A lot of folks will be heading to Fourth of July barbecues on Wednesday, and will likely be hearing a lot of patriotic songs, like “God Bless the U.S.A.,” “God Bless America” and more. But there’s a good chance they’ll also be hearing some tunes that they think are patriotic, but in reality aren’t.
Several popular songs about America have been misconstrued as being patriotic, when really they are protest songs, and some of them you’ve probably been wrong about for years.
Misunderstood patriotic songs include:
- “Born in the U.S.A.” – Bruce Springsteen - Several political candidates, including Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, have used Bruce’s 1984 hit during campaigns, but the tune is about a young kid unwillingly sent to fight in the Vietnam war and his experiences upon returning to a hostile country.
- "Fortunate Sun" – Creedence Clearwater Revival - Also treated as a working class anthem, this protest song is about poor folks being sent to die in Vietnam while rich people were allowed to stay home.
- “This Land Is Your Land” – Woody Guthrie – While the song does wax poetic about the “redwood forests” and “gulf stream waters,” Guthrie left out verses criticizing the country out of fear he’d be prosecuted by Senator Joseph McCarthy. One seems particularly relevant today - “There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me / The sign was painted, said ‘private property’ / But on the backside, it didn't say nothing / This land was made for you and me.”
- “Rockin’ In The Free World” – Neil Young – Another song that politicians love, with both Trump and Bernie Sanders the most recent to use it. Neil is actually singing about George H. W. Bush-era disillusionment, featuring lyrics against wealth inequality, consumerism and the decline of American society.
- “American Woman” – The Guess Who – While it appears to be a song about the virtues of women, guitarist Randy Bachman once called the tune an “antiwar protest song,” saying the woman actually represents Uncle Sam during the Vietnam era. While frontman Burton Cummingssays it’s really about the virtues of Canadian women, which is why he’s telling the American woman to “stay away from me.”