Independence Day. This American holiday commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence declaring that the U.S.A. now regarded themselves as a new nation and no longer part of the British Empire.
It is celebrated these days by drunk people blowing up things with Chinese made fireworks. (There are also parades and picnics).
So, what music should I listen to today? What record from The Collection would be a good fit for the celebration? Back in my DJ days, a broadcast of Rhapsody In Blue, a little Copeland and some Sousa marches timed to the town’s fireworks display would do the trick… but at home, today, what should it be?
Some random ground rules: First, the artist should be American. Second, the album art should be emblematic of America in some way. Third, some appropriate lyric or tune would be a bonus.
My first instinct was to go with Willie or Dylan, both great and iconic American songwriters for sure… but none of my vinyl from these artists filled the bill.
Next I considered the John Cougar Mellencamp (from Indiana, #1, check!) album Uh-Huh. Mellencamp’s rootsy style and neo-folk lyrics are American emblematic to me… and the record sleeve even pictures the band picnicking on KFC in a pig trough! ‘Merica!
(#2, partial credit)
I find Little Pink Houses to be a great commentary on American life:
“‘Cause the simple man, baby, pays for the thrills, the bills The pills that kill…
But ain’t that America for you and me?
Ain’t that America? Somethin’ to see,
Ain’t that America? Home of the free,
Little pink houses for you and me”
But, the album cover itself is not really doing it for me today:
Next up was Simon & Garfunkel (#1, New York). I was surprised that I don’t own the album Bookends… I was looking for the song America:
“”Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together”
“I’ve got some real estate here in my bag”
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner pies
And walked off to look for America” (#3)
But found it instead on my copy of Simon And Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits:
To me, this song represents an arc that Simon illustrates oh so well in many of his songs; young optimism, love, familiarity and disillusionment; and I love it! Unfortunately the cover art on this record disqualifies it from consideration. (#2)
I briefly considered Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers (#1, Gainesville, Florida) debut for its inclusion of American Girl (#3), but I already blogged about that one.
A few other songs that specifically mention Independence Day came to mind; Chicago – Saturday In The Park (I don’t own that one), Creedence Clearwater Revival – Born On The Bayou from Bayou Country (“I can remember the Fourth of July runnin’ through the backwoods bare.”) before I came to this:
Jackson Browne – Lives In The Balance (#1, California via Heidelberg, #2!). This 1986 release includes the poignant For America (#3):
“I have prayed for America
I was made for America
It’s in my blood and in my bones
By the dawn’s early light
By all I know is right
We’re going to reap what we have sown”
This record is not your typical introspective JB record… here, he’s pissed about something. He seems to start out in For America lamenting his previous complacency:
“from the comfort of a dreamer’s bed
And the safety of my own head
I went on speaking of the future
While other people fought and bled”
He then goes on to shine a strong light on the issues of the day; the plight of the poor at home, jingoism abroad, dissolution of a relationship…
Not really uplifting stuff. More divisive than uniting. A little… preachy maybe? Close, but not quite what I’m looking for.
And then, there it is:
Bruce Springsteen’s ass (#1, New Jersey) in front of a flag (#2) – Born In The U.S.A.! (#3, song/album title). This 15x Platinum record is chock full of America! Protest songs, Union songs, love, loss, redemption…
The obvious American anthem, Born In The U.S.A.:
“Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.”
This is all the idiot warmongering politician ever hears “Born in the U.S.A.!! Fuck Yeah!”… but even a casual listen reveals the dark tone of this song:
“Nowhere to run, ain’t got nowhere to go”
Bonus points for the song Darlington County:
“Driving in to Darlington County
Me and Wayne on the Fourth of July”
Folks, I think we have a winner.
Honorable mention goes to Woodstock – Music From The Original Soundtrack And More, specifically for this:
…but there’s no way I’m going to listen to that whole record today, and:
The arrangement of this song (and the guitar track) was all Michael Hedges… and this song is spectacular on Crosby’s Oh Yes I Can album.