There is plenty of poetry about America in music. This playlist possesses almost none of it. On a day — the Fourth of July — that isn’t much for subtlety, neither are the songs you’ll find here. Maybe some satire (e.g., “America, Fuck Yeah” from Trey Parker and Matt Stone and “America” by Spinal Tap). Maybe a hit of thoughtfulness (e.g., Prince’s take on “America” and Randy Newman’s “Political Science”). And maybe a little wink (e.g., “Real American,” Hulk Hogan’s theme song, and “I Love America” from Patrick Juvet, who may indeed love this country but can barely pronounce its name due to his thick Swedish accent). But for the most part, we’ve happily wrapped ourselves in the flag of Cold War-era patriotic fist-pumping — a time when rock stars (or at least Sammy Hagar) thought that their screeching could bring down the Soviet Union as easily as mutual assured destruction. Listen to the full playlist above, and get a taste of our selection below.
Song: “America” by Neil Diamond
Foremost American Value: Not only is immigration a good thing, it’s what made the U.S. great.
Bumper Sticker Lyric: “Free, only want to be free / We huddle close, hang onto a dream”
Banned in the U.S.A.: Amazingly, Clear Channel Communications deemed this inappropriate for airplay following 9/11. Perhaps it was the pro-immigration message?
Song: “America” by Prince
Foremost American Value: Stop obsessing over those Russians, knock it off with the nuclear threats and do something to help the poor.
Bumper Sticker Lyric: “America, America / God shed his grace on thee / America, America / Keep the children free”
Banned in the U.S.A.: Generally, people were too focused on his sexier material to get offended by any of his more subtly subversive material.
Song: “V.O.A. (Voice of America)” by Sammy Hagar
Foremost American Value: Basically the opposite of Prince’s: Look out you Russkies, Sammy’s rock army is coming to getcha!
Bumper Sticker Lyric: “Just tell your friends, the USSR / We’re gonna crash that party ’cause they’ve gone too far”
Banned in the U.S.A.: Far from it. This sort of thing was encouraged in the ‘80s.
Song: “American Life” by Madonna
Foremost American Value: Other than exercising her right to question everything, your guess is as good as ours. Is the Material Girl un-ironically complaining about being the burdens of wealth? Is she thinking she pursued the wrong path in life? Is the capitalist system to blame for all that ails her, or is she just as culpable?
Bumper Sticker Lyric: “I’m just living out the American dream / And I just realized that nothing is what it seems”
Banned in the U.S.A.: The original video featured a military-themed fashion show with battle-scarred models and graphic war imagery. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, however, Madonna cancelled the release and reshot the video. Watch the yanked clip here.
Song: “Living in America” by James Brown
Foremost American Value: Everybody’s workin’ overtime.
Bumper Sticker Lyric: “All night radio keep on runnin’ through your soul / All night diners keep you awake on coffee and a hard roll”
Banned in the U.S.A.: The song never got Brown in any hot water, but a few years after recording “Living in America,” Brown was involved in a high-speed car chase that resulted in his arrest and a six-year jail sentence. And the day after his arrest, Brown appeared on CNN in a clearly altered state.
Song: “Real American” by Hulk Hogan (but really Rick Derringer)
Foremost American Value: Don’t mess with me or my friends, or you’re in for a world of hurt.
Bumper Sticker Lyric: “I am a real American / Fight for what’s right / Fight for your life!”
Banned in the U.S.A.: More like banned from the WWE. Hogan, a notorious asshole, has been as whitewashed as possible from WWE history after tape surfaced of him dropping a racist rant about the man rumoured to be dating his daughter. So for now, the most patriotic thing you could do this Fourth of July is enjoy this song with a real American hero in this scene from Eastbound And Down.