28 Of The Best Songs About America: Ultimate 4th July Playlist

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Written by Laura Macmillan
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America is a gigantic country, both in population and cultural output. And over the years, it has had an enormous influence on world culture in film, television, and music. So it should come as no surprise that there are a seemingly endless amount of songs about America and the American experience.

Whether it is old folk songs, patriotic celebrations, spiritual reflections, or protest music, the songs with America as a topic are almost as diverse as the country itself.

So let’s help you narrow down your 4th July playlist with our list of the 28 best songs about America. Let’s get started.

1. “American Pie” by Don McLean

Recorded as part of the album by the same name in 1971, “American Pie” is one of the most classic America-themed songs there is—it will be hard for you to find someone who does not know it!

Upon release, this song was number one in the USA for many weeks, and to this day, it is a classic song to play at parties, campfires, or just about any other hang.

The relaxed tempo and repeating lyrics are easy to remember, and the song is such a classic that the Library of Congress preserved it in the National Recording Registry

2. “Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen

The previous song might be a classic, but it has more relaxing energy that calms everyone down at the end of a party. But “Born in the U.S.A,” by Bruce Springsteen, is the kind of song that you play at the beginning of the party to pump everyone up with energy.

Released in 1984 on an album by the same name, this song has pop music energy that made it a hit on the radio.

Its release also helped propel Springsteen into the American culture as a patriotic hero

3. “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” by John Cougar Mellencamp

This John Cougar Mellencamp song, released on the 1985 album Scarecrow, has the subtitle “A Salute to 60s Rock”.

Accordingly, the groove and harmony changes are straightforward and repetitive, always returning to a classic chorus with lyrics that match the title.

Mellencamp had many hit songs before this album Scarecrow came out, but the 1980s were a particular turning point for him, with three other Top Ten albums coming out in the same decade.

So put this song on your party playlist, and you will have people singing and dancing for sure!

4. “Rockin’ in the Free World” by Neil Young

Even if you do not immediately recognize the verses of this Neil Young song, you will find yourself singing along to the classic chorus.

Released as part of his 1989 album Freedom, many consider this song to be his best—Rolling Stone puts it in the top 500 songs of all time.

The inspiration for the song occurred after a planned tour to the Soviet Union had to be canceled, and since the lyrics celebrate freedom, they have taken on a political context over the years.

5. “Living in America” by James Brown

“Living in America,” a song written by Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight and performed by the famous James Brown, was released in 1985 and topped the charts for almost 12 weeks.

James Brown—often called the “Godfather of Soul”—sings the lead vocal part with his unmistakable energy.

And along with James Brown on vocals was Stevie Ray Vaughan on lead guitar, creating a funky and energetic musical accompaniment that blends perfectly with Brown’s screaming and soulful vocals.

Overall, the song has fantastic lyrics and a classic 1980s groovy beat.

6. “America” by Simon and Garfunkel

Simon and Garfunkel released this song on their 1968 album Bookends, and it has lyrics that capture the road trip of a couple across America.

There is a dream-like quality to the music and lyrics that mirror the song’s theme—getting to know America geographically and spiritually. 

The song has a relaxing and almost meditative energy, something that is classic with the unique vocals and harmonies in Simon and Garfunkel.

But while this might be one of the more relaxing songs on your “America” playlist, it still has plenty of energy during the choruses. If you have ever traveled across the USA, you will identify with this song!

7. “American Girl” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Tom Petty released the song “American Girl” as part of his band’s debut 1976 album Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

While the song did not receive immediate success upon release, it eventually became one of his most famous songs, and you can still hear it on the radio all the time nearly 50 years later.

Musically, the song has standard harmony and form, and the lyrics of the verses repeatably build to a chorus that makes singing along easy.

The opening lines about an American girl “raised on promises” echoes a line from the 1963 film Dementia 13.

8. “Living in the USA” by Steve Miller Band

This Steve Miller Band song rocks out. From their 1968 album Sailor, this song needs to be on any America-themed playlist.

The lyrics both criticize and celebrate aspects of American culture, always landing back on a repeating chorus that makes it easy for people to sing.

Ultimately, this song celebrates the so-called American dream and how anyone can make it if they try hard enough. But lyrics aside, this song seems more suited to dancing than anything else!

9. “America” by Neil Diamond

“America,” written and released by Neil Diamond in 1980, was originally part of the soundtrack for the movie The Jazz Singer.

But by 1981, this song was a hit single unto itself, with its classic repeating lines about immigrants coming to America.

The song has a unique orchestral introduction of slow and reflective music, but that quickly cedes into rocking energy.

The lyrics have a central theme about America being a country of immigrants, and musically it takes on a spiritual type of patriotic energy. 

