Patriotic pop music: Ten songs for the Fourth of July

Patriotic pop music:  Ten songs for the Fourth of July
Tina Fineberg/AP Photo

Today, we celebrate the independence of the good ol' U.S. of A. We gather in tiny Chicago backyards and patios, head out to our parents houses in the suburbs or maybe hit up the lakefront. We grill weenies, ribs and hamburgers and maybe S'mores, downing it all down with a good craft beer. And we light illegal fireworks, the real ones that scare your dog, smuggled in from more manly states. Thrown into this wonderful day is that bad playlist.

The following ten patriotic pop songs are good picks for any 4th of July playlist you put together today. Happy Independence Day!

1.  "American Boy" by Estelle feat. Kanye West

So it's sung by a Brit, who cares.  The random hit of 2008 dropped right before Kanye West decided to turn his songs into robot music.  Written by Kanye, Estelle, and even John Legend, the song became an immediate hit with its release, eventually winning a Grammy for  "Best Rap/Sung Collaboration" in 2008, and topping charts around the world.

2. "Living in America" by James Brown

"Living in America" is a 1985 jam composed by Dan Hartman ("I Can Dream About You" -- remember that one) and Charlie Midnight, performed by James Brown. It was Brown's last Top 40 hit in his life and the song was featured in the film Rocky IV, and it's soundtrack. In the film, Brown sings the song before Apollo Creed enters the boxing ring, in reference to the character's patriotism. In 1986, "Living in America" was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song, and James Brown won a Grammy Award for "Best Male R&B Vocal Performance".

3.  "Back in the USA" by Chuck Berry

The song was so popular in the early 60's that the Beatles eventually parodied "Back in the USSR". It's patriotism comes from Chuck Berry, a great American rock and roll legend and the man who fueled the fire for a variety of some of rocks greatest musicians.

4. "Saturday in the Park" by Chicago

This version of the hometown group's hit of their album "V" was performed at the Arie Crown Theater during a week long of sold-out shows in the summer of 1972. The song was actually written about New York's Central Park and plays during many of the Saturday Cubs and New York Yankee home games.

5. "Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Some of us know it from Forrest Gump, some of us know it from hearing it on the oldies station, and I guess some of you know it from Black Op's. This anthem is one of the most popular anti-war songs of the 20th century.

6, "America the Beautiful" by Ray Charles

Probably one of the prettiest arrangements of the 1895 church standard turned patriotic songs. For some, the song immediately evokes a certain pride for this country, and for others, the song reminds them of fireworks, summertime, and why Ray Charles was one of the best singers of our time.

7. "Star Spangled Banner" by Marvin Gaye

Only Marvin Gaye had a voice that could make a patriotic song sexy. This version is from the NBA All Stars Game in 1983, as a full house claps at the end along to the song.

8. "R.O.C.K. In the U.S.A" by John Mellencamp

Off Mellencamp's 1985 album, "Scarecrow", this "salute to 60's rock music" was almost left off the record. According to Mellencamp's biography, Born in a Small Town, Mellencamp was initially reluctant to include "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." on Scarecrow, feeling the song was too upbeat to include alongside the otherwise grim songs such as "Rain on the Scarecrow". Before the song was recorded, Mellencamp required his band to listen to hundreds of songs from the 1960s. The song includes several direct musical references to 1960s songs, including The Troggs' "Wild Thing" and Neil Diamond's "Cherry, Cherry".

9. "Born in the USA" by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

Written and recorded in 1984, at the height of Springsteen's career and probably the song that propelled the all-American singer to lasting success, the song, also taken from the album of the same name is known one of his best-known 80's rock singles ever. Springsteen wrote the song about the effects of Vietnam War, although it has now become one of America's patriotic anthems for American living.

10. "American Woman" by Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue

Originally written by the Canadian rock band, The Guess Who, the song originally got a lot of slack during its popularity in 1970 and was considered by many to be anti-American. The song became re-introduced to the world in 1993 when Lenny Kravitz brought it back to a top hit, then again in 1999 for the Austin Powers movie, "The Spy Who Shagged Me". Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue do a funky, jazz-based version that mixes their New Orleans sound with the rock version Kravitz performs.


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    Did you listen to the lyrics of "Born In the USA" or just the chorus? Also: To call "Fortunate Son" by CCR "one of the most popular patriotic songs of the 20th century" goes far beyond the realm of blithering idiocy. HORRIBLE list.

  • I think it depends on what you think is patriotic. I think many of these songs define times that shaped what our country has become. These songs make me think of America.

  • The entire soundtrack for Rocky IV.

    By the way, it's also a great soundtrack to make love to on a cigarette boat on a drunken summer night.

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