20 Best 4th of July Songs to Add to Your Playlist
It's time to celebrate the U.S. of A. with these groovin' patriotic tunes from the nation's best-loved pop, rock, hip-hop, and country music artists.
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Stars & Stripes sing-along
Music sets the tone for a whole lot of we do. Whether it’s an instrumental tune playing softly in the background while you shop or a beloved ballad on the radio that makes you want to roll down the windows and sing at the top of your lungs, music makes us feel things. Naturally, certain songs lend themselves to holidays and celebrations better than others. At Christmas we have “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” on Halloween “Thriller,” and for 4th of July? “Born in the U.S.A.,” for starters.
To create your ultimate 4th of July music playlist, start with some tried and true patriotic classics, then pepper in tracks that pay homage to some of the states that make up our country. Follow those up with some summer favorites and you have yourself a batch of 4th of July songs perfect for any pool party, barbecue, or patriotic celebration. And check out the history of 4th of July and why we celebrate it.
“Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen’s 1984 hit sounds like a super-patriotic song with its loud chorus in which “The Boss” practically scream-sings the song’s title. But in actuality, the track has a much deeper meaning. Springsteen wrote the song about a Vietnam War vet who returns home to find life not at all like the way he left it. In an interview with NPR, the musician explained his decision to sing that part loudly and proudly, despite the despair in the rest of the lyrics. “The pride was in the chorus,” he said. “In my songs, the spiritual part, the hope part, is in the choruses. The blues and your daily realities are in the details of the verses.”
“America” by Simon & Garfunkel
Paul Simon wrote the song “America” for Simon & Garfunkel’s fourth studio album, Bookends, which was released in 1968. The folk-rock tune follows a young couple as they road trip across the country and is based on an actual drive Simon took with a former girlfriend. The song can be heard in Cameron Crowe’s 2000 flick Almost Famous and was used by Bernie Sanders during his 2016 presidential campaign. Whether you add this to your 4th of July songs road trip playlist or blare it while playing a game of cornhole or these other fun 4th of July games in the backyard, it’s a beautiful ode to the United States and its many opportunities.
“Party in the U.S.A.” by Miley Cyrus
If you want to get a 4th of July barbecue started, there may not be a more toe-tappin’ song on this list than Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the U.S.A.” In this tune all about how she moved to Los Angeles from Nashville to pursue her career in entertainment and felt like a fish out of water, Cyrus sings about music being the great uniter. No matter where she was in the U.S., when her favorite song came on the radio, she felt right at home. The track was released in 2009 as part of Cyrus’s album The Time of Our Lives.
“American Woman” by Lenny Kravitz
Take it from pop to rock with Lenny Kravitz’s cover of The Guess Who’s song “American Woman,” which he recorded for Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me. The musician took home the Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance in 1999 for the song—kind of funny considering he was a little hesitant to record it in the first place. “I was called by the people making Austin Powers and they…asked me to cover ‘American Woman,’ which I thought was odd but I accepted thinking it was an interesting challenge,” said Kravitz in a Reddit AMA. “I did my best to change it as much as possible while still respecting the original.”
“American Soldier” by Toby Keith
To celebrate with 4th of July movies and patriotic songs is also to salute the men and women who have fought for our freedoms. Toby Keith’s “American Soldier” does just that, telling the story of a fictional U.S. army serviceman as he prepares for deployment. The country singer says he co-wrote the song after meeting so many troops on USO tours, wanting to give back to them for all of the support they’ve shown his career. “American Soldier” was the second single released from Keith’s album Shock’n Y’all and it even spent four weeks at the top of Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart.
“R.O.C.K. in the USA” by John Mellencamp
Head back to the 1980s with John Mellencamp’s truly rockin’ “R.O.C.K. in the USA,” from his album Scarecrow, which also featured such hits as “Small Town” and “Lonely Ol’ Night.” Owing in part to his upbringing in Seymour, Indiana, Mellencamp’s music really honed in on middle America, and music fans ate it up. It’s a fun, upbeat track about people from all over (whether they be from the big cities or the Heartland) coming together to jam, make music, and, quite simply, enjoy life in the United States. In parentheses after the title, Mellencamp also calls it a “Salute to 60’s Rock.”
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“Georgia on My Mind” by Ray Charles
The song “Georgia on My Mind” is most often associated with the late, great Ray Charles, but it was actually written and recorded by Hoagy Carmichael in 1930. However, no one can dispute Charles’ incredible rendition of the song, which was later used as the theme song to the hit TV series Designing Women, appropriately set in the state of Georgia. Furthering appreciation of Charles’ version of the classic is the fact that the state made it their official state song in 1979 (though he recorded it for his 1960 album The Genius Hits the Road).
“American Pie” by Don McLean
Don McLean’s “American Pie” dates back to 1971 and the song has enjoyed a great deal of longevity. Heck, even Madonna put her own spin on it in 2000. McLean, who both wrote and performed the song, was reticent to reveal the meaning behind the lyrics, except to acknowledge that the line “the day the music died” was about the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens. The Library of Congress added the song to the National Recording Registry in 2017 to acknowledge its cultural, historical, and artistic relevance.
“Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Even if you’ve never even stepped foot in the state of Alabama, it’s hard not to bob your head to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” released in 1974. Interestingly enough, none of the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd were from Alabama or even lived there at any point in their lives. Of the three band members who composed the tune, two were from Florida and the other hailed from California. Three members of the band died in a plane crash just three years after “Sweet Home Alabama” became a hit.
