This is one of those rare years when Independence Day falls on the 4th of July so you can celebrate both those holidays this year. Of course, Independence Day is about celebrating our freedoms, liberties, and civil rights so if you haven’t exactly gone out of your way to shoot the (fire)works the past seven July 4ths you can be forgiven. The 4th of July is about backyard barbecues and while firing up your Vogner Char-King Imperiale you’ll probably also want to fire up the stereo and remember what Independence Day really used to be about. Here are some 4th of July songs for your playlist. Word of warning, my fellow Americans, you won’t find any Lee Greenwood or Trace Adkins or even Bruce Springsteen on this list. And as you celebrate the 4th of July this year, allow me to leave you with this thought: Iraq didn’t fight in our war for independence, why are we fighting in theirs?
“The New World”—X
Yeah, yeah, I know. X happens to have a song called “4th of July” and it is one of their most heart wrenching accomplishments, but there is a section of lyric contained in the song “The New World” that, though written in the early 80’s, is even more fitting and is especially fitting for the irony of celebrating all that Independence Days entails. “It was better before, before they voted for what’s his name.” Who can’t think of Donald Trump upon hearing those lyrics?
“This Land is Your Land”—Woody Guthrie
My comrade Gregoriancant wrote a wonderful article detailing the background of this song that has been a staple for oblivious shooting range patriots for over half a century. In fact, like almost everything else that Woody Guthrie wrote, “This Land is Your Land” was intended as a criticism of the worst excesses of those who would corrupt the promise made by those sweaty gentlemen who signed Thomas Jefferson’s declaration all those years ago. Consider these original lyrics that Woody was far too smart to leave in the final version of the song:
“Was a high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said: Private Property,
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing —
God blessed America for me.
One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
By the Relief Office I saw my people —
As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if
God blessed America for me.”
As you listen to “This Land is Your Land” on July 4th try to picture all those puffed up conservatives who have claimed Woody as their own listening to the song with these lyrics.
“Know Your Rights”—The Clash
You have the right not to be killed. You have the right to food money. And you have the right to free speech…as long as you’re not dumb enough to actually try it. Funny how the outrage of twenty-five years ago is even more fitting today. Six steps back, six steps back, six steps back.
“I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore”—Phil Ochs
Bruce Springsteen wishes he were Phil Ochs. But he ain’t. You could do far worse than have a 4th of July playlist dominated by the late Mr. Ochs, but this song really says it all. Can you think of many more lyrics that perfectly encapsulate the last six years:
“It’s always the old to lead us to the war
It’s always the young to fall
Now look at all we’ve won with the sabre and the gun
Tell me is it worth it all?”
“Suspicious Eyes”—The Rakes
This is the third time I’ve mentioned this song in an article and I won’t stop until everyone hears it. It is the best song of the decade and will remain so. It is a song is about the paranoia that creeps into everyday life in the western world. Guess what people? You have a much better chance of being struck by lightning than ever meeting up with a terrorist on the subway.
“Wakko’s America”—The Animaniacs
Hey, let’s face it, you don’t have to be an oblivious shooting range patriot to not know your state capitals. Heck, most people today probably can’ even name all the states. This catchy little ditty should put an end to that, at least if you listen to it every day.
“The Presidents Song”—The Simpsons
Take a moment to remember the mediocre Presidents this July 4th:
“We are the mediocre presidents.
You won’t find our faces on dollars or on cents!
There’s Fillmore and there’s Hayes.
There’s William Henry Harrison;
[Harrison]: I died in thirty days”!
Just think; George W. Bush and Donald Trump wish they were good enough to be on that list. How sad. Instead they are destined to top that other list includes Herbert Hoover, James Buchanan and Warren G. Harding.
“Independence Day”—The Comsat Angels
There are a lot of songs titled “Independence Day” and though this has nothing to do with the 4th of July or barbecues or fireworks or picnics, the words “Independence Day” are repeated in the refrain. Not to mention it has these lyrics, which I think we can all relate to on the 4th of July, 7th of October or January 22.
“I can’t stand up and I can’t sit down
’cause a great big problem stop me in my tracks
I can’t relax ’cause I haven’t done a thing
and I can’t do a thing ’cause I can’t relax.”