The Fourth of July in Song

There are a number of popular songs that reference the Fourth of July and Independence Day. There are songs that take a historical approach to focus on the drafters and signers of the Declaration of Independence as in the play and movie 1776. And there are popular songs about America like the version of “America the Beautiful” by Ray Charles or the song we discussed on Chimesfreedom last year, Paul Simon’s “American Tune.” But there are also a number of songs that refer to the modern version of the holiday without singing about Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, or purple mountains majesty.

Shooter Jennings: “Fourth of July”

Shooter Jennings, son of the great Waylon Jennings, recorded an excellent song about the holiday in “Fourth of July” off his debut album, Put the O Back in Country (2005). Although the song does not mention the Declaration of Independence or our Founding Fathers, it evokes the Fourth of July that is more familiar to Americans today of having a nice holiday.

Unlike many of the other Fourth of July patriotic songs, Shooter Jennings’s song is completely about the holiday. And it is a fun song. (Unfortunately, the official video is no longer available on YouTube so below is a fan video with the lyrics. A live version is here.)

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“The Great Compromise”

John Prine invokes patriotic imagery as he remembers “a girl who was almost a lady” born on the Fourth of July in his wonderful “The Great Compromise.” The song appeared on Prine’s album Diamonds In The Rough (1971).

The girl in “The Great Compromise,” however, really represents the United States.  Prine’s song about disillusionment with the country during the Vietnam War is one of the great songs about our country. [Thanks to Lucia Ferrara for reminding me about the Prine song.]

Other Singing References to the Fourth

Many other singers and songwriters have planted references to the holiday in their songs.  For example, there are songs by James Taylor (“On the Fourth of July”), U2 (the instrumental “4th of July”), Elliott Smith (“Independence Day”), X (“4th of July”), Ariel Abshire (“Fourth of July”), and Aimee Mann (“4th of July”).

Tom Waits mentions the holiday in “This One From the Heart.” So does Chicago in “Saturday in the Park” but the band was not completely sure about the day:  “Saturday in the park/ I think it was the Fourth of July.”

And Lucinda Williams sang about a “Metal Firecracker,” although the song title referred to a tour bus. PopMatters has a good list of July Fourth songs, and check out the comments below for some more additions.

What is your favorite Fourth of July song? Let us know in the comments. And have a happy and safe Fourth of July.

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    8 thoughts on “The Fourth of July in Song”

      1. Thanks for the comment. “Saturday in the Park” is mentioned in the last paragraph, although maybe you are right that it is so famous that it deserves a more prominent place. You’re right about “Darlington County” — I’m not sure how I missed that one (“Me and Wayne on the Fourth of July”). I know there are other songs too, so I appreciate any additions! Thanks.

    1. 4th of July (Sandy) used to be my favorite Springsteen song, but it’s not my favorite 4th of July song, which is the Grateful Dead’s “US Blues” which I guess isn’t really about the 4th of July or Independence Day. It might be better for Flag Day. But I’m sticking with it. This year I kept hearing another Dead song, “Jack Straw” which actually says 4th of July in the lyrics, but I think it’s just okay. Also I just read all of the lyrics and I don’t really feel like it’s a holiday song at all. Oh, and I heard a Jackson Browne song from the 1980’s that was just horrendous, though I did have the song on tape back then.

      1. “Jack Straw” is another one to add to the list of songs that reference July 4. I had to look up the Jackson Browne song, so I’m guessing you mean “Of Missing Persons,” which is from the Hold Out (1980) album and contains the lines: “On July, the fourth /In the sunny South and the frozen North/ It’s a day of loss, it’s your day of birth /Does it take a death to learn what a life is worth?”

        According to Wikipedia, the song is about Inara George, the daughter of Lowell George of the band Little Feat. She was a friend of Browne’s and had died a year earlier.

        The line, “Of Missing Persons,” derives from the Little Feat song, “Long Distance Love.” Don’t feel bad for disparaging the song, though. One critic said the song was “unusually rank.”

    2. Here’s another “Fourth of July” song I ran across from Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, where they explain the story behind the song at the beginning of this video:

      1. Thanks! That’s another good one that references “Independence Day” in the context of the end of a relationship.

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