10. “We’re an American Band” by Grand Funk Railroad

As the song title suggests, this Grand Funk Railroad song is about celebrating American music and the rock band lifestyle.

Released in 1973 as part of their album by the same name, the song quickly became their first successful single.

You can think of the lyrics to this song as an autobiography of the band’s experience going on tour across America.

The driving rhythm of the music combined with the celebratory chorus makes it one of the best rock songs about America.

11. “God Bless the U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood

Released in 1984 as part of Lee Greenwood’s album You’ve Got a Good Love Comin’, people often refer to this song by an alternate title: “Proud to Be an American.”

And as you can expect, it is all about America and American patriotism—it celebrates freedom, American pride, and the soldiers that died fighting for it.

With country-style music and singing, the song was a hit at the time but fell out of the popular culture.

But after the September 11th attacks, the song became popular again and took on a new and profound meaning in American culture. 

12. “Banned in the U.S.A.” by 2 Live Crew

“Banned in the U.S.A.” opens with a familiar musical theme, echoing the Bruce Springsteen song “Born in the U.S.A.” – Springsteen permitted them to parody the music.

But the song is not rock and roll at all—it is, instead, a Miami bass style of rap music with lyrics that protest a court decision that the band did not like.

With audio samples that impersonate Ronald Reagan’s speeches, the song is mainly a political statement about challenging history and politics in America.

13. “Pink Houses” by John Cougar Mellencamp

It is unlikely that “Pink Houses” needs much of an introduction, considering how embedded it is in American culture.

Released in 1983 as part of John Cougar Mellencamp’s album Uh-huh, this song reached the top of the charts by 1984.

The inspiration for the song came from a trip Mellencamp was making through Indiana, and it references a man he saw sitting outside of a pink house along the highway.

Like many of the songs on this list, traveling across the stretches of America is often an inspiration for great music. 

14. “American Idiot” by Green Day

While many of the songs up until this point were from the 1970s and 80s, this Green Day song captures a new era of music about America.

It was released in 2004 on an album by the same name, and the song and album were a huge hit that helped the band recover from a previous dip in their career.

The song has the classic Green Day punk rock sound, but this album was more political than their previous releases.

“American Idiot,” in particular, criticized the fear and propaganda of American media and how it creates fear and tension across the country.  

15. “America the Beautiful” by Ray Charles

“America the Beautiful” by Ray Charles might be one of the most spiritually patriotic songs in this collection.

The lyrics and melody to this song go back long before Ray Charles, with the poem being written in the 1890s by Katharine Lee Bates, a professor at Wellesley College. You are most likely familiar with the 1911 version of the poem.

And Ray Charles’s recording from 1972 gives a particularly spiritual rendition of the song, with beautiful jazz harmonies and soaring vocal lines.

The slow tempo and swinging rhythms help to make the patriotism of this song particularly emotional.

16. “My Shot” by Hamilton Cast

Almost everybody has heard of the hip hop musical Hamilton, which made a huge space after its 2015 release.

The musical is about the life of Alexander Hamilton, and this song, in particular, is about Hamilton’s hope for a better future. 

With music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the energy of the music and singing style sound like hip hop music for the 1990s.

But the rhythms are much more complex, and the impressive singing floats on top of the beat in an unpredictable yet stable way. All of this creates a unique take on American history.

17. “American Woman” by Lenny Kravitz

If you are like most people, just seeing the title of this Lenny Kravitz song probably triggered the opening guitar riff to start playing in your head.

Although this hit version of the song was released in 1998 on his album 5, the original song is not by Kravitz—the band Guess Who originally released it in 1970.

But Kravitz’s version of the song became famous because of its use in the hit movie Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

Compared with the Guess Who version, Kravitz’s recording is slower and less aggressive.

18. “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys

Released in 2009 on the album The Blueprint 3, this song is a tribute to the great New York City, and considering how NYC is an iconic symbol of America, it is also a tribute to the entire country.

The song quickly found success and reached the top of the charts, including getting three Grammy nominations.

The song is in the hip hop/rap style, but it has unique piano melodies/harmonies, and Alicia Keys gives a special sound to the choruses.

If you put this on a party playlist, you can all but guarantee that people will be singing and dancing to it.

19. “The Times They Are a-Changin’” by Bob Dylan

This Bob Dylan song is another classic that almost everyone can hear in their head just by seeing the title.

Written in 1964 and released on an album by the same name, this song and the album in general capture the complicated political and social energy of the decade.

While the song was not as popular as his previous releases, it eventually made it to the top of the charts.

And over fifty years later, the song remains a popular way to reminisce about the flawed and yet hopeful changes that America has gone through and will continue to go through.

