I've always thought that the best things about America can usually be found embodied in our national music. In fact, as Peter Drier and Richard Flacks observed in a 2002 Nation article, "Most Americans are unaware that much of our patriotic culture--including many of the leading icons and symbols of American identity--was created by artists and writers of decidedly left-wing and even socialist sympathies."
That includes, most decidedly, our music. "A look at the songs sung at post-9/11 patriotic tribute events and that appear on the various patriotic compilation albums, or the clips incorporated into film shorts celebrating the 'American spirit,' reveals that the preponderance of these originated in the forgotten tradition of left-wing patriotism."
So, in honor of July 4th, here's my top twelve list of America's most patriotic songs (in random order), with accompanying videos. It's a highly subjective list which could go on and on, so please use the comments field below to cite your own favorites and we can have a happy argument about it.
Power and Glory, Phil Ochs
We Can't Make It Here Anymore, James McMurtry
Come All Ye Coal Miners, Sarah Ogan Gunning
This Land is Your Land, Pete Seeger & Bruce Springsteen (Obama Inauguration Version)
We Almost Lost Detroit, Gil Scott-Heron
The House I Live In, Paul Robeson
Cortez the Killer, Dave Matthews Band with Warren Haynes covering Neil Young
Volunteers, Jefferson Airplane
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, Christy Moore covering Bob Dylan
500 Miles, Rosanne Cash
A Change is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke
Lawyers, Guns and Money, Warren Zevon
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
By Peter Rothberg:
Reprinted with permission from The Nation