Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Let Freedom Sing: Songs for Independence Day

Considering how much I value my freedom, my independence, my liberty, the Fourth of July probably should choke me up a lot more than it does.

It must be the music: The Independence Day soundtrack has never really moved me. I don't understand the ongoing (for centuries now!) appeal of "The Star-Spangled Banner," aka the U.S. national anthem. I appreciate Francis Scott Key's way with words, but what a dreary melody!

Not even Ray Charles could make me love "America the Beautiful," though I do prefer it to "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "My Country, 'Tis of Thee." And when I think about the best of Lee Greenwood, "God Bless the U.S.A." never comes to mind.

Keeping it country for a moment, I used to love "In America" by the Charlie Daniels Band back when I was a kid, but until I found the YouTube clip below, I hadn't heard the song anywhere in 32 years. "Born in the U.S.A." is still popular today, but as U.S. President Ronald Reagan found out when he tried to co-opt the Bruce Springsteen classic-to-be for his 1984 re-election campaign, there's nothing patriotic about it.

This Independence Day when my loved ones back home are celebrating being born in the U.S.A. and/or living in that self-anointed promiseland, perhaps to the sounds of the late Whitney Houston belting out the national anthem, or enjoying the hump day off with no patriotic inclinations, here's what I'll be doing: I'll be acknowledging the main principles on which my homeland was founded -- freedom, independence, liberty (slavery notwithstanding) -- through songs that come from and speak to a personal space above and beyond the red, white and blue, songs that can apply to any color, every creed. Happy Fourth!

"Free" Deniece Williams She'd go on to have bigger hits ("Too Much, Too Little, Too Late" and "Let's Hear It for the Boy," No. 1 singles in 1978 and 1984, respectively), but her breakthrough (No. 25, 1976) remains her most enduring one.

"Freedom" the Pointer Sisters Not the George Michael song, but one that has the added benefit of not having been overplayed to death at any point since its 1985 release.

"Learning to Fly" Pink Floyd What's a little independence without some existential angst thrown into the mix?

"State of Independence" Moodswings featuring Chrissie Hynde Donna Summer did it first (well, second, after Vangelis of "Chariots of Fire" fame and Yes's Jon Anderson, though she's the one who made it a hit), in 1982, but with all due respect to the late Queen of Disco, the British duo and the Queen of Post-Punk Rock & Roll did it even better -- as "Spiritual High (State of Independence) Pt. II" -- 10 years later.

"Mi Tierra" Gloria Estefan El patriotismo en español. El exito mas lindo de Gloria Estefan. La cancion la que escuchaba todos los dias en 1993 cuando estaba en España por la primera vez. Cada vez la escucho ahora pienso en mi pais tambien. Nunca la olvido, mi tierra!

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