Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Oh Beautiful for Berry and Bruce

After doing a search for "Patriotic Songs" on Wikipedia, I was ultimately not surprised to see that nearly every song talks about the America I don't recgonize. These include "You're a Grand Old Flag," "God Bless the USA," "Ballad of the Green Berets" and "America the Beautiful." Which American vision do you most associate with?:

Oh beautiful, for pilgrims' feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw;
Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law!


Looking hard for a drive-in, searching for a corner café
Where hamburgers sizzle on an open grill night and day
Yeah, and a juke-box jumping with records like in the U.S.A.

The bottom lyrics are that of Chuck Berry's "Back in the USA," the only truly American song on Wikipedia's "Patriotic" list. Sorry, Woody Guthrie...Berry's song is so good because, unlike talking about a "freedom beat" and, well, "God," he's singing about things that are quite attainable and make up an American's regular day. I mean, what shows America more than sizzling hamburgers and drive-in movie theaters?

Here's another lyrical difference:

My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring!


...Roll down the window
And let the wind blow
Back your hair
Well, the nights busting open
These two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back
Heavens waiting on down the tracks

One of the most American of images is the car and Springsteen's "Thunder Road" completely understands this. There's nothing quite like gunning down some country back road with your girl in the passenger seat, wind blowing and Hank Williams on the radio. As for the "land of pilgrim's pride," not so much.

As today is specifically Independence Day, here's my favorite 4th of July lyric:

We carried you in our arms
On Independence Day,
And now you'd throw us all aside
And put us on our way.
Oh what dear daughter 'neath the sun
Would treat a father so,
To wait upon him hand and foot
And always tell him, "No"?

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