Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Good Music For The Fourth Of July

There is a lot of bad music associated with the 4th of July. But there are some great songs too. For those making a holiday mix, here are some good choices.

While most music that has become associated with Independence Day is mindless patriotic drivel (such as the awful "God Bless The USA" by Lee Greenwood), there are some good tunes out there for the July 4th holiday. Here are a few of them:

Aimee Mann's "4th Of July"

Aimee Mann wrote a beautiful song titled "4th of July." The lyrics start off, "Today's the fourth of July/Another June has gone by/And when they light up our town I just think/What a waste of gunpowder and sky." Yes, Aimee Mann can be depressing. But she writes such great songs. This song was included on her 1993 release, Whatever. It's one of the best songs on an album full of great material.

U2's "4th Of July"

U2 also has a song titled "4th Of July." It's a short, mellow instrumental that sounds a bit like dolphins. It's from The Unforgettable Fire, the last truly great U2 album.

X's "4th Of July"

This song is included on X's Beyond And Back: The X Anthology. Here's a bit of the lyrics: "Whatever happened I apologize/So dry your tears and baby/Walk outside, it's the Fourth of July." Dave Alvin also recorded a solo version of this song, which was included on his album King Of California (1994). Robert Earl Keen also recorded a version of this song, which he included on his 1997 album Picnic.

"Independence Day" by Ellis Paul

Ellis Paul's "Independence Day" is another great song related to July 4th. The lyrics begin, "I'll shed some light on the mystery/Of why I kicked her out on Independence Day/With the fireworks burning I found myself learning/Couldn't lay in my bed the same way."

"Independence Day" was originally called "Stand By Me," when Ellis first started performing it live. It's featured on his 2001 release, Sweet Mistakes.

"Independence Day" by Ani Difranco

Ani Difranco also recorded a song titled "Independence Day." Hers begins, "We drove the car to the top of the parking ramp/on the 4th of july/we sat out on the hood with a couple of warm beers and watched the fireworks/explode in the sky." This song was included on Ani's 1998 release, Little Plastic Castle.

"This Land Is Your Land"

Steve Werner (of Fur Dixon & Steve Werner) has often said that "This Land Is Your Land" should be this country's national anthem. And he is absolutely correct. This is one of Woody Guthrie's best songs. For anyone who still considers this song cheesy, listen to the lyrics - all of the lyrics. Often artists who cover this song choose only two or three verses. They leave out some of the best stuff. Here is one of the verses that's not often heard: "As I was walkin' - I saw a sign there/And that sign said, no trespassin'/But on the other side it didn't say nothin'/Now that side was made for you and me."

"On The Fourth Of July" by James Taylor

James Taylor's "On The Fourth Of July" is a love song that takes place on July 4th. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Oh the smell of the smoke as we lay on the land/And the feeling of finding my heart in my hand/With the tiny tin voice of the radio band /Singing 'love must stand'/Love forever and ever must stand."

"U.S. Blues"

"U.S. Blues" is a fun tune by the Grateful Dead. This was a song the Grateful Dead played during several 4th of July concerts. And why not? The lyrics start off, "Red and white, blue suede shoes/I'm Uncle Sam, how do you do/Gimme five, still alive/Ain't no luck, I learned to duck." Perfect. (An earlier version of this song was titled, "Wave That Flag.")

Other Possibilities For A Different Sort Of Mix

For those who have a bit of a sense of humor about the whole July 4th holiday, these songs might be ones to include on an Independence Day mix.

"I'm So Bored With The U.S.A." by The Clash. Here's a taste of the lyrics: "Never mind the stars and stripes/Let's print the Watergate Tapes/I'll salute the New Wave/And I hope nobody escapes/I'm so bored with the USA /I'm so bored with the USA /But what can I do?"

There is, of course, "Born In The U.S.A." by Bruce Springsteen, which is not a patriotic song, no matter how many politicians foolishly use it in their campaigns. For those who are unsure, here are some of the lyrics: "I got in a little hometown jam/And so they put a rifle in my hands/Sent me off to Vietnam/To go and kill the yellow man."

Greg Brown's "America Will Eat You" is a wonderful song about consumerism consuming the citizens. The lyrics include this: "There's only so many times you can sit and watch tv/Stay detached and think it's stupid/And that you're somehow free/America will eat you." This was included on his 1989 album One Big Town. It's one of his best songs.

"Everybody Gets The Blues" by End Construction is another excellent song. This song contains bits of "American Pie," "America," "Pink Houses" and "Born In The U.S.A." It was written by Jim Infantino and included on the CD, Resume Speed.

These songs should provide a start for anyone wishing to make a mix CD for the July 4th holiday while avoiding overly patriotic tunes.

(Note: The article was originally posted on June 26, 2010 on another site.)

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