While you’re out there flexing your America muscles, grilling, boating, littering the ground with beer cans, doing whatever it is you do on America’s Independence Day, there’s bound to be traditional American ballads playing somewhere in the distance. I am a very opinionated, music snob, which means if I happen to be at your cookout at some point today, I’ll likely be very critical of your 4th of July playlist. Since I know you care so much about my music taste, I thought I’d use this medium to share my (correct) opinion on the best American patriotic songs of all time.
Some criteria for selecting the list:
-I tried to stick to modern artists/songs because that’s the music you’re most likely to hear at a 4th of July bash. Traditional American anthems, The Star Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, etc were only taken into consideration if they were a rendition by a modern artist. Let’s face it, nobody is listening to the Notre Dame choir’s take on the national anthem at their pool party.
-The song had to specifically be a patriotic song about the United States of America. “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen is one of the most popular songs to play on the 4th, but if you have ever looked up the lyrics, you should know it is the opposite of a song that makes your chest swell up with American pride. I made sure to choose songs that make us proud to be Americans.
-Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” was banned from the list because it tries too hard and because this list is for, you know, songs that are actually good. (This may be problematic for many of you, but I’m sorry, that song is terrible.)
So, here it is, undeniable, five best songs about the Stars and Stripes.
Toby Keith – Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue
You know all the words to this song, everyone does, and you never pass on attempt to loudly sing every note. It’s just a fun song that helped unify America when left vulnerable by the 9/11 attacks. It unified us then, and still does to this day every time the entire party shouts in unison, “WE’LL PUT A BOOT IN YOUR ASS! IT’S THE AMERICAN WAY.”
Metallica – Don’t Tread on Me
Metallica rocks, also water is wet. Don’t Tread on Me is from the famous Black Album and, like every song on that album, will have you fully willing to run head-first through a brick wall. It is the ultimate “go ahead, mess with us, see what happens” song.
Neil Diamond – America
On the boats and on the planes, they’re coming to America. The United States was built on immigrants looking for a fresh start in a new world, and this song celebrates that freedom to do so. It carries a great message and, like most Neil Diamond songs, is just really catchy. “America” celebrates the most beautiful thing about our country, the land of opportunity. It also celebrates sparkly silk shirts.
Ray Charles – America The Beautiful
I can’t hear this song and not think of the Sandlot night game that comes to a halt as Benny and the gang stare mesmerized at the exploding fireworks lighting up the night sky. This Ray Charles rendition of an American classic, is the perfect song to accompany a firework show. It’s graceful, sung with unmistakable passion of an American icon. I get chills every single time I hear it.
Jimi Hendrix – Star Spangled Banner (Live at Woodstock)
An absolute no brainer. Hendrix was a revolutionary who changed the way music would be played forever. In August 1969, he played the national anthem in a way no one had ever heard before. He interrupts the traditional tune numerous times to play a cacophonous barrage of heavily distorted shrills, and deep guitar moans symbolizing the chaotic times of the late 60’s. Hendrix was so brilliantly talented, he exercised his right to free speech without uttering a single word. The revolutionary performance paired with its cultural significance makes this an easy choice to crown king.