There are hardly any good things to say about the state of America these days, but even though it feels like the country is going to shit, you might as well fire up the grill and crack a few beers this 4th of July. With any cookout or party, having a proper soundtrack is essential. Considering that this is the country that gave birth to rock and roll, country and western, funk and punk, music can provide a much needed reminder that America always has been great and still is despite what the steaming pile of trash in the White House and his mindless followers want you to believe. In celebration of this already great country and its proudest holiday, we asked a handful of artists to each choose a song that encapsulates the 4th in their minds. Take your mind off the cesspool of American politics and listen to this playlist along with commentary from each act on what the song means to them…
Sir Canyon – “City of New Orleans” by Willie Nelson
The song makes me want to take a road trip across America. It’s a feel good song even though lyrically it goes to some dark places. There’s a brutal reality about America in this song but a sense of hope too! It’s such a great chorus, I wish I wrote it! ha Happy Fourth of July!
Thorp Jenson – “U.S. Blues” by the Grateful Dead
For me, the Grateful Dead IS Americana. Not just the recently popularized sub-genre of rock and roll, but the idea of Americana itself. There is so much of the American spirit in the ideas that started with Kerouac’s On The Road and continued to take shape through Robert Hunter’s lyrics and the sense of adventure the Grateful Dead’s traveling circus brought with them. I think if you look for it you will find America (or at least a part of its story) in the Grateful Dead’s music and I can’t think of a better dead song to play on the 4th of July than U.S. Blues.
Leslie Tom – “Fool” by Fitz & the Tantrums
This is so out of character for me but my five-year old introduced me to Fitz and the Tantrums and I CANNOT get enough of them! I love “Fool” and the video on YouTube absolutely cracks me up!! This is a great 4th of July, backyard BBQ with a slew of kindergartners, type of song! Love it!
Mallett Brothers – “4th of July” by X
This one has a perfect title for a 4th of July playlist of course, but I think it’s also appropriate to throw a little punk rock on there as a hat tip to that spirit of rebellion and dissent that’s at the foundation of our national history. Happy 4th!
Kate Vargas – “Plastic Hamburgers” by Fantastic Negrito
You can blast this tune at your backyard bbq and leave it at that. Or it can inspire a conversation about what it means to be free. How can we get a little freer? What are the things that are holding us back? Can we find a common goal? How can we come together in a meaningful way? I suppose that would be a solid celebration of Independence Day, having an honest and open conversation about humanity with a fellow earth dweller. But if your main focus is all hot dogs and sparklers, “Plastic Hamburgers” will make a lively addition to that soundtrack as well.
Karen & The Sorrows – “Independence Day” by Martina McBride
I always listen to Martina McBride’s “Independence Day” on the Fourth of July. This song tells the story of a mother who kills her abusive husband by burning down the house around him on July 4th to protect herself and her child. Though the song was banned at first for its radical content, it later suffered a similar fate to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” when conservatives like Sarah Palin started adopting it, somehow assuming it was about patriotism instead of domestic violence. While the song’s writer Gretchen Peters was unable to stop Palin’s use, she donated the royalties she earned and encouraged others to join her, raising a million dollars for Planned Parenthood. In the chorus McBride sings, “Let the whole world know that today is a day of reckoning.” If the Fourth of July were actually a day of reckoning for violence against women, that would be the kind of holiday I could really get behind.
Finn – “America the Beautiful” by Ray Charles
America can be hard to love at times, but she is your mother. This song has her in all her optimism and realized vision. Leave it to Mr. Charles to take you to church on any given subject. He is a national treasure. Lee Greenwood couldn’t even shine his shoes. Baseball, apple pie, and goddamn Ray Charles. Anything less the terrorists win.
Great Peacock – “All I Can Do Is Write About It” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
A little more of a heartfelt & introspective tune than what you might want for your backyard barbecue and Sweet Baby Ray’s–but this song is a great reflection on appreciating what you have and not letting “the man” corrupt that. Also, you gotta have Skynyrd on this playlist somewhere…
Charlie Overbey – “4th of July” by Shooter Jennings
Shooter Jennings “4th of July” embodies the spirit of independence and freedom while incorporating love and the thrill of being alive!