Friday, July 04, 2008
Songs for Independence Day
It's hard for me to find songs about this country that a) aren't angry and bitter, or b) aren't too overused and cliched and, y'know, kinda sappy. But here's a good collection of songs that conjure the right images for me.
Several of the songs called out the uniquely American image of going somewhere and starting your life over again. The concept if reinvention is embedded in the history of this country, and at its best, America is the place where it's never too late to become who you might have been.
Several other songs focused on the immigrant experience. My paternal grandparents came to this country from Mexico and found schools, housing, and opportunity for themselves and their family. My father, a first-generation American, is one of the most patriotic people I know - both in terms of love of country, and in terms of being angry with America for not living up to the ideals that it embodies. Nobody gets this country metaphorically better than the most recent immigrants.
I pulled out the angrier songs into a second playlist instead of omitting them completely. I think it's important and honorable to love your country even as you hate its actions. I hate the war that we started for no good reason in Iraq. I hate that nearly 50 million people in this country have no heatlth care. I hate that so many people are being laid off or have no hope for finding work or opportunities for themselves or their families. But I love this country - for what it is and for what it could be.
"Chicago" - Sufjan Stevens
"Different Trains: America - Before the War" - Steve Reich
"Fourth of July" - Charles Ives (because any holiday needs a little chaos)
"America" - Simon & Garfunkel
"This Land is Your Land" - Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger
"I Am a Patriot" - Little Steven
"America the Beautiful" - Ray Charles
"America" - Soundtrack, West Side Story
"American Land" - Bruce Springsteen
"Ashes of American Flags" - Wilco
"City of Immigrants" - Steve Earle
"The Hands That Built America" - U2
"A Change is Gonna Come" - Sam Cooke (but performed here by the amazing Ryan Shaw)
Angry Patriot Songs:
"Bullet the Blue Sky" - U2
"The Star Spangled Banner" - Jimi Hendrix
"(Who Discovered) America?" - Ozomatli
"Christmas in Washington" - Steve Earle (this is the live version - it's nine minutes long but worth it)
Happy Independence Day, folks.