Let’s just get this out of the way, I have never viewed Independence Day as a big political event. I have always loved fireworks for the simply sake of fireworks. As a matter of fact, as a retired chemistry teacher, reasonable displays of fireworks and other types of blowing up gunpowder is right up my alley. My childhood memories are chock-full of organizing bicycle races, Olympic decathlon competitions, baseball games, basketball games, swimming and wrapping up the day either gathering in the neighborhood as one father with a martini in one hand and a blowtorch in the other setting off fireworks or at my uncle’s watching him end the fireworks with him packing his tiny cannon with gunpowder, pointing it toward a neighbor he was pissed at and lighting the wick and holding our ears. Talking about America the Beautiful!
But, none of the celebrations ever meant some political bent. Oh, sure, my moderately conservative family would occasionally take me on mini-vacations to see various historical sights in Indiana in the mornings on the Fourth, this were purely academic. Personally, I love this country but not in the jingoistic manner that has become more common around here these days. The USA is not perfect and can, and should, be improved. But, I just have not bought into the conservative view of the past 40 years. When I first learned in my high school economics class about supply-side economics, my first thought was that would dangerously drive up personal and national debts to unsustainable ways. To me, it was common sense based upon the laws of thermodynamics.
So, when it comes to my playlist for my Fourth of July celebrations, I prefer to load up my virtual jukebox with songs that celebrate the common man and protest the status quo. And, I feel like protesting even more this year. Why? Go figure!
With that said, here’s my Top 40 Songs for the Fourth of July. At least the USA Women’s National Soccer Team are in the World Cup Finals!
40. “American Badass” – Kid Rock. This song is more of a cartoon to me than an actual statement.
39. “She’s American” – The 1975. Who doesn’t want a little Brit lust on your playlist?
38. “Young Americans” – David Bowie. Bowie appropriated American music throughout his career, but he was at his best as the Thin White Duke.
37. “God Bless Amerika” – Lil Wayne. Hip hip artists have created some of the finest comments on the state of the States.
36. “Spirit of America” – The Beach Boys. Sure, this is about one of the fastest cars ever on the salt flats of Utah, but it is a pretty cool metaphor by America’s band.
35. “Kids in America” – Kim Wilde. This new wave classic is a romanticized view of growing up in the States by a Brit.
34. “American Dream” – LCD Soundsystem. The comeback song for the best rock-based EDM band going. More of an indictment than a celebration.
33. “Americans” – Janelle Monaé. This one is just getting started on the list. Janelle is picking up Prince and Janet Jackson’s mantles.
32. “Fourth of July” – Sufjan Stevens. More of a conversation between a son and his dying mother, yet it is still great.
31. “America” – Waylon Jennings. I remember when country artists were a voice of reason when it came to the USA. That’s why you will NOT find any country songs from this century. God bless Waylon!
30. “Fanfare for the Common Man” – Emerson, Lake & Palmer. British Prog Rock on a Fourth of July playlist? Yes, especially when it’s a song that was originally inspired by a speech by Vice President Henry A. Wallace.
29. “4th of July, Asbury Park” – Bruce Springsteen. Now, this is a subtle ode to a bygone era done only the way The Boss can do it.
28. “Almost Independence Day” – Van Morrison. Leave to an Irishman to create a great song based upon an American holiday.
27. “Made in America” – Kanye West & Jay-Z. Two of hip hop’s greatest create a brilliant comment on the state of the States.
26. “This Land Is Your Land” – Woody Guthrie. The ICONIC American protest song.
25. “National Anthem” – Lana Del Rey. Del Rey’s Gothic indie pop really works on this song.
24. “I Love the USA” – Weezer. This song is a celebration of the launch of a Juno space probe, not a mindless pro-American statement. This nerd appreciates the nerds in Weezer.
23. “We’re an American Band” – Grand Funk Railroad. This is Seventies-era American rock and roll dreams coming true. What’s more American than that?
22. “Fourth of July” – Fall Out Boy. What’s going on here? Pop Punk is finally following Green Day’s lead.
21. “Winter in America” – Gil Scott Heron. The one of the greatest proto-rap songs ever.
20. “American Pie” – Don McLean. This is the song of my youth.
19. “Back in the USA” – Chuck Berry. How could anyone leave this man off a playlist about Independence Day? You can’t!
18. “American Music” – Violent Femmes. Honestly, what’s more American than a punk/folk band celebrating a truly unique American sound?
17. “4th of July” – X. Arguably America’s finest punk band of the Eighties gets the last word in on the state of the States in the party decade.
16. “Banned in the USA” – 2 Live Crew. Luther Campbell takes a momentary break from juvenile X-rated rhymes to pen one terrific protest song about his own tribulations.
15. “Living in America” – James Brown. Okay, I HATE the way it’s used in Rocky IV. Still, how can you NOT love the Godfather of Soul’s ode to the USA?!
14. “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” – John Mellencamp. I only dinged this song because it’s way over played here in Indiana this time of the year. Why does EVERY radio station have to incorporate it into their fireworks show? Sorry, John, I love ya, but…
13. “Philadelphia Freedom” – Elton John. Few artists were as good as Elton in his prime, and this song proves he could write about anything and make it a hit back then.
12. “America” – Prince & the Revolution. This is a comment on the great white underbelly of Reaganomics in the mid-Eighties. And, it’s funky too.
11. “American the Beautiful” – Ray Charles. Hands down, Brother Ray created the definitive version of this song, as it drips with the hurt and blues he experienced throughout his life.
10. “Land of the Free” – Joey Bada$$. The second-best protest song from the past five years. Joey struck a chord on me.
9. “Tears of Rage” – The Band. Bob Dylan wrote it, but it took Richard Manuel’s aching vocals for the song’s full meaning to hit home for me.
8. “American Woman” – The Guess Who or Lenny Kravitz. You can’t go wrong either way, but the song really is a protest song people!
7. “American Idiot” – Green Day. This is arguably Green Day’s finest moment as they decided to take on the status quo.
6. “Fortunate Son” – Creedence Clearwater Revival. On this list, this song might be the second-most misinterpreted songs on this list. C’mon people! This is an indictment of American society, not a celebration.
5. “America” – Simon & Garfunkel. What a great song about the States.
4. “This Is My Country” – The Impressions. This is one terrific protest song.
3. “This Is America” – Childish Gambino. Gambino jumps to #3 with a bullet. This Grammy-winner is the perfect Millennial statement.
2. “Born in the USA” – Bruce Springsteen. Yes, the chorus is an anthem! But, the rest of the lyrics are an indictment of our economic system.
1. “American Girl” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. Okay, you got me! This celebrates everything that is great about the American dream – the girl of your dream, even if she was “raised on promises.” Hell, we all were.