“America” by Neil Diamond
Particularly on the 4th of July, Neil Diamond’s “America” is the jam. In 1980, the song was featured in The Jazz Singer, which starred Diamond (his first acting role), as well as Laurence Olivier and Lucie Arnaz. In the musical drama, Diamond plays a young man who dreams of being a pop singer while not wanting to disappoint his family. Lyrics like, “On the boats and on the planes / They’re coming to America / Never looking back again / They’re coming to America” share the optimism and opportunity present in the United States. Diamond’s enthusiasm when performing the song live only adds to its patriotic feel.
“American Saturday Night” by Brad Paisley
In 2009 Brad Paisley released the album American Saturday Night, and with it a title track that is perfect for your 4th of July music needs. The song focuses on the melting pot that is the U.S., and how all of the things we’ve borrowed from other cultures make this country unique in itself. “It was tricky to try to cover every country without it being a stretch,” said Ashley Gorley, a co-writer of the song, in an interview with The Boot. “We worked on the song all the way up to when it was recorded. It’s a hard thing to get a song with cleverness.”
“God Bless the U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood
When you really want to have all of the feels about what it means to be an American, you add Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” to your playlist and turn the volume up. Greenwood included it on his country album You’ve Got a Good Love Comin’ in 1984, and that same year it was played at the Republican National Convention. “When I wrote ‘God Bless the USA’ in 1983, it was a personal passion,” he told CMT. “I wanted to make sure this song had some kind of importance along with all the other songs I was writing and singing.”
“Kids in America” by Kim Wilde
It’s the song that put ’80s pop star Kim Wilde on the music map, but despite singing about the “Kids in America,” Wilde is actually from England, as is the songwriter who penned the tune. Still, it’s all about how the next generation is preparing to take over, and that’s pretty darn American to us. The track appeared on Wilde’s self-titled debut album in 1981 and found instant success. It would find renewed interest when “Kids in America” appeared on the soundtrack to Clueless in 1995. You won’t regret adding it to your list of 4th of July songs.
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“American Girl” by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
“American Girl” appeared on the self-titled debut album from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers in 1976 but its popularity didn’t really pick up steam until years later when it would appear in the film Fast Times at Ridgemont High in 1982. Later the band re-released the single in the early ’90s, when music aficionados really picked up on its danceable beat. Fans wanted to know the backstory of the “American Girl” of which Petty wrote and sang, but the musician never really offered a lot of clarity on the lyrics. “I was living in an apartment where I was right by the freeway. And the cars would go by,” he said in an interview. “And I remember thinking that that sounded like the ocean to me. That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by. I think that must have inspired the lyric.”
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“Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver
Co-written and performed by the legendary John Denver, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” is the ultimate tribute to the state of West Virginia. In fact, it even became one of their four (yes, they have four!) state anthems in 2014. It’s no wonder why. The tune describes the state so beautifully, and Denver’s vocals on the track convey his personal love for the area. Released in 1971, its opening lyrics tell you just about everything you need to know about West Virginia: “Almost heaven, West Virginia / Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River / Life is old there, older than the trees / Younger than the mountains, growin’ like a breeze.”
“This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie
Woody Guthrie’s iconic folk music song “This Land Is Your Land” pays loving homage to the entire country and is a timeless “oldie but goodie.” With lyrics like, “This land is your land and this land is my land / From California to the New York Island / From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters / This land was made for you and me,” it’s a beautiful reminder that the U.S. isn’t for one particular group, but all of us that make it a wonderful place to live. Recorded in 1944 by Guthrie, it has been covered many times by other recording artists, including Peter, Paul and Mary. It’s the perfect song to play while DIYing these 4th of July crafts.
“Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z (featuring Alicia Keys)
Not since Frank Sinatra’s “(Theme From) New York, New York” has a song paid such a tribute to the Big Apple as Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” performed with Alicia Keys. As Keys croons the lyrics, “In New York / Concrete jungle where dreams are made of / There’s nothin’ you can’t do / Now you’re in New York / These streets will make you feel brand new / Big lights will inspire you,” how can you not want to take a trip to the Empire State? The song was released in 2009 and topped the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart.
“California Love” by 2Pac Shakur
2Pac Shakur’s “California Love” is a party starter, for sure, particularly for those on the west coast of the United States and any lover of hip-hop. So when you want to add a little bit of left coast celebration to your 4th of July celebrations, this is the track to include. The hip-hop classic was recorded and released in 1995, championing Shakur’s love for his home state of California. The rapper died in 1996 but was nominated for a posthumous Grammy award for this song in 1997 in the Best Rap Performance category.
“Ragged Old Flag” by Johnny Cash
Interestingly, “Ragged Old Flag,” by Johnny Cash, was the only single released from the album of the same name. It is a spoken word “song” to remaining patriotic during the Watergate scandal of the Nixon administration. Cash never shied away from being political, but this may be the lyrically most obvious. Elsewhere on the album is the song “Don’t Go Near the Water,” addressing environmental issues, which might be surprising for the time (the album was released in 1974).
“Homeland” by Kenny Rogers
Whether you are a country music fan or not, Kenny Rogers touched so many lives as a pop culture icon throughout the ’80s and, quite frankly, until the end of his life. His song “Homeland” was released in 2001 from his album There You Go Again. The track dives deep into the heart of America, where Rogers felt so welcome for many decades, and really praises the beauty and nature of the country. The lyrics might even bring a patriotic tear to your eye: “You can hold back the rain, bring on the wind / Knock us right down, we’ll get up again / We’ve dug in deep, made our stand / This is our homeland.”