It’s Independence Day! Here’s My Top 40 Playlist for Your Fireworks Display

7.3 fourth-of-july

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!

7.3 American_Bad_Ass

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!

7.3 ELP - fanfare for the common man

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.

7.3 Winter_In_America

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.

7.3 Land_of_the_free_joey_badass

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.

7.3 S & G - America

5. “America” – Simon & Garfunkel. What a great song about the States.

7.3 This is my country

4. “This Is My Country” – The Impressions. This is one terrific protest song.

7.3 This_Is_America_(single_cover)

3. “This Is America” – Childish Gambino. Gambino jumps to #3 with a bullet. This Grammy-winner is the perfect Millennial statement.

7.3 Born In The USA

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.

7.3 tom-petty-american-girl

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.

Happy Canada Day! My 50 Favorite Canadian Rock Artists

7.1 Happy Canada Day

Whew! What a week I’ve had, or should I say a month? We held our granddaughter’s first birthday party over the weekend, but my wife and I have been a vortex of cleaning, throwing out crap and updating everything in sight just to get ready for relatives to come in. Now that it’s over, my wife can relax briefly before school kicks in again. Therefore, it stands to reason why I have not written as much lately. So, after a couple of false starts, which in track would have gotten me disqualified, I might be ready to become a little more consistent with my writing.

So, let me begin by extending a hearty, “Happy Canada Day!” to my friends from the Great White North and the home of one of my all-time favorite television shows, SCTV. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Toronto Raptors brought the first NBA championship across the border, so we should be celebrating all things Canada this year. With that said, in honor of this special day, let’s do a countdown of my 50 Favorite Rock Artists from Canada. Buckle your seat belts because my picks may not represent the common opinion of a “typical” Yank (Remember, I’m a Cincinnati Reds fan and HATE the Yankees, not to mention the Cubs, Cardinals, Red Sox and Dodgers, but that’s for another time.). On with the countdown!

50. Céline Dion – Okay, I’m not really a fan, but how could I leave her off this list without a revolt?

49. Chilliwack – Even Canada has a Yacht Rock band.

7.1 Five Man Electrical Band

48. Five Man Electrical Band – All they had to record was “Signs” for me to put them on this list!

47. Dan Hill – “Sometimes When We Touch” was a slow dance mega-hit in my teens, though it is an unfair representation of the man’s legacy.

46. Prism – I saw this band open for Quarterflash at Ball State in the Spring of 1982.

45. Snow – A Canadian reggae/rap artist? Still, “Informer” was a huge hit.

44. Jane Child – I REALLY thought she was really going to be big.

43. The Kings – Who didn’t love “Switchin’ to Glide” in 1982?

42. The Payola$ – Another new wave band who caught a big break with their inclusion on the Valley Girl soundtrack that could not parlay it into a career.

41. Nelly Furtado – She ended up being a “Flavor of the Week” in the early 2000s.

40. Red Rider – “Lunatic Fringe” is just a monster of a song that still has legs today.

39. Gino Vanelli – We used to laugh about his music when we were stupid middle school kids, but, you know what? Those hits weren’t all that bad!

7.1 april wine

38. April WineThe Nature of the Beast was the band’s big album, but I have always loved their song “If You See Kay,” if only for the brilliant message in the title.

37. Sloan – A good little power pop band from the Nineties.

36. Corey Hart – Sing it with me! “I Wear My Sunglasses at Night!”

35. Feist – The Sara Barielles of the North, not that it’s a bad thing.

34. Avril Lavigne – I still think she’s more of a marketing tool than the real thing.

33. Martha & the Muffins – This great over-looked Eighties new wave band would have always been on my list if only for their band name. But, then you listen to their music and you wonder why the hell this band didn’t hit the big time in the wake of The Go-Go’s success?

32. Pat Travers – “Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights)” and “Snortin’ Whiskey and Drinkin’ Cocaine” are my faves.

31. Sum 41 – I remember my older son just loving these pop punkers when he was in high school.

30. Men Without Hats – All they had to do was “The Safety Dance” to ensure their place on my list.

7.1 Saga

29. Saga – “On the Loose” used to be played all over campus at Ball State in 1982 and deservedly so.

28. Alannah Myles – Oh, her voice was so smokey and sexy, making “Black Velvet” such a memorable hit.

27. Crash Test Dummies – This band had me with their name. Then, I heard “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm,” and said, “Yes, please!”

7.1 Aldo Nova

26. Aldo Nova – This guitarist/singer seemed primed for the big time in the States with his rock radio hit “Fantasy.” Not sure what went wrong for him.

