In observance of the upcoming July 4 holiday, this week’s WXNA blog post features a list of some of our DJs’ favorite songs about the U.S. of A.
Read as you listen with our Spotify playlist!
Fridays from 10 to Noon
“Little America”- REM
Songs that hit the sweet spot of celebrating America without dipping into cheap sentimentality, jingoism, or out and out nationalism are hard to come by IMHO. Little America hits it both in its particulars of recounting the band traveling around the south on tour—”Another Greenville, another Magic Mart”—and in general showing the pure pleasure of the road trip free and easy. I saw REM many times and for me this was their best live song. An exhilarating celebration of freedom.
DJ Cranky Pants (Ashley)
Set Records to Stun
Fridays from 6-8 a.m.
“America”- Simon & Garfunkel
Ever since Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross plopped down on the back seat of that bus at the end of The Graduate (1967), disaffected middle-classers have questioned the American Dream. In “America” (1968), Paul Simon seems convinced that while the search may be eternal, the promised land remains an illusion.
The English Breakfast
Saturday, Noon to 2 PM
“American Tune” (1973) by Paul Simon, from the album “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon”
Paul Simon wrote this song, using the music of Renaissance era composer Hans Leo Hassler, after Richard Nixon’s re-election.
My emotional attachment to it is two-fold.
It’s the first Simon album I ever bought. Even though I wasn’t old enough to “get” any of it then, I really loved it. Now, over the passing decades, I return to the album, and this song, again and again.
“America Tune” is succinct, emotional, and very direct. And these lyrics especially stir a hard-won, but not cynical, patriotism in me:
“Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
And sing an American tune”
Different Every Time
“This is Not America” is a song by David Bowie, Lyle Mays and Pat Metheny used in a soundtrack to the 1985 film The Falcon and the Snowman. But the reggae-fueled, Carla Bley arranged instrumental that I am thinking of is from Charlie Haden’s “Not in Our Name”, the Liberation Orchestra’s 2005 response to the Iraq War on Verve . In this context, surrounded by an ironic, dissonant Battle Hymn of the Republic and a stately version of Lift Every Voice, the tune takes on a new meaning. Haden believed that you could capture people with beauty and that the politics would follow. “This is Not America” reminds me that even with its set-backs, the journey to democracy is one worth taking, that politicians don’t always speak for me, and that dissent is patriotic.
The Black Ark
Thursdays 11:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.
“American Music”- Violent Femmes
You were born too late
I was born too soon
But every time I look at that ugly moon
It reminds me of you
Wednesdays from 7-9 p.m.
“America the Myth”- Christ on Parade
The corporatization of our political system is destroying our country. No amount of empty rhetoric, fireworks, or flag waving is going to stop that. We are flying too close to the sun on wings of soft wax.
Hound Dog Hoover
Goin’ Down South
Monday 1-3 pm
“America”- Willie King
Sweet plea for togetherness from a late bluesman and community organizer from rural Alabama. Great soul blues groove and call-and-response vocals.
Shout, Sister, Shout!
“Fireworks” by Irreversible Entanglements
Last thing we saw was fireworks symbolizing somethin’
Can’t tell the difference between America and the unknown
The forever-expanding and reshaping the landscape
Poet Camae Ayewa (a.k.a. Moor Mother) uses her words as an instrument in free jazz collective Irreversible Entanglements. I can’t think of a better song to listen to on this day! It explores the symbol of fireworks, yes, but also Black trauma and liberation– all rendered by the lively collaboration of improvisation. In both form and content, this song is a true embodiment of American values such as democracy and freedom.
Sundays at Midnight
These are on my setlist every year:
“America Rules” by Murphys Law
“American Heavy Metal Weekend” by Circle Jerks
“Rock N America” by Catholic Girls
Wednesdays from 11pm-1am
“4th Of July” by Dave Alvin
Dave Alvin’s “4th of July”, particularly the version on King of California, expertly captures the desperation of a relationship quietly breaking apart, while simultaneously describing the sound of every small town backyard 4th of July celebration, ending with kids shooting off bags of fireworks into the night air. America in 6 stanzas.