Best Patriotic Songs: Essential Tunes Celebrating America

Whether it’s Independence Day, the 4th of July, or Memorial Day or something else altogether, there’s never a bad time to listen to a patriotic song or two about America. There’s plenty of great songs about America, and they often vary wildly in tone. Some are full-throated patriotic celebrations. Others take more complicated positions. But each one of these songs, rest assured, starts from a love of country.

Listen to the best patriotic songs on Spotify, and scroll down to read our list of the best patriotic songs.

The Patriotic Standards

Pop music has celebrated America since its beginnings, but many of the most beloved songs about America are, in fact, more traditional tunes that have their origins before America was even founded. This collection of songs outlines just a few of the standards that have endured.

The Star-Spangled Banner

Any list of American patriotic songs must begin with the United States’ national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” with lyrics provided by the poet Francis Scott Key in 1814. There have been countless special renditions of the tune over the years, but two of our favorites are from Whitney Houston and Marvin Gaye. – Sam Armstrong

America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee)

Along with “Hail Columbia,” “America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee)” is one of the oldest patriotic American songs to hold a place in the national consciousness. Perhaps one of its most memorable performances was by Black singer Marian Anderson, in 1939 at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday. – Sam Armstrong

God Bless America

Penned by Irving Berlin during World War I, “God Bless America” stands as one of America’s most beloved patriotic songs, even today. In recent years, it’s become a staple at baseball games during the seventh-inning stretch in many cities. – Sam Armstrong

You’re a Grand Old Flag

Written in the early 20th century for a musical, this jaunty tune became a massive success with the general public. According to the Library of Congress, “it was the first song from a musical to sell over a million copies of sheet music.” – Sam Armstrong

Yankee Doodle

No one seems to know exactly where “Yankee Doodle” came from, but in America at least, the British originally sang it toward Americans as an insult, before Americans took up the tune as a point of pride. – Sam Armstrong

Battle Hymn of the Republic

This song, with lyrics written by abolitionist Julia Ward Howe, emerged during the Civil War. It was first published in an 1862 issue of The Atlantic Monthly. Among many other uses through the years, the tune has become a popular one among a few different UK football teams. – Sam Armstrong

When Johnny Comes Marching Home

Emerging from the American Civil War, this traditional tune has been used in popular culture countless times, like Guns ‘N Roses Use Your Illusion II tune “Civil War.” – Sam Armstrong

Patriotic Popular Music Songs

Lee Greenwood: God Bless The U.S.A.

Perhaps the best-known patriotic American song in popular culture, Lee Greenwood’s bombastic performance of “God Bless The U.S.A.” still resonates decades after its initial release in 1984. – Sam Armstrong

X: 4th Of July

“4th Of July” was the only song Blasters guitarist Dave Alvin contributed to the LA punk pioneers’ 1987 album, See How We Are. As one of the more unconventional 4th of July songs, it’s a gritty triumph about a love affair on the skids that makes a last-ditch attempt to get back on track so the couple can celebrate a little. A blue-collar anthem if there ever was one. – Brett Milano

Neil Diamond: America

Originally appearing on the soundtrack to The Jazz Singer, Neil Diamond’s “America” is one of the most full-throated endorsements of immigration to America that you’re likely to come across. – Sam Armstrong

The Beach Boys: Surfin U.S.A.

The Beach Boys’ iconic surf classic “Surfin U.S.A.” isn’t a particularly patriotic song, but the song has come to be associated with America as a whole, due to its carefree and buoyant lyrics that celebrate freedom. – Sam Armstrong

The Impressions: This Is My Country

During the early stirrings of the Black Power movement, Curtis Mayfield gave us this angry but ultimately hopeful anthem. Its opening words, “Some people think we don’t have the right to say it’s my country,” seem to speak for even more people now. – Brett Milano

Trace Adkins: Arlington

The Arlington in Trace Adkins’ “Arlington” is, of course, Arlington National Cemetery. The track is sung from the perspective of a fallen soldier, proud to be laid to rest in the nation’s most famous military cemetery. – Sam Armstrong

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Fortunate Son

Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1969 hit “Fortunate Son” ranks up there with Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” as a protest song that became a misunderstood anthem. Originally a rallying song in the Vietnam era, “Fortunate Son” has since become the stuff of parades and even Presidential campaigns. Nowadays, “It ain‘t me!” is a statement of pride and defiance. – Brett Milano

Darryl Worley: Have You Forgotten?

Darryl Worley’s “Have You Forgotten?” was written after a trip Worley took to visit troops in Afghanistan in 2002, a little more than a year after the September 11th attacks. When he returned to folks in the United States questioning the war, he knew he had a title for what has become his most famous song. – Sam Armstrong

Johnny Cash: Ragged Old Flag

Recorded in the midst of the fallout from the Watergate scandal, Johnny Cash’s “Ragged Old Flag” was released at a moment when skepticism in American institutions was at a low. This powerful spoken word piece was an antidote to all that. It sees Cash hearing from an imagined old man detailing what a single, small town American flag had been through over the years – and promising it has plenty of life in it yet. A perfect song for the 4th of July, any year. – Sam Armstrong

Toby Keith: Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American)

Toby Keith’s unapologetically patriotic song was recorded in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, a moment in which folks were hungry for reminders about what made America so special. – Sam Armstrong

Don McLean: American Pie

The meaning of Don McLean’s “American Pie” has been debated since it was released in 1971. What isn’t up for debate is that it remains one of the most beloved, nostalgic songs ever penned. – Sam Armstrong

The Chicks: Travelin’ Soldier

The Chicks are perhaps best known for the furor that erupted over their 2003 statement at a concert about the imminent Iraq War. Nonetheless, this tune (released by The Chicks in 2002) is a beautiful song that tells the story of a soldier sent off to the Vietnam War. – Sam Armstrong

