An Independence Day Play List

By , July 2, 2016

Independence Day is almost upon us. Likely, it’s already here for you, as it is for us, as the local celebration starts today, continuing through the weekend, and on to Monday.

Since we’re likely to be busy, and because I hate holiday suggestions that don’t show up until the day of the holiday itself, I’m offering an Independence Day playlist for those who might be interested.

As I often state, music plays an important part of our lives here, especially seasonal music (see The Soundtrack of Our Homestead). That includes Independence Day.

Now, I’m of the age when virtually anything John Phillip Sousa ever wrote will do on this holiday. However, there are more contemporary songs that our family plays at this time of year. I’ll focus on those:

Dave Alvin, Fourth of July: I’ve been a fan of Dave’s since he and his brother, Phil, headed up The Blasters. His first solo album, Romeo’s Escape, just about blew me away, especially this song. His later album, King of California, has a much mellower remake of the song, but the first version is the one that moves me.

Johnny Horton, Johnny Freedom: My folks played Johnny Horton’s Greatest Hits ever since I can remember, so this rather corny song, along with the rest of the album, hits me “right there” every time.

Bruce Springsteen, Born in the U.S.A. This isn’t the rah-rah exceptionalist anthem many politicians seem to think it is, but it’s a powerful story, as well as a great sing-along song. 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) is another good Springsteen Independence Day song, perhaps the most explicitly so. Independence Day, from The River also qualifies, although it’s more about personal freedom than the 4th of July. For me, the true summer soundtrack albums are Springsteen’s Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town. The latter, particularly, takes me right back to almost 35 years ago, to a summer work program dorm on the edge of my college’s campus, where I lived upstairs from my beautiful friend, a long-legged brunette with a megawatt smile, named Michelle.

Counting Crows American Girls: more for theme than actual references to the holiday.

The Band Perry, Independence is more about personal freedom (and geography) but it’s a good one! This is one of the few country songs on our list. I could fill the day with songs from that genre, but patriotism comes in many flavors, and I have to admit, I’m not crazy about the jingoistic variety that’s so prevalent among country artists.

That being said, how do I explain this: Cimorelli, Made In America? What can I say? There’s no disputing taste. I got it for free from a music distributor, and it grew on me.

Chicago Saturday in the Park. They think it was the 4th of July . . . . This one takes me back to early junior high. I think it was old then.

Joni Mitchell, Night Ride Home. I learned about this album when we lived in Juneau, Alaska. We would drive downtown and sit for hours on the crowded waterfront, waiting for the Independence Day fireworks show to start just after midnight on the morning of the 4th. The drive home afterward may be the worst traffic jam ever seen in Juneau. This song evokes, for me, the late night, exhausted-but-happy feeling of that annual drive.

Aoife O’Donovan, Red and White and Blue and Gold: This is a recent addition to the list, and a current favorite of mine.

It’s a short list. I’m sure I’m missing a lot of good songs that relate to the holiday, but these are the ones we like to listen to around now. I hope you enjoy it. Happy Independence Day!

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