Whether you’re planning a barbeque, fireworks-viewing party or road trip, we’ve got your patriotic soundtrack covered! America’s countryside, cities, freedom and flag have been the inspiration for countless songwriters. Many of the U.S.’s most distinctive patriotic songs began as poems. In the 1970s, the Vietnam War prompted a surge of rock songs, some of which have anti-war connotations, but have nonetheless been embraced by many with national pride.
Enjoy part 1 of these 22 classic and modern America-themed songs to get you in the patriotic spirit.
You’re a Grand Old Flag
Written by Broadway star George M. Cohan in 1906, the original lyric was “You’re a Grand Old Rag.” The song was quickly popular across the country, especially after Cohan changed “rag” to “flag,” and became the first song from a musical to sell over a million pieces of sheet music.
God Bless America(Celine Dion version)
Originally written in 1918 by Irving Berlin as an upbeat song, the composer revised the lyrics in the fall of 1938, as war was again threatening Europe. Berlin rewrote “God Bless America” to reflect the state of the world, and it was an immediate hit.
My Country ‘Tis of Thee (Aretha Franklin version, Barack Obama’s 2009 Inauguration)
It is known that Reverend Samuel Francis Smith wrote the lyrics to “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” but the source of the melody is still a mystery. Believed to be from seventeenth-century Europe, the country of origin is uncertain.
America the Beautiful (Ray Charles version)
“America the Beautiful” was adapted from a poem written in 1893 by a Wellesley College English professor named Katharine Lee Bates. The beautiful country inspired Bates during a long trip she took to Colorado.
This Land is Your Land Woody Guthrie
The original title was “God Blessed America for Me,” but the lyrics were changed by the time it song was recorded to “This land was made for you and me.”
Star Spangled Banner (Classic version)
Designated as the national anthem of the United States on March 3, 1931, the lyrics are taken from poem written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key, who was inspired after seeing the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. The melody was adopted from the tune of a popular drinking song at the time!
God Bless the USA (Proud to be an American)Lee Greenwood
First released in 1984 by country musician Lee Greenwood, the tune gained popularity as a morale booster during the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991.
Originally sung by the British Military to mock poorly dressed simpletons (“doodles”), the song went through a number of lyrical changes to became America’s unofficial national anthem by the time the British surrendered at Yorktown. No longer an insult, being called a “Yankee Doodle” was from there on a point of pride.
Stars and Stripes Forever
This patriotic march written by composer John Philip Sousa (America’s “March King”) is the National March of America by act of Congress.
Did we leave off any of your favorite classic 4th of July songs?
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Charli James is a 20-something writer, reporter and editor. Raised in Nashville and the Virgin Islands and schooled at American University in Washington, DC, she now lives in New York City. Follow her at twitter.com/CharlianneJames