The right Independence Day songs can keep your Fourth rocking
Fellow countrymen and women, lend us your ears — and, frankly, your patience. We threw together this mishmash of amazing songs with the idea that not every track would please every listener. Instead, we curated a playlist of Independence Day songs that should offer at least a few tracks that everyone can get behind.
Whether you’re eager to celebrate the United States of America turning the big 2-4-4, or you’re just looking forward to a three-day weekend, you’re bound to find a song you can blast during that backyard barbecue.
God Bless the U.S.A., Lee Greenwood (1984)
The original song was recorded in 1983 and released the following year. Now, in 2020, as the country reels from the impact of the global pandemic and racial unrest, Lee Greenwood has released a new a capella version.
Greenwood teamed with the long-running country vocal group Home Free and the United States Air Force for a stunning rendition of the song just released this week. The music video shows just how timely the message, and the recording, is with musicians recording from all throughout the country, and some wearing masks.
America the Beautiful, Ray Charles (1972)
The lyrics for this iconic patriotic tune were written by Katharine Lee Bates, who wrote the words as a poem first published in the Fourth of July edition of the church periodical The Congregationalist in 1895. The music was composed by church organist and choirmaster Samuel A. Ward at Grace Episcopal Church in Newark, New Jersey.
Several versions of the song followed, including Ray Charles’ in 1972. The song was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame in 2005.
Stars and Stripes Forever, John Phillip Sousa (1897)
With so many parades and fireworks shows canceled this year, be sure you don’t miss hearing this patriotic classic. The song stands as the quintessential example of composer John Phillip Sousa’s music.
American Soul, U2 featuring Kendrick Lamar (2017)
The Irish band joined forces with Compton-born rapper Kendrick Lamar for this rallying cry to the red, white and blue.
America, Neil Diamond (1980)
This song from Neil Diamond’s movie The Jazz Singer celebrates immigration to America. He dedicated the song to his grandmother, who made the journey from Kiev nearly 100 years ago. Diamond sings, “On the boats and on the planes, they’re coming to America. Never looking back again, they’re coming to America.”
Born in the U.S.A., Bruce Springsteen (1984)
The New Jersey native wrote this hit through the perspective of a Vietnam war vet.
Bleed American, Jimmy Eat World (2001)
This angsty anthem to the American work ethic might catch the attention of friends and family, but it will certainly get the party started.
American Baby, The Dave Matthews Band (2005)
You can feel the emotion and tension in the song, but something about it just feels right, especially in 2020. And you can’t argue, it’s a musically excellent piece of work.
Chicken Fried, Zac Brown Band (2008)
Fried chicken, cold beer, and a pair of jeans that fit just right are just a few things that make America great. The Zac Brown Band lists these and other national icons worth celebrating in this country favorite.
A veteran showed his appreciation for the song on the band’s YouTube page: “This song helped me through Afghanistan, playing it every night to remind me of home, to get my mind off all the firefights. Much love for the zac brown band!”
Rock in the U.S.A., John Mellencamp (1985)
This patriotic rock opera is subtitled A Salute to 60’s Rock, was written and performed by John Mellencamp. After its release, as part of the 1985 album Scarecrow, it made it to the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Top Rock Tracks charts.
Living in America, James Brown (1985)
The icon takes us from New York to Kansas City to Chicago and L.A.
Firework, Katy Perry (2010)
This dance-pop, self-empowerment anthem was co-written by Katy Perry and singer-songwriter Ester Dean. The song was commercially successful, reaching number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the top five on 20 charts around the world.
American Oxygen, Rihanna (2015)
This song by Rihanna has a powerful message at almost anytime, but unfortunately seems especially timely this year. She sings, “Every breath I breathe. Chasin’ this American Dream. We sweat for a nickel and a dime. Turn it into an empire.”
American Pie, Don McLean (1971)
This somber yet meaningful song should make your Fourth of July playlist because it’s a tribute to American rock ‘n’ roll. The repeatedly mentioned phrase “the day the music died” refers to the plane crash in 1959 that killed early rock and roll performers Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens.
American Girl, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (1976)
Despite limited chart success, American Girl became one of Petty’s most popular songs and a staple of classic rock. Critics have consistently rated the song as Petty’s best song and one of the best rock songs of all time.
Independence Day songs
There’s so many other great songs that pay tribute to America, in good times and bad. What else should make the list?
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Journalist and author Danielle Nadler grew up in South Dakota, where a patient writing teacher fostered in her a love for stories told well. She's worked for newspapers in the Midwest, on the West Coast and the East Coast, and recently launched a storytelling company called Tales and Ales.