“Roadrunner” should be the Bay State’s official rock song. The influential early-’70s proto-punk anthem, written by Natick native Jonathan Richman, centers around a nighttime drive past Stop & Shop, name-checks a range of state roads and towns, and repeats the refrain, “I’m in love with Massachusetts.”
“It is an unabashed valentine,” says Dorchester-based publicist and rock band manager Joyce Linehan, who proposed a bill to give “Roadrunner” official state honors, and found a lead sponsor in Democratic state Representative Marty Walsh. The movement quickly took off — earning a mention in Rolling Stone, and becoming a bipartisan effort as Republican Robert Hedlund signed on as Senate sponsor. Yet the effort has recently spawned a challenge: Two South Shore representatives filed a bill to give Aerosmith’s “Dream On” the honors, on the grounds that Aerosmith is Aerosmith and the Pilgrims once had dreams. But “Dream On” is depressing — read the lyrics — and has no local references.
No, this isn’t a life-or-death issue. But even a lighthearted bill can be a civic exercise; Linehan knows people who have called their representatives for the first time on the song’s behalf. The “Roadrunner” campaign is also a tribute to Massachusetts’ creative economy. Linehan was inspired by a 2007 article in the British newspaper The Guardian, in which the writer took a pilgrimage to Massachusetts to visit the places named in the song. Music can be an ambassador, and “Roadrunner” showcases Massachusetts at its most optimistic and openhearted.