most hardened of them weep.
- Redwall: Triss has a young badger and hare join a sea otter and go looking for adventure, being the equivalent of teenagers or young adults. They take refuge with an old otter, who disapproves of runaways and sings them songs of homesickness and worried mothers until they flee before they start crying and return to Salamandastron.
- Sesame Street: Invoked in the song "I Don't Want to Live on the Moon", where Ernie sings about all the cool places he'd like to visit...but only if it means he'll return home to his friends.
Though I'd like to look down at the Earth up aboveI would miss all the places and people I loveSo although I may go, I'll be coming home soon'Cause I don't want to live on the moon.
- Belle sings the song "Home" in The Musical version of Beauty and the Beast, as she laments being held captive by The Beast after she exchanges her freedom for that of her father's.
My heart's far,Far away,Home is too.
- Inverted in Jasper In Deadland. The song "Elysium" is about how, after spending a long time away from the Living World, Agnes realizes she doesn't want to return to home to her family.
- "I'm Going Home" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show has Dr. Frank-N-Furter attempt to explain his actions earlier in the story and gain some sympathy by singing about his desire to return to his home planet of Transsexual, and stay forever. However, it's never fully clear if he's being sincere or is just hamming it up as per usual.
- The Trail to Oregon! has Lost Without You where after being kidnapped, the Daughter sings about how much she misses and can't stop thinking about her family.
- In Wonderful Town, Ruth and Ilene sing "Ohio" as they struggle with adjusting to life in New York City. In the bridge, Ruth points out that they hated living in Ohio, but then they go back to reminiscing after being disrupted by the roar of the subway below their apartment.
- The Wiz has Dorothy sing "Soon As I Get Home" as she begins her journey to the Emerald City, hoping that the Wizard can send her home.
- The musical version of James and the Giant Peach has "On Your Way Home." James, who has only just come to the Painswick Orphanage after the death of his parents, meets a ladybug and grasshopper and tells them they're lucky they can leave when he can't. The song that follows is James wondering how nice it must be to be able to fly away from such a miserable place and ask the two insects if they have families waiting for them when they get home. What makes this utterly heartbreaking is, as James watches the two insects depart, he asks, "May I hold onto your wings and come too?" as he is desperate to find a loving family again. Thankfully, by the end of the play, he does.
- Bastion: In its soundtrack, "Mother, I'm Here" and "Setting Sail, Coming Home" (a mash-up of the former with "Build That Wall") are both songs about yearning for and going back home.
- In the Camping Episode of the children's cartoon 3rd & Bird, Muffin sings a song about how she wants to go back home. Every verse ends on the phrase "Muffin want to go home!"
- In The Rhythm and Roots of Arthur, Buster doesn't feel like he belongs at the family reunion, while D.W. is bored. They sing a song about how they want to go home, but midway through, realize how cool the reunion is and that they'll stay for a bit longer.
- In the early SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Texas", Sandy sings a Blues song of yearning for her homeland of Texas, and it brings all of Bikini Bottom to tears.
- "I Want To Go Home" from the Thomas & Friends special, Journey Beyond Sodor, has Thomas singing about how he misses his fiends and home while being held captive in a Steelworks factory.
- Madeline and the Gypsies has "Home, Home, I Want to Go Home," sung by Madeline and Pepito while in a lion costume for the circus they are traveling with. Near the end, as they are heading back to Paris by train, it gets a Triumphant Reprise as "Home, Home, We're Going Home."
- Vampirina: "Me for Me" from the first episode "Going Batty", sung by Vee over her missing her old home in Transylvania and worries she won't be able to make human friends because of her vampire heritige.
- While military cadences - the call-and-response chants and songs used by soldiers while marching or running — can be about any number of subjects, homesickness is a common theme due to the soldiers being far from home.
If I ever make it back home againIf I ever make it back home againIf I ever make it back home againThat recruiter's gonna die!
- — Untitled Marching Song
- In an odd case of music causing extreme homesickness rather than merely expressing it, the Swiss Kuhreihen — simple melodies played on the alpine horn by Swiss herdsmen — ended up being retroactively turned into Homesickness Hymns by Swiss mercenaries in the 18th and 19th century. A contemporary editor said that "when played in foreign lands, produces on a Swiss an almost irrepressible yearning for home" and singing them was actually banned because it led to desertion or even suicide.