Country stars are known far and wide for their patriotism, but they’re not the only musicians inspired by America. As we prepare for the 4th of July, let’s go beyond “God Bless the U.S.A.” and “America the Beautiful” to examine a few classic tracks that celebrate and capture the essence of our complicated nation.
“America,” Neil Diamond
Is Neil Diamond’s “America” cheesy? Absolutely. But it celebrates America as the world’s melting pot in a way that’s never been matched in song. Listen to it here.
“Born in the U.S.A.,” Bruce Springsteen
No matter how many political campaigns try to use Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” it’s common knowledge that the song is a critical take on the Vietnam War, not a patriotic anthem. Still, is there any artist who’s more quintessentially American than Springsteen? He spent his career speaking up for the “everyman” – and what’s more patriotic than that? Listen to it here.
“American Tune,” Paul Simon
Amidst imagery of the Statue of Liberty and the Mayflower, Simon chronicles the American experience in a realistic sort of way on 1973’s “American Tune.” Simon doesn’t glorify the American Dream like many before him have – he explains that great hope often goes hand-in-hand with great disappointment. He waxes poetic, aimlessly in a way, about the hard work that built our nation before declaring that he must get back to his own. Listen to it here.
“R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.,” John Mellencamp
Mellencamp has been critical of American politics in the past, but “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” is not one of those moments. Instead, Mellencamp celebrates small-town American artists that came before him, from James Brown to Frankie Lymon. Listen to it here.
“Living in America,” James Brown
James Brown loved to declare in song, “I feel good” – and in his 1985 hit single, he feels good about his country. Brown doesn’t get too descriptive about what makes living in America so swell, but the Grammy-winning song is infectiously upbeat and makes you want to celebrate the nation through dance. Listen to it here.
“The Star-Spangled Banner,” Jimi Hendrix
Though Hendrix’s distorted reinterpretation of our national anthem made waves following his performance of it at Woodstock, he never stated that the cover was intended as negative political commentary. The image of Hendrix – clad in red, white and blue – expertly shredding the patriotic ode has only become more iconic over time. Listen to it here.
“Back in the U.S.A., ” Chuck Berry
There really is no place like home, or so says Chuck Berry. The America that Berry describes is now a faraway dream, but isn’t it nice to revisit the dream of jukeboxes, drive-in movies and unabashed patriotism for a mere two and a half minutes? Listen to it here.
“Spirit of America,” The Beach Boys
“America’s band” needs at least one patriotic song that goes beyond praising the U.S.A. for its beaches, beautiful women and hot-rods. Here, the Beach Boys celebrate the America’s inventive spirit with an ode to one of its greatest creations, the airplane. Listen to it here.
– Jillian Mapes, CBS Local