It’s time to burn a CD for my Fourth of July party. This year, I’m breaking out the classics, the songs that call up the glory of this great country, and the ones, sadly, that are slowly leaving the American consciousness.
These great patriotic songs, for the most part, haven’t been passed down to the next generations – not even the more recent ones. My 18 year old nephew has never even heard of Bruce Springsteen, let alone Francis Scott Key. America’s been a country for 232 years, so as far as countries go, we’re young yet. We shouldn’t forget our past glory, and what songs Americans sang to celebrate the nation that Abraham Lincoln called, “The last best hope” of the world.
1. The Star Spangled Banner.
It’s our national anthem! Francis Scott Key, as a prisoner of the British, penned the words after witnessing Fort McHenry’s flag withstand the cannon-fire of the enemy. It makes me think about all that America has withstood since then and about what the flag means to me, and how proud I am to be an American, and it is an easy call to make it #1 on my list of Fourth of July songs.
2. America The Beautiful.
Katherine Lee Bates was inspired to write this song after standing on the summit of a mountain in the West. She saw a beautiful land below her. Every time I hear it, I envision what all the immigrants who have come to America have laid their eyes on when seeing this country for the first time: freedom, opportunity, and hope.
3. God Bless America.
Written by Irving Berlin, this song was used as a rallying cry against fascism during World War II. From the mountains to the prairies, America is a land that’s free, and is my home sweet home.
4.This Land Is Your Land.
Woodie Guthrie wrote this song in response to “God Bless America.” He didn’t think Berlin’s song was realistic enough, and he wanted to put across his point of view. It’s almost as if the two were having a conversation in song about the land they both loved.
5. Proud To Be An American.
Lee Greenwood makes you want to stand up and sing it loud.
6. Born In The USA.
Much like Guthrie to Berlin, Bruce Springsteen seems to be offering a counter-argument to Lee Greenwood’s American idealism. But Springsteen’s song makes you want to stand up and sing it loud too.
7. Yankee Doodle Dandy.
Can’t you just see James Cagney hamming it up in the 1942 movie? Teach your kids this song at your 4th of July party! Then tell them that, like the life of George M. Cohan, the door is wide open in America for their talent, their hard work, and their genius. (And then treat them to the movie after the fireworks.)
8. When Johnny Comes Marching Home.
If you don’t know anything about the Civil War, you don’t know enough about America.
9. Have You Forgotten.
Never forget 9/11! A Darryl Worley song.
10. America (They’re Coming To America).
Neil Diamond reminds us that this has always been and will always be a country of immigrants. Never forget that either.
Enjoy your 4th of July party! Peace.