25. Tom Cochrane – Okay, Cochrane leaves Red Rider and ups the ante with his memorable “Life’s a Highway” hit. But, if I have to hear that Rascal Flatts cover version one more time I might go postal!

24. Gordon Lightfoot – I am not a big fan of the man’s music, but I respect anyone who could hit number one with a true folk ballad about the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

23. Nickelback – Make fun of them all you want, but their Creed-lite music at least brought some rock to the Millennials during the teen years. And, who knew a band could be more derivative than Creed?

7.1 The Pursuit of Happiness

22. The Pursuit of Happiness – How does a young band actually get Todd Rundgren to produce their first two albums? But writing outstanding songs that sounded like the best of Rundgren’s music with the same acerbic lyrics. This Rundgren-phile was all about this band in the late-Eighties.

21. Bruce Cockburn – The Bob Dylan of Canada. Need I say more?

20. Sarah McLachlan – She’s always been more than just background music for animal abuse commercials. Hell, the woman started the Lilith Fair tours.

19. Drake – When it comes to Millennial rap music, I will defer to my boys’ tastes. Since he’s not the butt of any of their jokes, he must be good. Of course, I’m too old to make a fair judgement.

18. Barenaked Ladies – I love a band who embraces their quirkiness while still making great music.

17. kd lang – This woman’s voice is a treasure. She remains icon to this day.

16. The Cowboy Junkies – This band was once described as a countryish version of The Velvet Underground. That works for me.

15. Steppenwolf – All you have to say is “Born to Be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride.”

14. Loverboy – If these guys could have been as photogenic as Bon Jovi, we would have NEVER needed Bon Jovi to bring good meat-and-potatoes arena rock to the girls.

7.1 Triumph

13. Triumph – Dismiss them as Rush-lite at your own peril. I still love “Magic Power.” And, if the rumors are true, their performance at the 1983 US Festival stole Heavy Metal Day. It’s a shame a Woodstock-type documentary of those two concerts wasn’t made. Triumph might have come away as the US Festival version of Canned Heat and be remembered forever.

12. Bachman Turner Overdrive – This band was so big in the mid-Seventies that the high school guys at my church christened the church bus “Christian Overdrive.” That should tell you everything there is to know about the working class appeal of these guys.

11. Leonard Cohen – The poet laureate of rock music.

7.1 The New Pornographers

10. The New Pornographers – First, this band is almost like Parliament/Funkadelic with the number of members in the band. Next, nearly all of them are solo artists in their own right. Finally, they play power pop music! What an amazing concoction.

9. Bryan Adams – When I make fun of Adams’ music, it’s directed at his Nineties output. But, when you go back to his first three albums, they all rock!

8. Alanis Morissette – Alanis is a female rock milestone. That woman broke down everything acceptable for a woman in rock, both lyrically and musically. She deserves a place in the Rock Hall if only for Jagged Little Pill.

7.1 The Tragically Hip

7. The Tragically Hip – This band has been criminally overlooked here in the States. They represent the missing link between the heartland music of the Eighties of Springsteen, Mellencamp and the rest and the millennial sounds of the great band The Hold Steady.

6. Joni Mitchell – Just how influential was Joni? She has been name-checked by everyone from her peers like Neil Young to Prince to the neo-folkies of the Eighties like Suzanne Vega and Tracey Chapman right up to today’s star like Taylor Swift and everyone else.

7.1 The Guess Who

5. The Guess Who – Remember that scene in the film Almost Famous where Lester Bangs is telling the DJ that Jim Morrison was just a drunk being passed off as a poet, while The Guess Who were drunks “and that’s poetic!”? Nothing said about this band ever rang truer. Go back and listen to them. They are great!

7.1 Arcade Fire

4. Arcade Fire – Their first album is a must-hear album. Once again, we have another Canadian band that can barely fit altogether on a night club stage because they are so many members, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is worth noting that no other artist is as revered by Saturday Night Live cast members as a band that will always give a great performance on the show. I have read various cast members ranking them up with Prince, Springsteen and U2. That’s huge praise!

7.1 Neil Young

3. Neil Young – I can hear the hell I am going to catch for this one! And, that’s from within my own family. Personally, you cannot go wrong with any of these in my Top 3.

7.1 Rush

2. Rush – Now, all of my Rush-fan friends are going to chase me out of town for this one. That’s okay! I’m here to provoke a little.

7.1 The Band

1. The Band – Any group of musicians who name themselves “The Band” better be good. Well, these guys were truly transcendent. Shoot! They started a whole genre that’s huge today called Americana music, and they were 4/5 Canadian! So, take that!