Saturday, July 04, 2009
Songs of Freedom
I’m feeling especially patriotic this Independence Day. I’m actually flying an American flag from my house. A few months ago I wrote about my 40 years of patriotic cynicism’s triumph over patriotic devotion. Today the dominance in my patriotism has shifted from the critical to the more affectionate twin.
So I have assembled my favorite patriotic songs from my CD collection. For the most part I haven’t ranked the songs in my list. But I do have a #1 and a #2. The top song takes me way back almost to that 40 years ago. That’s when The Fifth Dimension recorded the medley The Declaration/A Change is Gonna Come/People Gotta Be Free. Today I can recite the preamble to the Declaration of Independence because of that song.
On the list, I tried to weed out those songs that just talk about treating people right (I have a lot of those songs) in favor of those that actually focus on this nation, this country, this land. That means I cut a bunch of peace and love songs in favor of freedom songs. Still I let a little of the peace and love shine through.
My list of roughly 100 songs includes songs called “America” by Neil Diamond, Pops Staples, The Vigilantes of Love, and Cornel West. In the end, there are songs by U2, , Jill Scott, Bruce Cockburn, the Neville Brothers, John Mayer, Jimi Hendrix, Patty Griffin., Common, Derek Webb, Tommy Sims. Eva Cassidy, Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, Usher, Norah Jones, Stevie Wonder, Marc Brouusard, Lenny Kravitz, Jennifer Hudson, Springsteen, John Legend, and Mellencamp. And the list includes brand new American anthems from the likes of will.i.am (It’s a New Day), Dave Stewart (American Prayer), and David Foster (America’s Song).
My #2 favorite song on the list surprises even me: Despite her unquestioned talent and her extensive catalog, there are only one or two Celine Dion songs that I actually like (“Because You Loved Me” comes to mind). Additionally, I’ve never been that fond of “God Bless America”; it’s always sounded a little exclusive to my ears. But when French Canadian Celine Dion sang “God bless America, land that I love!” in the aftermath of 9/11, it conveyed a different message than I had ever heard before. I wonder what Ms. Dion was thinking as she sang the song. Was she including herself as part of (North) America, was she singing as an adopted citizen of the USA, or was she simply singing as a gift to her friends across the border at the time of their tragedy? I don’t know; but in this performance her prayer is clear and heartfelt. So on this Independence Day, I echo her prayer: God bless America (and all the nations)!
What’s on your list?