Nightly Song
Musings on Songs that Strike a Chord Tonight

Songs for Independence Day and the Fourth of July

Songs for Independence Day and the Fourth of July

It’s the Fourth of July and here’s a pack of songs you might want to check out. You can find the patriotic songs elsewhere and the songs perfect for your backyard BBQ abound on the web. This list includes songs that make a direct reference to the 4th of July or Independence Day or speak about an Independence Day.  Some do both.  

Fourth of July – X

The best of this bunch of songs, written by Dave Alvin and covered by many (Dave Alvin, John Doe, Robert Earl Keen, among others), this is a powerful tale of a fading marriage when the forgotten fireworks of the Fourth of July provide a spark of hope. Dave Alvin is a master craftsman and it shows in the poignancy of these lyrics and the rousing salvation and pleadings of the chorus:

On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone
The Mexican kids are shooting fireworks below
Hey, baby, it’s the Fourth of July
Hey, baby, it’s the Fourth of July

You can catch a Dave Alvin video here and Dave Alvin live here. Click here for a live version by John Doe.  

Independence Day – Bruce Springsteen

Not a holiday song, but a coming of age tale when the son finally stops fighting the father and readies to leave:

Now I don’t know what it always was with us
We chose the words, and yeah, we drew the lines
There was just no way this house could hold the two of us
I guess that we were just too much of the same kind

Well say goodbye it’s Independence Day
It’s Independence Day all boys must run away
So say goodbye it’s Independence Day
All men must make their way come Independence Day

Tears of Rage – Performed by the Band

Written by Bob Dylan and Richard Manuel, the song dwells on ideas of loyalty, freedom and love.

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?”

4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) – Bruce Springsteen

One of the best of early Springsteen, this song tells the tale of hanging on the boardwalk at Asbury Park waiting for life to take off:

Sandy the fireworks are hailin’ over Little Eden tonight
Forcin’ a light into all those stony faces left stranded on this warm July

Fourth of July – Aimee Mann

Another song where the holiday evokes memories of sadness and lost love, the singer wonders if a pat lover regrets never having told her he loved her:

Today’s the fourth of July
Another June has gone by
And when they light up our town I just think
What a waste of gunpowder and sky

Independence Day – Martina McBride

No reference to the Fourth of July, instead, it’s a song of independence as an abused wife stands up for herself and finds freedom by blowing up her house with her husband inside.

Let freedom ring
Let the white dove sing
Let the whole world know that today is a day of reckoning
Let the weak be strong, let the right be wrong
Roll the stone away, let the guilty pay
It’s Independence Day 

4th of July – Shooter Jennings 

Driving cross-country with his girlfriend going real country with their music:

You were pretty as can be, sitting in the front seat
Looking at me, telling me you love me, and your happy to be,
With me on the 4th of July
We sang Stranglehold to the stereo
Couldn’t take no more of that rock n roll
So we put on a little George Jones and just sang along
and I’m looking for you in the silence that we share

Independence Day – Ani DiFranco

More introspection from the poet laureate of Buffalo, this song tells the tale of a love gone bad and it comes to a head on as they watch the fireworks.  Love is war and she’s angry, feeling alone and abandoned:

We drove the car to the top of the parking ramp,
on the 4th of July
and I planted my dusty boots on the bumper and sat out on the hood,
and looked up at the sky

Born on the Fourth of July – Tom Paxton

Anti-war son inspired by the Ron Kovic’s book of the same title:

I was born on the fourth of July
No one more loyal than I
When my country said so, I was ready to go,
And I wish I’d been left there to die.

Independence Day – Elliott Smith

No reference to the holiday, this song dreams of a new life and independence:

I saw you at the perfect place
It’s gonna happen soon, but not today
So go to sleep, and make the change
I’ll meet you here tomorrow
Independence Day
Independence Day
Independence Day

4th of July – Joe Whyte

 Singer-songwriter trying to make a name for himself sings of leaving home and promising to come back home:

 I’ll be back on the 4th of July
I know I said that last time
Yeah, I know it’s the 4th of July
But I need a little more time

You can check out the song at his website.

Fourth of July – U2

A moody instrumental from The Unforgettable Fire

Fourth of July – Soundgarden

Thudding guitars and apocalyptic thoughts:

Cause I heard it in the wind
And I saw it in the sky
And I thought it was the end
And I thought it was the 4th of July

On the Fourth of July – James Taylor

I include this song for completist purposes. Mellow and smoky, James Taylor makes an analogy about lasting love and America, though I don’t really understand any of it:

Unbelievable you, impossible me, the fool who fell out of the family tree,
the fellow that found the philosopher’s stone, deep underground like a dinosaur bone.
Who fell into you at a quarter to two with a tear in your eye for the Fourth of July
for the patriots and the minutemen and the things you believe they believed in then

Roses on the Fourth of July” – Nanci Griffith

A long-term marriage that survives mysteries and shadows from the husband’s past as a Viet Nam veteran:

He still sends her roses on the 4th of July
They’re always white roses and she never asks why
She still doesn’t know where he goes Thursday nights
But his wedding band rests, on the bedside that night

He was a soldier in the Vietnam war
He lost half his right leg whilst daydreaming of her
She lit a candle each holy hour he was gone
“You Were On My Mind” was their favorite song

If you have others you want to suggest, please post away. Thanks.


One Response to “Songs for Independence Day and the Fourth of July”

  1. Mark,

    My own personal favorite — John Prine’s “Great Compromise”: I knew a girl who was almost a lady/She had a way with all the men in her life/Every inch of her blossomed in beauty/She was born on the Fourth of July . . . .
    I used to sleep at the foot of Old Glory/And awaken to dawn’s early light/But much to my surprise/When I opened my eyes/I was the victim of the great compromise

    Still working on another piece for you; haven’t forgotten. Working two jobs now, so time is tight

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