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That proposal to make ‘Roadrunner’ the official song of Mass.? It’s back

Jonathan Richman performed at Jonathan Swift's in Harvard Square in 1984. Phil Spring for The Boston Globe/file

Keep on rockin’ on Beacon Hill.

The Massachusetts House of Representatives on Thursday gave a preliminary green light to a long-stalled proposal to make “Roadrunner,” the 1970s ode to cruising around Greater Boston, the official rock song of Massachusetts, a cosponsor of the bill said Friday.

Representative David P. Linsky, a Natick Democrat, said his bill was reported favorably out of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Oversight earlier this week.

The House then approved the measure by “unanimous consent” during an informal session Thursday, said Linsky, who cosponsored the measure with Representative Denise Provost, Democrat of Somerville, a town that certainly has its share of rockers.


“Clearly, the overwhelming majority of the Massachusetts House of Representatives understands the importance of this bill and believes strongly that ‘Roadrunner’ should be the official rock song of the Commonwealth,” Linsky said.

He said the bill currently sits in the House Committee on Bills in the Third Reading, which will review it for “technical form” before it goes back to the House floor for final approval in the lower chamber. The Senate would have to give its approval before the bill arrives like a rollicking tour bus on the governor’s desk.

“It should be clear sailing for this all-important legislation,” Linsky said, with tongue firmly in cheek.

The song was recorded by the Modern Lovers, the Boston-bred band led by Natick native Jonathan Richman.

Prior efforts to make the song the state’s official rock ballad fell flatter than an out-of-tune Stratocaster.

In early 2013, a bill cosponsored by then-state lawmakers Robert L. Hedlund, Republican of Weymouth, and Martin J. Walsh, Democrat and Dropkick Murphys pal of Dorchester, would have given “Roadrunner” the vaunted status that Linsky now seeks for the anthem.

Even though it had bipartisan support, the bill never received a floor vote but ignited spirited debate about what song best represented Massachusetts. A rival bill was filed to name Aerosmith’s “Dream On” the state rock song.


Jonathan Richman in a promotional photo.Hank Meals

Ultimately, neither song made the final cut. Hedlund, now mayor of Weymouth, teamed up with Linsky a couple of years later to file another version of the “Roadrunner” bill that also didn’t quite go platinum. (Walsh recovered from the earlier “Roadrunner” setback and went on to become Boston’s mayor.)

This time, Linsky is depending on Massachusetts voters to get “Roadrunner” immortalized in the official record.

“I would encourage all Jonathan Richman fans to contact their state representatives and state senators immediately” to voice their support for the bill, Linsky said.

Few rock ballads capture the sensation of highway driving in Eastern Massachusetts quite like “Roadrunner.”

In one iconic verse, Richman sings, “I’m in love with modern moonlight/128 when it’s dark outside/I’m in love with Massachusetts/I’m in love with the radio on/It helps me from being alone late at night/It helps me from being lonely late at night/I don’t feel so bad now in the car/Don’t feel so alone, got the radio on/Like the roadrunner.”

The Modern Lovers’ 1976 album with the single "Roadrunner."

James Reed of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.