The 13 greatest songs about America: A Fourth of July playlist

2 July 2021, 14:53

The 12 greatest songs about America: A Fourth of July playlist
The 12 greatest songs about America: A Fourth of July playlist. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

To mark Independence Day, we've picked a handful of the best songs ever written and performed about the United States of America.

Whether you're a proud patriotic American, or you simply love anything about the States, here's a perfect Fourth of July playlist:

  1. Simon & Garfunkel - 'America'

    Simon & Garfunkel - America (from The Concert in Central Park)

    Simon & Garfunkel head out on a journey looking for freedom, in a place where that is meant to be doable.

    You can imagine yourself going on your own kind of voyage of finding yourself while looking out the window on a road trip.

  2. Bruce Springsteen - 'Born in the USA'

    Bruce Springsteen - Born in the U.S.A. (Official Video)

    Probably the first song that comes to mind when you think of America.

    Though often thought of as a patriotic anthem, The Boss was singing about hypocrisy across the nation, particularly about how veterans were treated after the Vietnam War.

  3. The Mamas and the Papas - 'California Dreamin''

    The Mamas & The Papas - California Dreamin'

    The Mamas and the Papas lament the autumn and long for summer days spent in California in this classic '60s anthem.

    We also recommend Jose Feliciano's sun-kissed version!

  4. Whitney Houston - 'The Star Spangled Banner'

    Whitney Houston - Star Spangled Banner

    Pretty much everyone has given the US National Anthem a go - Jimi Hendrix's guitar version is rather epic - but we'd plump for Whitney's incredible rendition at the 1991 Super Bowl.


  5. Don McLean - 'American Pie'

    Don McLean performs American Pie live at BBC in 1972 - Newsnight archives

    This mini history of Americana, this iconic song speaks about the loss of American innocence following the plane crash that killed rock and roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper.

    It perfectly sums up the American story as it was in the early 1970s.

  6. Neil Diamond - 'America'

    Neil Diamond - America (Live At The Greek Theatre / 2012)

    Taken from the soundtrack of The Jazz Singer, Neil Diamond sings about immigrants heading to America, to live the American Dream.

    The patriotic number was a long-time favourite at Neil Diamond concerts, and sums up his love of his nation.

  7. Lynyrd Skynyrd - 'Sweet Home Alabama'

    Lynyrd Skynyrd - Sweet Home Alabama - 7/2/1977 - Oakland Coliseum Stadium (Official)

    This classic southern rock anthem just makes you want to be on the open road with the top down.

    Funnily enough, the song's three writers weren't even from Alabama.

  8. Billy Joel - 'We Didn't Start the Fire'

    Billy Joel - We Didn't Start the Fire (Official Video)

    While not specifically just about American history, the USA takes centre stage in this look back at then-recent history.

    It includes brief references to 118 significant political, cultural, scientific, and sporting events between 1949, the year of Billy Joel's birth, and 1989.

  9. America - 'Ventura Highway'

    Ventura Highway

    Writer Dewey Bunnell said that this summer tune was inspired by the shapes of clouds he saw in 1963 while his family was driving down the coast from Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc, California.

    While his father changed a flat tire, his brother and he stood by the side of the road and watched the clouds and saw a road sign for 'Ventura'.

    Plus, you know, they're called America.

  10. James Brown - 'Living in America'

    James Brown - Living in America

    What an anthem!

    This patriotic James Brown tune from Rocky IV waas released at the height of the Cold War, and just shouted stars and stripes.

  11. John Denver - 'Country Roads'

    John Denver - Take Me Home, Country Roads (from The Wildlife Concert)

    John Denver's country anthem is one of the state songs of West Virginia and still sounds beautiful.

    That being said, co-writer Bill Danoff, from Massachusetts, came up with the song while driving along a rural road that was very much not in West Virginia, but it fit the lyrics better!

  12. Ray Charles - 'America the Beautiful'


    Countless artists have performed this early-1900s patriotic America song.

    The fantastic Ray Charles recorded it in 1972, and it became a hit over again for the bicentennial four years later.

  13. Tom Petty - 'American Girl'

    TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS - American Girl (1978 UK TV Performance) ~ HIGH QUALITY HQ ~

    The late great Tom Petty denied this song is about a girl looking to jump off a building in Florida, but rather just about a young, American woman searching for something better.

    It's a song of hope and something of a love letter to his home state.