With Independence Day around the corner, we've been debating what songs qualify as the most patriotic ever recorded in these here United States. Or at least songs that wanted to be on such a list. Here's a short version of what we came up with.
"America" — Neil Diamond: Diamond is the grandmaster of arena-appropriate pop, and this ridiculously catchy ode to the immigrant's plight is one of his greatest.
Patriot factor: 10 (if you're an East Coast liberal); 3 (if you're a conservative who thinks "ethnic types" are ruining the country even if their restaurants serve great food)
patriotic music for July 4
"I'm Just a Bill" — Bill (Jack Sheldon): Schoolhouse Rock taught American children the basics of grammar, history, etc., while rocking it hard. "I'm Just a Bill" remains the most famous, since it's probably the only reason several generations can recall how a bill actually becomes a law.
Patriot factor: 7
Educational value: 10
"The Star-Spangled Banner" — Jimi Hendrix: Easily one of the most iconic moments in rock history, Hendrix's feedback-bruised take on the National Anthem at Woodstock used chords to imply machine-gun fire and the whistling of dropping bombs. It persists as a haunting attack on the government charged with defending the flag he was paying tribute to. It's just as relevant today as it was then.
Patriot factor: 8
"Born in the USA" — Bruce Springsteen: Contrary to what Ronald Reagan thought, Springsteen's classic is not about being proud of America. It's about the Vietnam War, those who died, and those who came back and were overlooked by their indifferent government. In fact its vitriol is what makes the song so damn American.
Patriot factor: 8
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Misunderstood factor: 9
"Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue (The Angry American)" — Toby Keith: Country music was just beginning to regain some of the respect it lost in the Nineties, when Toby Keith started making patriotic music like this. Consider these lyrics: "Man, we lit up your world like the Fourth of July..../And you'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A./Cause we'll put a boot in your ass/It's the American way." A disturbing percentage of Americans have adopted this as their new national anthem.
Patriot factor: 10 (if you like Keith or didn't reach junior high school); 2 (if you're none of the above)
Hillbilly irony factor: Beyond quantifiable