Songs about America are more than just upbeat, catchy tunes that you just listen to when you are bored; They also provide a glimpse into the country and its people and culture, giving you a better idea of what it’s like to live in the “land of the free and the brave.”
This Is America by Childish Gambino
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys Childish Gambino’s dark trap beat and vivid lyrical imagery, then this song comes highly recommended. “This Is America” perfectly captures the cultural currents of its era. This song is a lacerating examination of contradictions, gun violence, and America’s sordid racial history that came out during the Black Lives Matter movement.
For its impact on the musical and cultural landscape, “This Is America” became the first hip-hop song to sweep Song of the Year and Best Record of the Year at the Grammy Awards. It also won awards for Best Music Video and Best Rap/Sung Performance.
The Star-Spangled Banner by Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix delivered one of his most iconic performances, a powerful rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner, at the 1969 Woodstock Rock Festival. However, later interviews revealed that the performance almost never happened at all. With the festival running over time and fears of a potential backlash brewing, Hendrix had to make a last-minute decision. Fortunately for music history, Hendrix unexpectedly unleashed this musical volley that has lived on for decades in history.
The searing wail and wild distortions of the guitar would find powerful resonance in a culture deeply divided by war abroad and protest at home. It soon gained status as the most audacious interpretation of the nation’s venerable anthem ever performed. Hendrix played the song 70 times before his premature death in 1970.
Born in the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen is widely hailed as the personification of American rock music. This 1984 album was the defining breakthrough moment of his long career. The series of unforgettable chart-topping hits, combined with the infamous cover by Annie Leibovitz, would propel the album to sales of more than 30 million copies worldwide.
The song’s upbeat theatrics and rousing chorus might suggest a simple patriotic tune, but the lyrics actually chronicle the plight of a struggling Vietnam veteran. This constant tension inherent in the meaning and values of patriotism would make this one of the more enduring songs about America.
You might be surprised to learn that the album lost the Record of the Year Grammy Award to Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down. However, its later induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2012 would confirm its immortal status in the pantheon of rock music and songs about America.
Ragged Old Flag by Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash wrote this folksy country tune during the height of the Watergate scandal when the nation was still reeling from the tumult of the Vietnam War.
He intended it as a simple affirmation of the country’s founding principles and enduring character. In the typical Cash style, it feels nuanced, non-partisan, and broadly embracing in its themes and message. It also features the incredible work of legendary banjo player Earl Scruggs.
While the patriotic tune didn’t exactly set the chart on fire upon its release in 1974, it has since become a mainstay of Veterans Day and the 4th of July. If you enjoy the classic country vibes and deep, soulful tones of Johnny Cash, then this song is definitely recommended for you.
American Heart by Faith Hill
Country megastar Faith Hill released this country-tinged ode to American fortitude and unity in 2012. The song speaks simply about tenacity and the importance of pursuing one’s dreams. It was originally supposed to be part of a larger album called Illusion, but a dispute with the record label eventually forced her to release it as a stand-alone single.
With its timeless celebration of classic national themes, American Heart earned a nomination for Female Video of the Year from the CMT Music Awards.
Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver
“Country Roads” is an essential piece of folksy Americana music and a nostalgic ode to the natural beauty of West Virginia. It has also unexpectedly become a popular worldwide sensation. From the videogame Fallout 76 to the Japanese animated film Whispers of the Heart, “Country Roads” seems to be almost everywhere these days.
You may even have heard it sung at sports games or pubs by people who’ve never even visited the state. One testament to the song’s enduring popularity is the spectacle of 70,000 people belting it out at a 2022 NFL game in Munich, Germany.
But perhaps the key to its enduring success is the way it evokes a tender longing for home. Even though “Country Roads” was a big hit upon its release in 1971, it wasn’t until 1998 that the song finally received recognition with a well-deserved Grammy Hall of Fame Award. The Library of Congress also selected it for preservation in the National Recording Registry in 2023.
American Pie by Don McLean
Many people hail American Pie as one of the most quintessentially American songs ever recorded. In its folksy charm and referential themes, Don McLean captured the spirit of an entire generation of rock music.
“American Pie” ultimately received four Grammy Awards, including Song of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Male. However, the song far outlived its eventual loss to The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack.
In 2022, this song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. The Library of Congress also selected it for preservation in 2016.
American Woman by Lenny Kravitz
This catchy rock anthem by Canadian rock band The Guess Who topped the Billboard chart upon its release in 1970. However, you may be more familiar with the Lenny Kravitz cover, which gave the song urgent new power in 1999.
Although originally recorded for the movie “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me,” it was also part of the rerelease of Kravitz’s 1998 album simply entitled “5.” The Guess Who would later downplay the political content of their song, but it was certainly perceived at the time as a protest against the ongoing Vietnam War.
The version released by Kravitz would earn him the Best Male Rock Vocal Performance at the 42nd Grammy Awards.
Party in the U.S.A by Miley Cyrus
Cyrus released “Party in the U.S.A.” in 2009 as part of The Time of Our Lives extended play album. It has since gone on to become the apotheosis of patriotic pop music. The song appeared at almost every American party for years afterward and went on to sell more than 13 million copies in the United States alone.
Even the king of parody himself, Weird Al Yankovic, put his own unique spin on the song with Party in the CIA. If you want to bask in the warm glow of a fun patriotic party song, then you can do no better than this.
America the Beautiful by Ray Charles
This slow and plaintive R&B rendition of the sublime patriotic song from the late 19th century came out just in time to celebrate America’s bicentennial in 1976.
Ray Charles, who savors every word he’s singing, infuses it with his typically radiant charm and bombastic style. Although his rendition was not among his 17 Grammy Awards or 37 nominations, its status was secured with an induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2005.
Other Songs About America
- Living In The Promiseland by Willie Nelson
- God Bless America by Irving Berlin
- The Star-Spangled Banner by Jimi Hendrix
- Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American) by Toby Keith
- American Kids by Kenny Chesney
- American Soldier by Toby Keith
- Only in America by Brooks & Dunn
- American Saturday Night by Brad Paisley
- This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie
- R.O.C.K. in The USA by John Mellencamp
- American Dreams by Papa Roach
- American Girl by Tom Petty
- God Bless the U.S.A. by Lee Greenwood
- American Girl by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
- America by Neil Diamond
- Rockin’ in the Free World by Neil Young
- God Bless America by Kate Smith
- We’re an American Band by Grand Funk Railroad
- Pink Houses by John Cougar Mellencamp
- American Idiot by Green Day