Post By: Katherine.Eleanor
From humbling patriotic standards to rebellious heartland rockers, there is a bounty of music out there that evokes the Red, White, and Blue. In honor of Independence Day, we’ve put together this list of all-American classics that capture the American spirit in all of its glory and struggles. So get out your sparklers, fire up that grill, and enjoy the great wealth of music this country has to offer!
Bruce Springsteen – “Born in the U.S.A.”
Representing the blue-collar everyman, the title song of the Boss’s 1984 blockbuster still holds cultural and social relevance today. Though by no means a patriotic anthem, as it is often misconstrued, it does address national identity, while the album brims with a rowdy, indomitable spirit that very much embodies the essence of Independence Day.
Neil Diamond – “America”
In contrast, this 1980 song from Neil Diamond’s The Jazz Singer soundtrack is purely patriotic and the ultimate melting-pot anthem, celebrating America’s many different stripes and its history of immigration.
Woody Guthrie – “This Land Is Your Land”
One of the country's most famous folk songs, this 1940 tune has been passed down from generation to generation and appears on Woody’s Greatest Hits: My Dusty Road vinyl compilation from Rounder Records. But if you’d prefer an alternative to the dust-bowl original, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings have released a funky update of the song on 7-inch vinyl.
James Brown – “Living in America”
Speaking of funk, this 1985 song from the Rocky IV soundtrack is a funky celebration of all that is America, from the not-so-glamorous superhighways, smokestacks, and all-night diners, to accidentally finding the Promised Land in one of its cities. "Living in America, I feel good!”
Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Fortunate Son”
A classic all-American band, Creedence Clearwater Revival tapped into Southern roots music while voicing the concerns of the working class and the social issues of the day. From 1969’s “Fortunate Son” – a protest song off their album Willy and the Poor Boys that still has political relevance today (it’s about a military draft that favored the wealthy) – to “Born on the Bayou,” “Proud Mary,” “Down on the Corner,” “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” and “Bad Moon Rising,” CCR evokes Americana to a T. You can now enjoy John Fogerty’s gritty voice on 180-gram vinyl courtesy of Analogue Productions, who have reissued all of CCR’s classic titles.
Don McLean – “American Pie”
“American Pie,” from the 1971 album of the same name, not only coined the phrase “The Day the Music Died,” it represented the evolution of music and politics in America during the ‘50s and ‘60s, from the death of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper on February 3, 1959, to the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. It mourns the death of the feel-good ‘50s – an era of happiness, simplicity, affluence, and optimism displaced by the volatile ‘60s – and remains a cultural touchstone.
Grand Funk Railroad – “We’re an American Band”
This isn’t just a great American rock song, it’s a declaration! Written in 1973 by Grand Funk’s drummer, Don Brewer, after an argument with British tourmates Humble Pie over the merits of British vs. American rock, this song is a proclamation of pride in America’s musical legacy. You can find it on their album by the same name, which was reissued last year on 180-gram gold vinyl by Friday Music.
Chuck Berry – “Back in the U.S.A.”
On the topic of British vs. American rock, this classic 1959 Chuck Berry single was famously parodied by the Beatles with their 1969 song “Back in the U.S.S.R.” But nothing can diminish the delight and relief of a homesick Berry, happy as ever to be back in the USA after a tour Down Under. The Fourth of July is the perfect time to groove along to his roll call of beloved cities and join in his celebration of everyday American pleasures like the drive-in, juke-box, and of course, the hamburger.
John Mellencamp – “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.”
An ode to '60s rock music, “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” off of John Mellencamp's 1985 album Scarecrow is the obvious choice here, but Mellencamp has always told the stories of small-town America in his music (perhaps most strikingly in “Pink Houses” off 1983's Uh-Huh), and he continues to address what it means to be an American in his 2007 album Freedom's Road.
Ray Charles – “America the Beautiful”
The most pure ode to our great country is Ray Charles’ “America the Beautiful,” a gorgeous, deeply moving, gospel-infused reading that makes one take pause and just appreciate the country’s beauty. The song first appeared on Charles' 1972 album A Message from the People, and it is now ingrained in America’s musical fabric.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - "American Girl" (off their 1976 eponymous debut)
Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Sweet Home Alabama" (off their 1974 album Second Helping)
Chicago - "Saturday in the Park" (off 1972's Chicago V)
The Beach Boys - "Surfin' USA" (because what's more American than the Beach Boys and surfing?)
David Bowie - "Young Americans" (off the 1975 album of the same name; because what's more American than Bowie!)
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