The Rascals: America The Beautiful

Not the song you’re thinking of. This was a much more topical anthem inspired by The Rascals’ friendship with, and admiration for, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In their world, “peace and love and a life of liberty” is what makes the country great. “America The Beautiful” opened their Freedom Suite album, which also included the hit “People Got To Be Free,” a less explicitly patriotic song, but one that certainly fits here too. – Brett Milano

Brooks & Dunn: Only in America

The timing couldn’t have been more unfortunate, but this Brooks and Dunn song owes a bit of its success to its release a few months before the September 11th attacks. Its longevity, however, is down to its timeless message that appeals to American’s conception of their country as a unique land where anything is possible. It’s since become an anthem used in campaigns by both major political parties. – Sam Armstrong

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: American Girl

Tom Petty’s jaunty tune sounds like a great American song, one that you’ll no doubt hear at a 4th of July or Memorial Day picnic, even if the lyrics hint at something far darker. – Sam Armstrong

Lenny Kravitz: American Woman

Penned by the Canadian group The Guess Who, Lenny Kravitz’s cover of “American Woman” has seemingly eclipsed the original in the popular imagination. Kravitz’s version gives plenty of space for guitar heroics, with a weighty beat providing a simple backing. – Sam Armstrong

Ray Charles: America, the Beautiful

Ray Charles performed this patriotic American standard more than a few times in his magnificent career, but two performances stand out: A version at the 1984 Republican National Convention and one at the 2001 World Series, performed in New York a month after the September 11th attacks. Both brought many in the crowd to tears. – Sam Armstrong

The Beach Boys: Spirit Of America

What’s more American than devoting an entire song to an automobile? Sure, The Beach Boys’ “Spirit Of America” is about a race car – specifically, a turbojet-powered one in which Craig Breedlove broke a world record in the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah – but the soaring harmonies in this vintage track represent the spirit of American music as many of us know it. – Brett Milano

John Legend: In America

John Legend takes a complicated look at the country that he loves in “In America,” a patriotic tribute that asks more while simultaneously celebrating what already is. – Sam Armstrong

Violent Femmes: American Music

You won’t find a lot of patriotic songs that boast of doing too many drugs, but Violent Femmes were serious (if funny-serious) about celebrating the spirit of nationalism when they sang, “We like all kinds of music/But I like American music best, baby!” This folk-punk hybrid is not the obvious choice to place among the best 4th of July songs, but it’ll have everyone table-drumming at the barbeque. – Brett Milano

Faith Hill: American Heart

You can’t beat this song on the 4th of July. Faith Hill celebrates America with this passionate tribute that namechecks Motown, Texas skies, and New Orleans drums. – Sam Armstrong

Bruce Springsteen: My City of Ruins

Originally written about Asbury Park, New Jersey, when Bruce Springsteen performed the song as part of the America: A Tribute to Heroes benefit concert, it instantly became a patriotic anthem deeply connected to New York and September 11th. – Sam Armstrong

Brad Paisley: American Saturday Night

One of the greatest country songs about America? Brad Paisley’s “American Saturday Night” celebrates all the little, underrecognized bits of multicultural things you might encounter on a typical night. From Italian ices to Canadian bacon to Brazilian leather boots, it’s a reminder that America is one of the rare countries that prides itself on the welcome arms it offers to immigrants. – Sam Armstrong

Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Fanfare For The Common Man

Emerson, Lake & Palmer added a lot of keyboard fireworks to this Aaron Copland piece, originally written for Presidential candidate Henry Wallace (formerly FDR’s vice president) and premiered in 1942 – significantly, during income tax week. It works in other countries too: ELP’s version was in the UK Top 10 during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, sharing chart space with Sex Pistols’ “God Save The Queen.” – Brett Milano

Dolly Parton: Color Me America

One of the few self-penned songs on Dolly Parton’s patriotic album of the same name, “Color Me America” is a wonderful tribute to the country and its flag. – Sam Armstrong

Van Morrison: Almost Independence Day

Who would’ve thought a Northern Irish singer-songwriter could so poetically conjure up a song about American Independence Day? “I can hear the fireworks,” Van Morrison sings, on “a cool, cool night.” It’s the only song we know that addresses the spiritual bliss that descends ahead of the 4th of July. Spanning ten minutes, you can bask in it as you watch a summer sunset and hear the Moog synthesizer fade into the evening. – Brett Milano

Billy Ray Cyrus: Some Gave All

Released a year after the first Iraq War, this ballad released on Billy Ray Cyrus’ 1992 smash album of the same name continues to resonate. As its title suggests, it reflects on the sacrifices, big and small, that so many have given for America over the years. – Sam Armstrong

Waylon Jennings: America

Country music has its share of American flag-waving patriotic songs, but this piece of wisdom from Waylon Jennings is among the best. It makes a point of including all races, and war protesters as well as veterans – all from a man who’s given his country plenty of tough love. – Brett Milano

John Mellencamp: R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A. (A Salute to 60’s Rock)

It’s hard to imagine a better way to get folks singing along to a patriotic song than to have them literally spell out USA. This nostalgic rocker by John Mellencamp continues to resonate decades after its release, with lyrics that reference many of the artists that made rock ‘n’ roll in a cultural phenomenon. – Sam Armstrong

James Brown: Living In America

Perhaps inevitably, it was James Brown (and songwriter Dan Hartman) who came up with a song that everybody in America, no matter their political beliefs or lifestyle, could get down to. Sometimes you’ve just gotta have a celebration to the funkiest of all patriotic songs. – Brett Milano

Think we’ve missed one of the best American patriotic songs? Let us know in the comments below.

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