Patriotic sing-alongs for a Fourth of July barbecue
July 4, 2011 7:18 AM   Subscribe

What are some patriotic songs that everyone in a group of early-twenties college-educated people would know? Accomplished accompanist (guitar) here, looking for songs most of these folks know the words to. Open to any American music from 1800s-present that captures the spirit of America on her birthday. Great sing-alongs are totally fine even if they don't quite fit the description.
posted by inkisbetter to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hmm. I'm in your demographic, but I can't think of any patriotic songs I know the words to aside from the holy triumvirate: The Star-Spangled Banner, God Bless America, and America the Beautiful.

I'd say you should go in a folksy direction -- think America by Simon & Garfunkel, This Land Is Your Land, or American Pie. They're not necessarily patriotic, but they evoke America and are reasonably well-known.

Or, if that doesn't fit with your group of friends, maybe try the Team America: World Police soundtrack. :-)
posted by danb at 7:30 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

How about the Battle Hymn of the Republic?

Not actually patriotic, although everyone thinks it is: Born in the USA?
posted by MighstAllCruckingFighty at 7:30 AM on July 4, 2011

I would think most people know at least the chorus of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA." I happen to have just checked facebook and I saw more than one person quoting and liking it.
posted by that's how you get ants at 7:37 AM on July 4, 2011

With a guitar, going in the folksy direction will be much better than trying to do anything too complicated. Danb has some good suggestions, and the Lee Greenwood song would fit well too.
posted by altopower at 7:44 AM on July 4, 2011

My Country 'Tis of Thee
You're A Grand Old Flag

Also, you can make a game out of who can remember the most of "Fifty Nifty United States".
posted by anaelith at 7:46 AM on July 4, 2011

In case you are in Texas and want some specifically Texas-patriotic songs, here are two that we sang along with the US patriotic standards at flag ceremonies and on national holidays in the 1980s:

Texas Our Texas

posted by vincele at 7:48 AM on July 4, 2011

Another mostly American song that might be fun to try to sing along with is "I've Been Everywhere."
posted by that's how you get ants at 7:54 AM on July 4, 2011

"This Land is Your Land" was already mentioned above, very wisely.

Others: Yankee Doodle, Stars & Stripes Forever, Battle Hymn of the Republic, America by Neil Diamond (don't knock it, it's a beautiful song about immigration!), Jack & Diane by John Mellencamp evokes a mid-America feel and everyone may know it, If I Had a Hammer by Peter Paul & Mary, Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen, Fortunate Son by CCR is evocative, and most importantly, American Music by the Violent Femmes, with sing-along included.
posted by juniperesque at 7:56 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Home on the Range
posted by anaelith at 7:56 AM on July 4, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far. Favorites:

Fortunate Son
This Land is Your Land

Some suggestions from those around me:

Johnny B. Goode
Uncle Sam Blues
posted by inkisbetter at 8:31 AM on July 4, 2011

I'm pretty sure Rise Up Singing has an America/Patriotic Songs section-- it might be worth seeing if anyone in your group has a copy. It could also help supply other fun songs for future events if this is something y'all enjoy.

(And for some reason, Clementine seems like it'd be a great song for you. Maybe the "miner, '49er" part is what strikes me as so American? Anyway, it's a fun song to sing & everyone knows the words.)
posted by dizziest at 8:54 AM on July 4, 2011

Taking this in a different direction, a guitarist of my acquaintance who likes accompanying singalongs put together a notebook of lyrics to help those who know the tune but not all the words.
posted by DrGail at 8:55 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

A lot of people will have a general sense of all of these songs, and others (This is My Country, Over There, When Johnny Comes Marching Home, etc.,) but won't actually know the words. Definitely give them lyrics.
posted by SMPA at 9:43 AM on July 4, 2011

Born In The USA isn't quite as patriotic as it seems on first glance, but Ballboy did an excellent folky cover of it if you want to see how it might translate to you and your guitar.
posted by mippy at 9:43 AM on July 4, 2011

You're a Grand Old Flag is one of my faves from a lyrical & musical standpoint (it has several musical allusions, for instance).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:55 AM on July 4, 2011

+1 for the previous mentions of This Land is Your Land - be sure to include the "missing" verses!

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I'd seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?
posted by chez shoes at 10:24 AM on July 4, 2011

Also came to recommend This Land is Your Land with the missing verses, including one chez shoes didn't copy, which discusses the disparity of wealth during the 1930s and 1940s:
There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn't say nothing;
This land was made for you and me.
Perhaps interesting as a comparison to today, this is how Woody Guthrie copyrighted the song:
"This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do."
If you read up on his history, the lyrics are even more powerful. But then, I'm a huge Woody Guthrie fan.
posted by Houstonian at 10:45 AM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Definitely print up lyrics. Good suggestions above. Reminds me of the time I was playing piano in a restaurant (during Bush the Elder's Iraq war) and someone requested a patriotic song. America the Beautiful was the only one I could think of that I had a reasonable chance of getting through without mucking it up too badly.
posted by kozad at 11:57 AM on July 4, 2011

Lift Every Voice and Sing (Aretha Franklin version) will perhaps still be known to some of your group.
posted by paulsc at 1:27 PM on July 4, 2011

Fortunate Son
This Land is Your Land
Johnny B. Goode
Uncle Sam Blues

I think you are grossly overestimating what fraction of early twenties people would know the lyrics to many songs. Ok, TLiYL sure, but Credence? Jefferson Airplane? I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of college kids hadn't heard of one or two of those songs much less could sing them. Hell, even Johnny B. Goode there's gonna be a lot of humming along in parts and then jumping in for a line or two and going back to humming.

You're gonna have to either teach the songs or stick to stuff most (of a certain demographics of) Americans learn as children, like God Bless American and America the Beautiful. Obviously it sounds like that's not the type of song you're looking for... but it's the only type most people will know without you teaching them.
posted by Justinian at 2:22 PM on July 4, 2011

Response by poster: Follow-up: chance of rain here in DC kept me from bringing the guitar at all. It turned out to be a musicless but somewhat entertaining party.
posted by inkisbetter at 10:30 AM on July 5, 2011

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