Ten Patriotic Songs I Like

There are tons of patriotic songs out there, good and bad, that we’ll all hear way too many times this week, as the United States celebrates the July 4th holiday. I, for one, don’t care if I ever hear, “God Bless The USA,” ever again. Here, then, is a personal list of some patriotic songs I like–some traditionally so, some not so traditional but still, in my mind, in keeping with our nation’s history of freedom.

In America—Charlie Daniels Band

He has become more of a patriotic caricature in this post-9/11 world, but there’s not much that can top 1980’s “In America,” for patriotic fervor and general pissed-off American loyalty. Toby Keith’s an icon of tact compared to Daniels’ matter-of-fact statement of purpose in this song—which also scores points for being a stellar example of Dixie-fried southern rock. Here’s the first verse:

Well the eagle’s been flying slow and the flag’s been flying low
And a lot of people are saying that America’s fixing to fall
But speaking just for me and some people from Tennessee
We got a thing or two to tell you all
This lady may have stumbled but she ain’t never fell
And if the Russians don’t believe that they can all go straight to hell
We’re gonna put her feet back on the path of righteousness
And then God bless America again

Become America—The Call

Lately it seems that anyone who questions the country’s direction, or the leadership in charge, is branded ‘unpatriotic.’ Well, I’d venture to guess that freedom of speech is one aspect of being an American that allows us to raise those questions, and in this song from Christian rock band The Call, originally recorded for a solo album by its lead singer Michael Been, the question is posed from a faith-based perspective, “When will America become America?” Given how far we’ve come from the constitutional basis of the founding fathers, it’s a valid question.

Livin’ In America—Aztec Two-Step

As folk-rock duos go, Rex Fowler and Neal Shulman fall somewhere between the exquisite harmonies of Simon & Garfunkel and the hippie freedoms of Brewer & Shipley. This is one of their best songs, a laundry list of all things American, mostly from a not-surprisingly liberal viewpoint. “Here’s to the gentle souls, fighting for gun control, in America,” goes one line, for example. It scores points for being a heartfelt recitation of what the writers see as the diverse strengths of our nation, whatever the political affiliation.

Living In America—James Brown

The last big hit the Godfather of Soul would have, even the 80’s production couldn’t mask the funky core of Brown’s still hot soul. I’m pretty sure this was on the soundtrack to a Rocky movie, too, which earns it extra patriotic points.

Darlington County—Bruce Springsteen

“Born in the USA,” may get all the attention, but this road trip anthem is a more joyful celebration of Springsteen’s home country. “Drivin’ in to Darlington County, me and Wayne on the Fourth of July,” is the opening line, for pete’s sake. Doesn’t get more American than that. Extra points for a guy from New Jersey referencing a county in South Carolina.

This Land Is Your Land –Woody Guthrie

I’m not sure that the protest singer in Woody Guthrie would be entirely pleased that this protest song would end up being co-opted by nearly everyone into becoming a patriotic song sung by schoolchildren and others, with the key last verses almost always left off. Here, then, is the whole song:

Chorus:
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

As I was walking a ribbon of highway
I saw above me an endless skyway
I saw below me a golden valley
This land was made for you and me

Chorus

I’ve roamed and rambled and I’ve followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me

Chorus

The sun comes shining as I was strolling
The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
This land was made for you and me

Chorus

As I was walkin’ – I saw a sign there
And that sign said – no tress passin’
But on the other side …. it didn’t say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!

Chorus

In the squares of the city – In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office – I see my people
And some are grumblin’ and some are wonderin’
If this land’s still made for you and me.

Chorus (2x)

©1956 (renewed 1984), 1958 (renewed 1986) and 1970 TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc. (
BMI)

Todd Snider –This Land is Our Land

A modern interpolation of Guthrie’s song into a new protest anthem that tackles injustice to American Indians, Manifest Destiny, slavery and consumerism, Snider may be all over the map but his way with a lyrical turn of phrase saves this from being just another jingoistic exercise. Extra patriotic points, too, for it being one of the harder rocking tunes on his debut, Songs From the Daily Planet.

Battle of New Orleans—Johnny Horton

It’s a little specific for this list, dealing with a single battle that was fought at the close of the War of 1812, but this was a song that I had the lyrics memorized to even before we studied the history behind it in middle school. In the rare case it comes on the radio, on the classic country station, I can still sing along to the best musical history lesson outside of a Schoolhouse Rock video.

Battle Hymn of the Republic—Julia Ward Howe

I can get away with including this since I’m only a first-generation southerner, otherwise my Confederate Army re-enactor friends would be stringing up a rope for me in a nearby tree. It’s a fine example of the collision of religion and patriotism, forever intertwined in American history for better and for worse. Here’s an excerpt, usually the last verse you’ll see printed in a church hymnal:

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free;
While God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! While God is marching on.

Stars and Stripes Forever—John Philip Sousa

I can’t hear this perennial concert band favorite without singing the “Be Kind to your web-footed friends, for a duck may be somebody’s mother,” lyrics, but there are real, patriotic words to this tune, and they’re pretty good as anthems go:

Hurrah for the flag of the free!
May it wave as our standard forever,
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray
That by their might and by their right
it waves forever.

Fourth Of July–X, Dave Alvin

This one doesn’t really have anything patriotic in it other than the song title, which is also the chorus, “Hey, Baby, it’s the Fourth of July,”, so that’s why this is the eleventh song on this top ten list. It is one, however, that I always manage to pull out and play every July 4th.

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One thought on “Ten Patriotic Songs I Like

  1. Does any one know the title/singer of an old song with a line in it that says “there’s a star bangled banner waving somewhere” ? My 95 year old father really, really wants to remember the rest of the song. Thanks so much if you can help.

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