Songs about America
May 15, 2008 12:08 PM   Subscribe

I'm driving cross country and am looking to make a mix CD for the road using songs about America. Ask Metafilter has previously tackled similar questions dealing with songs about Los Angeles, California, New York, New Jersey and even Europe, but what are some of the best songs about America?
posted by DoorFrame to Media & Arts (41 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Are you looking for rah rah USA songs or just songs about America in general?

I like:
Young Americans- David Bowie
I'm Afraid of Americans- David Bowie
posted by kimdog at 12:17 PM on May 15, 2008

"America, Fuck Yeah" from the Team America: World Police soundtrack.
posted by saladin at 12:18 PM on May 15, 2008

"America" by Paul Simon. Good road trip song, especially for your purposes.
posted by k8lin at 12:18 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Top 25 Songs About America.
posted by Sassyfras at 12:18 PM on May 15, 2008

Breakfast in America -- Supertramp.

America -- Simon & Garfunkel.
posted by ericb at 12:18 PM on May 15, 2008

"American Hearts" by Piebald.
posted by saladin at 12:24 PM on May 15, 2008

Response by poster: Just songs about America in general... they need not be Rah Rah. I'm happy putting the national anthem next to Volunteers of America by Jefferson Airplane.
posted by DoorFrame at 12:24 PM on May 15, 2008

Are you looking for songs specifically about America as a whole, or do you also want cultural/regional songs. Such as "Sweet Home Alabama", "Rocky Mountain High", "Convoy", etc?
posted by Morydd at 12:26 PM on May 15, 2008

The "mix" you are looking for has already been made by Bruce Springsteen - "Born in the USA." Aside from pretty much anything by the Boss, I would also recommend "City of New Orleans" by Arlo Guthrie, "Highway 61 Revisited" by Bob Dylan, "Truckin'" by the Grateful Dead, and I would definitely third "America" by S&G.
posted by caminovereda at 12:38 PM on May 15, 2008

"Little Pink Houses," John Mellencamp.
posted by steef at 12:39 PM on May 15, 2008

America from West Side Story, though not that exact version. Others have done much better.
posted by mumkin at 12:41 PM on May 15, 2008

2 Springsteen songs come to mind, but also all of his songs are about America?

Born in the U.S.A.
American Land

Pink Houses - John Mellencamp
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:43 PM on May 15, 2008

"Miss America," by David Byrne. Anything from The Joshua Tree by U2.
posted by Spinneret at 12:44 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

American Band by Grand Funk Railroad
American Girl by Tom Petty
American Psycho by Treble Charger
Captain America by moe.
City of New Orleans by Willie Nelson
USA by the Sprague Brothers
Wakko's America by the Animaniacs
posted by kidsleepy at 12:46 PM on May 15, 2008

(i pulled those from my playlist called "U S Americans." i've got songs about various places in america on that list too, if you want.)
posted by kidsleepy at 12:52 PM on May 15, 2008

Sorry to keep dropping in with single recommendations, but let me also add "Trucker's Atlas" by Modest Mouse.
posted by saladin at 1:02 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Anything by the Guthries, Woody or Arlo. Little Houses by Malvina Reynolds. The New World by X.
posted by chez shoes at 1:12 PM on May 15, 2008

I've Been Everywhere, the version by Johnny Cash is my favorite.
posted by workerant at 1:19 PM on May 15, 2008

Chuck Berry's Route 66, here covered by the World's Greatest Appropriators of Americana (Blues/R & B division) The RRRollling Stones
posted by doncoyote at 1:28 PM on May 15, 2008

apologies for any repeats:

All American Girl - Melissa Etheridge
America - Neil Diamond
America Is - Violent Femmes
America's on Sale - Alix Olson
American Idiot - Green Day
American Music - Violent Femmes
American Patrol - Glenn Miller
American Pie - Don McLean, also Madonna
Elvis Presley and America - U2
Greatest American Hero - TV Theme Song
The Hands That Built America - U2
Hymn (for America) - The Mission
When the Beatles Hit America - John Wesley Harding
Young Americans - David Bowie
Her Amerika - The Dolly Ranchers
posted by spinturtle at 1:36 PM on May 15, 2008

I'll second Neil Diamond - "America". A must for your mix.
posted by yeti at 1:39 PM on May 15, 2008

America as a whole:

America the Beautiful — Ray Charles
Back in the U.S.A. — Chuck Berry
Star Spangled Banner — Jimi Hendrix

Large parts of America:

Promised Land — Chuck Berry
(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 — Nat "King" Cole or The Rolling Stones (Written by Bobby Troup; to the best of my knowledge, Chuck never sang it.)
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down — The Band
At The Hundredth Meridian — The Tragically Hip

It just occurred to me that you could do a couple of hours just on Randy Newman songs:

A Few Words In Defense Of Our Country
A Wedding In Cherokee County
Burn On
Dayton, Ohio
Dixie Flyer
Every Man A King
Falling In Love
Feels Like Home
Follow The Flag
I Love L.A.
It's Money That I Love
It's Money That Matters
Jolly Coppers On Parade
Louisiana 1927
Mr. President
My Country
My Life Is Good
My Old Kentucky Home
New Orleans Wins The War
Political Science
Rider In The Rain
Sail Away
Sigmund Freud's Impersonation Of Albert Einstein In America
Texas Girl At The Funeral Of Her Father
The Beehive State
The Great Nations Of Europe
The World Isn't Fair
Yellow Man
posted by timeistight at 1:50 PM on May 15, 2008

How about artists or bands named for America?

