Every party or get-together needs good music. It’s a must. And although people usually don’t come to parties because the host compiles great mixes, it can be a draw. Besides, whenever there’s a lull in the conversation, you’re doing a public service by supplying good tunes over which people can make small talk. The following are the Top Ten songs that you must play at your Fourth of July gathering. (And since ten songs will only take up a limited amount of time, may I suggest you play some good stuff in between these tunes as well.)
The Country List
1. The Star Spangled Banner — a must. Period. You can go traditional with any of the military band downloads, but I suggest the Carrie Underwood version from the 2007 World Series.
2. In America — nothing says union like the Charlie Daniels Band’s hit “In America.” Its quick pace will get everything moving. The lyrics will get things started with a “Hell, yeah!”
3. Fightin’ Side of Me — this Merle Haggard song is the quintessential patriotic tune. “If you don’t love it, leave it…” he sings — and you know he believes it.
4. Where The Stars And Stripes And The Eagle Fly — Aaron Tippin nailed down a near perfect American anthem with this patriotic number.
5. God Bless The U.S.A. — this Lee Greenwood song is so heartfelt and genuine, you can’t help but feel American when you hear it — even if you’re from Bangladesh. It’s that inclusive.
6. America The Beautiful — this beautiful standard has got to be played sometime during the day (or night). Ray Charles version. Period. There really is no substitute.
7. An American Trilogy — Elvis’ vocal masterpiece blend of “Dixie” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” is another must. Period.
8. Ragged Old Flag — Johnny Cash’s tribute to “Old Glory” stands as a pretty good lesson history lesson and a reminder of what the flag means to so many.
9. American Soldier — Toby Keith’s tribute to the American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan reminds us of our military personnel, wherever they may be.
10. Country Boy Can Survive — What would a party be without a little Hank? This rousing testament to the ingenuity and fortitude of America’s country folk will set some to letting off some rebel yells.
That’s just ten essentials. There are plenty more, like Merle Haggard’s “Are The Good Times Really Over For Good?”, Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning?”, and Darrell Worley’s “Do You Remember?”
The Rock List
1. The Star Spangled Banner — again, there are several versions. I suggest either Jimi Hendrix (the old favorite Woodstock recording), Metallica, or Iced Earth (the latter is tight, straight to the point, but clean and pure, no messing around).
2. America — Simon and Garfunkel captured the heart of this immigrant nation in this beautiful song. For a more electric version, but one just as good, get the one done by Yes.
3. American Woman — what would America be without her protest songs (even those sung by Canadians)? The Guess Who version is best, although the newer Lenny kravitz version is true to the original. Either way, it’s a crowd pleaser.
4. Remember The Heroes — Sammy Hagar’s rousing tribute to the American soldier will get your blood to pumping tri-colored. His plaintive cries brings home the sacrifice and what we owe those who give and serve our nation.
5. Battle Hymn of the Republic — this beautifully rendered classic by America’s premiere Christian hair metal band, Stryper, will send chills up and down your spine.
6. Suite Madame Blue — this haunting Styx masterpiece is a post-Vietnam lament to America’s stumbling greatness and how America can still lead (it is a choice). The vocal break of cascading, overlaying “America” several times is simply phenomenal.
7. Living In America — the “feel good” man, James Brown, smoothly lets us know what that life is good from “coast to coast … across the nation.”
8. R-O-C-K In The U.S.A. — John Cougar Mellencamp takes us on a pounding trip down rock memory lane with this fast-paced number.
9. Fly Like An Eagle — Steve Miller’s greatest musical accomplishment, this number reminds us that we still have a way to go to equality in this country. It is haunting but affirmative and a crowd pleaser. Besides, it’s just cool…
10. Song For America — This pulsing, keyboard-driven tune by Kansas is an excellent song to get people asking “Who is that?” Well written and performed, it is a song once heard is not forgotten.
There are literally hundreds of rock tunes to choose from, with other mentionables like Steve Miller’s “Livin’ In The U.S. A.”, Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son”, Van Halen’s “Dancing In The Streets”, John Mellencamp’s “Our Country” and “Scarecrow”, the Doobie Brothers’ “Without Love”, Grand Funk Railroad’s “American Band”, and Tom Petty’s “American Girl.”
Now, if you are anything like this writer, you like your music eclectic, so you have these songs all mixed together on a couple CDs. My CD begins with Iced Earth’s version of “The Star Spangled Banner”, then Steve Miller’s “Fly Like And Eagle”, and Yes’ “America,” and ends with Hendrix’s version of the national anthem, right after Ray Charles’ “America The Beautiful” and Elvis “An American Trilogy.” All those other songs listed are in between somewhere. I also like to throw in songs that remind people of home, so on CDs appears Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Coming Home,” Simon and Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound,” Daughtry’s “Home”, and Michael Buble’s “Home.” Being from West Virginia, I have to have John Denver’s “Country Roads.” (It’s a state law.)
With millions of danceable, rockable, rollable, soulful, and singable tunes out there to download and/or burn on a CD or place in a flash drive, you can have your Fourth of July get-together going into the wee hours of July 5th. But the songs listed above are a must.