Songs About America That Don’t Involve Lee Greenwood

by Jack Straw

Renowned political magazine, Mother Jones, recently posted a list of 11 patriotic songs that “don’t suck.”   Most of their nominees are valid, particularly “One Nation Under a Groove” by Funkadelic.  But when I saw Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” on the list, I knew it was a sham.  So in honor of Independence Day, I’ve made a Greenwood-free list of 10 songs (we don’t go to 11) about America.  There are a lot more, but these are the first ten that came to me. The songs are in no particular order, so don’t get bent out of shape if I put someone ahead of your favorite artist.

10. “Democracy” by Leonard Cohen “I’m sentimental if you know what I mean. I love the country but I can’t stand the scene.”


9. “Golden Country” by REO Speedwagon – Stop rolling your eyes. This song was recorded long before the band went soft-rock. The title was taken from a Time magazine headline about Vietnam war protests, maybe it was Newsweek. I can’t remember.


8. “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie –
Yes, this was on the Mother Jones list too.  As well it should be.


7. “Pink Houses” by John Cougar Mellencamp – As a kid, I thought this was cheesy but now it makes more sense. Plus, we all know now that Mellencamp is an unabashed lefty.


6. “Rockin’ in the Free World” by Neil Young –
Brutal, angry and accurate.  Not bad for a guy from Canada.


5. “Suite Madame Blue” by Styx – I’m an unrepentant Styx fan and this is a great track about America in the mid 1970′s.


4. “Volunteers” by Jefferson Airplane –
Hearing Grace Slick sing, “Tear down the wall, motherfucker” is well worth the price of admission.


3. “US Blues” by the Grateful Dead – The Dead were never very political in their music but “US Blues” is a fun tongue in cheek take on America. “Red and white, blue suede shoes…”


2. “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen –
The Boss chastised Ronald Reagan for quoting this song at a campaign rally.  Ronnie didn’t understand what it was about but we do.


1. “America” by Simon and Garfunkel –
“Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike.” Enough said.


You can check out Mother Jones’ list here. It’s good stuff. But Lee Greenwood? Really?

Jack Straw is a writer living in Wichita, Kansas.