Gary U.S. Bonds
The Presidents of the United States of America
posted by SuperSquirrel at 2:03 PM on May 15, 2008

I'll see your Paul Simon's "America" and raise you Paul Simon's "American Tune."

also, eclectically:

Suite Madame Blue - Styx *
Breakfast in America - Supertramp
God's Country - Ani DiFranco
All the Way from America - Joan Armatrading
Which Way to America - Living Colour
I Blew Up the United States - Was (Not Was)
Somewhere In America (There's a Street Named After My Dad) - Was (Not Was)
What Made America Famous - Harry Chapin
This is Not America - David Bowie

and, for parts of America,

Big Sky Country - Chris Whitley

* It is a constant complaint of the band that nobody realized this song was about America. Despite them singing "America, America, America, America" all through the bridge.
posted by kristi at 2:41 PM on May 15, 2008

Oops - forgot a few Ani DiFranco songs:

Every State Line
'Tis of Thee
posted by kristi at 2:49 PM on May 15, 2008

In the same rather disparaging category as American Idiot are Streets of America and American Jesus, by Bad Religion, as well The Empire Strikes First, which is clearly about America even though it's not stated explicitly.
posted by Caduceus at 3:32 PM on May 15, 2008

Paul Simon, "Graceland"
I am following the river
Down the highway
Through the cradle of the Civil War,
I'm going to Graceland, Graceland
Memphis, Tennessee
I'm going to Graceland
U2, "In God's Country"
posted by kirkaracha at 3:34 PM on May 15, 2008

timeistight, I stand corrected re: Route 66. I meant Chuck Berry's

Back in the USA

here covered by Linda Ronstadt, w. Chuck Berry, George Harrison and Keith Richards on guitars.

"New york, los angeles, oh, how I yearned for you
Detroit, chicago, chattanooga, baton rouge
Let alone just to be at my home back in ol st. lou."
posted by doncoyote at 4:33 PM on May 15, 2008

James Blood Ulmer

Are You Glad to be in America?
posted by doncoyote at 4:37 PM on May 15, 2008

Pink Houses is overrated and overplayed out of the Mellencamp catalog. He was still learning to sing and had not fully tapped into the American Roots musical tradition that would drive his later songwriting. Get something off of Scarecrow like "Minutes to Memories" or Lonesome Jubilee like "Check it Out".
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:54 PM on May 15, 2008

The Roots cover Dylan's

Masters of War
(initially to the tune of "Star Spangled Banner," accompanied by
tuba and drum solo)

For crossing the Rockies

The Band's Across the Great Divide, here covered by a young woman playing a ukulele
posted by doncoyote at 4:54 PM on May 15, 2008

It's already been mentioned, but you must have Simon & Garfunkel's America. One of my favorite memories was counting the cars on the New Jersey turnpike while singing about counting the cars on the New Jersey turnpike.


City of New Orleans by Arlo Guthrie
This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie
This Land is Your Land as covered by Bruce Springsteen
Tangled Up in Blue by Bob Dylan (a love story, but also a travel across America song)
America by Bree Sharp (not S&G's song, but cynical and catchy)
American Tune by Paul Simon

Also, I recommend Bruce Springsteen's "We Shall Overcome" album. None of the songs are specifically about "America" as a concept/nation -- but they're all American folk songs.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 5:00 PM on May 15, 2008

One of the really stirring , singalong songs for driving - The Proclaimers - Letter From America.
posted by Susurration at 5:56 PM on May 15, 2008

This is the single greatest album you can listen to while driving across the American Southwest. I've done it many, many times and it never gets old. When I cross the Mississippi River, I like to listen to the Doobie Brothers "Black Water." When cruising up the Pacific Coast Highway, the Beach Boys are in order. It's so regional- I have to break it down by state sometimes. I always prepare a region-specific driving mix for my roadtrips.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 6:44 PM on May 15, 2008

Hmm. Lemme see what I can fill in here that others haven't gotten:

"American Woman" by the Guess Who.
"Yankee Doodle Dandy", George M. Cohan.
If you're of a classical bent: anything by Aaron Copland, or "Rhapsody in Blue" by Gershwin.
"R-O-C-K in the U-S-A" by John Mellencamp.
Ray Charles' cover of "America the Beautiful".

I did a similar road trip, but went with more of a "zeitgiest" approach, going with songs that felt like "Americana" to me; granted, I was deliberately looking for roadside Americana kitsch, so the B-52's were PERFECT for that. The "O Brother Where Art Thou" soundtrack and various folkways albums would also work in that regard.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:00 AM on May 16, 2008

Oh -- "Diner" by Martin Sexton. It name-drops many various states and cities, and it's an ode to a classic bit of Americana. Plus you'll probably be eating in a lot of them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:02 AM on May 16, 2008

"America Song" and "Southern State of Mind" by Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers.
posted by supramarginal at 2:34 PM on May 16, 2008

I'm so bored with the USA - The Clash.
What if there's a War in America? - 7 Seconds.
Straight American Slave - Rocket From the Crypt.
posted by safetyfork at 2:53 PM on May 16, 2008

Great recommendations! I downloaded a few of these suggestions to create my own playlist. David Byrne's "Miss America" was new to me but I love it!

It's been a while since listening to David Bowie's "I'm Afraid of Americans" and "This Is Not America." Very cool to stumble across them again.
posted by wakemenow at 9:41 PM on July 30, 2008

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