20. “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy

If the previous Bob Dylan song was a calm and reflective way to think about politics in America, Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” has the opposite energy – it is an energetic and aggressive call to fight the powers in charge for more justice.

Released as a single in 1989, the song was also featured in the Spike Lee film Do the Right Thing.

\Especially in the hip hop and rap space, this song is world-famous, and thirty years later, it is Public Enemy’s most famous song. 

21. “Made in the USA” by Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato released “Made in the USA” as part of her album Demi in 2013, and the song is a country-pop song all about relationships in America—the impact was further accomplished by its release date around Independence Day.

The song is up-tempo in rhythm and the musical accompaniment is positive and uplifting.

When you add Lovato’s soaring vocals to that, you get an overall great pop song that sounds similar in quality to the next Miley Cyrus song. In short, this song will work on any July 4th playlist. 

22. “Party in the U.S.A.” by Miley Cyrus

The patriotic pop song “Party in the U.S.A.” by Miley Cyrus, from her 2009 album Pop It Rock It 2: It’s On, reached number two in America on the Billboard Hot 100.

If you know the song—and let’s be honest, who doesn’t?—then the famous lyrics and melody from the chorus are probably running through your head right now.

The lyrics to this song are about Cryus’s moving to Hollywood and the experiences she has along the way.

Even though some of the lyrics capture her feeling homesick, the celebratory chorus always returns describing the “Party in the U.S.A.”.

23. “American Heart” by Faith Hill

Jim Beavers and Jonathan Singleton wrote the song “American Heart,” but it was Faith Hill’s beautiful country voice that made the song famous when it was released in 2012.

The song was supposed to be part of her album Illusion, but the album never materialized, and the song remained a single track.

The song is about the American spirit and how it perseveres through tough times.

The lyrics reference various places across America, such as California, Texas, and New Orleans, and it continually stresses that the American heart is too big and strong to be defeated.

24. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver

Do you even need a description of this iconic John Denver song? “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” released in 1971, is an American song through and through.

Sometimes referred to as “Country Roads,” the song is all about West Virginia and the thoughts one has while driving through it.

With a relaxing and reflective musical background—as well as Denver’s easy-going vocals—the song became one of Denver’s most popular and successful.

And due to it being such a tribute to the state, it is one of West Virginia’s official state songs.

25. “This Is America” by Childish Gambino

Transporting many decades into the future from that John Denver classic, you now get to “This Is America” by Childish Gambino.

Gambino is the stage name for famed actor and artist Donald Glover, and this song was released in 2018 as part of his album This Is America.

Like many of the songs in this article, the song makes political commentary on many of the problems America faces—in this case, gun violence, mass shootings, and racism.

Many rappers make guest appearances on this track, and gospel-style music makes interludes throughout.

26. “Rockin’ in the USA” by Kiss

Released on their 1977 album Alive II, this Kiss song will be an energy boost on just about any playlist.

Overall, it is a patriotic song that compares America to other countries around the world. But the conclusion in the chorus always comes back to the singer’s preference to keep “Rockin’ in the USA.” 

Musically, the song has the typical alternative rock and roll sound that you would expect from Kiss, which is especially unique considering it came out in the 70s.

And with classic guitar riffs and a driving rhythm, the music is also perfect for dancing.

27. “All-American Girl” by Carrie Underwood

“All-American Girl,” released in 2007 on Carrie Underwood’s album Carnival Ride, is a country-pop song with relaxed energy.

The lyrics center around a father meeting his baby daughter and falling in love. Even though the father wanted a baby boy, the new “All-American Girl” immediately wins his heart.

Musically, the song flows between different textures, ranging from relaxed verses to soaring choruses.

As is typical in Underwood’s music, these transitions between the verse and the chorus make use of Underwood’s powerful voice.

28. “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie

This Woody Guthrie song might not be the biggest hit on your party playlist, but it would be impossible not to include it in a list of the best songs about America.

Guthrie wrote the lyrics to the song in 1940, with a melody that came from an earlier gospel hymn.

The lyrics talk about the large stretches of land in America, from coast to coast, always landing back on the title of the song by the end of each chorus.

Because it was such an American classic, this song is included in the National Recording Registry

Summing Up Our List Of Songs About The USA

Hopefully, you now have a deeper appreciation of America and the musical culture inspired by it.

From old folk songs by Woody Guthrie to new music by Miley Cyrus, there is such a diversity of music with America as the topic.

Some of these songs patriotically celebrate freedom, while others capture the spirit of protest and conflict.

And whether it is rock and roll, funk, or hip-hop music, the songs about America come in all types of unique flavors.

So get to know these great songs and add them to your America playlist! 

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Laura has over 12 years experience teaching both classical and jazz saxophone and clarinet. She now resides in California where she works as a session and live performer.