Can you name the ten best rock songs about America? It wasn’t easy for us, either, but we think we came up with a pretty good list. Not all of the songs are patriotic toward the United States, but they all speak to Americans in one way or another.
- Don McLean: "American Pie" This popular folk-rock ballad is Don McLean’s signature song. People say the song is a reference to "the day the music died"—the 1959 plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper.
- Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: "American Girl" Many artists have covered this single, and several films also feature the song. Rumor says the lyrics tell the story of a girl who committed suicide by jumping from a college dormitory, in the town where Tom Petty grew up. But the band dismissed this as urban legend.
- Bruce Springsteen: "Born in the USA" This American rock song is probably Bruce Springsteen’s best-known single. Some people claim it as a patriotic anthem, but The Boss is actually singing about the effects of the Vietnam War on Americans.
- The Guess Who: "American Woman" This popular song about America is from a Canadian band. The song’s "American woman" may refer to the Statue of Liberty, and some say the song is an attack on U.S. politics. But band members have denied that their song is anti-American.
- David Bowie: "Young Americans" This song from an English rocker also makes the cut. The song grew from Bowie’s fascination with American soul. Bowie matched the music with cynical lyrics about Watergate, black repression, and other political and social issues.
- Green Day: "American Idiot" This punk rock song is another popular rock song about America. This song has been on movie trailers. And if you play football video games, you may have heard it on Madden NFL. Several TV shows have parodied the song. Greed Day sings about the "vegetable-like" state of mind of some Americans.
- Simon & Garfunkel: "America" The singer-songwriter duo introduced this classic folk-rock song in late 1960s. The song describes the journey of two companions in search for the true meaning of America. Many musicians have covered this song, including the band Yes.
- Grand Funk Railroad: "We’re An American Band" This song from the early 1970s was a number one hit for the American band. The song seems to describe the band’s concert tours. Some say it resulted from an argument between Grand Funk and Humble Pie over the merits of British versus American rock.
- Supertramp: "Breakfast in America." Remember this song from the late 1970s? The band’s hit "The Logical Song" is probably more familiar, but this song is a staple on classic rock radio. The British band sings about someone who’s never been to America.
- The Beach Boys: "Spirit of America." Okay, this one is more pop than rock. But the Beach Boys were often called "America’s Band." And they’re singing about a fast car. That’s American. After all, what American male doesn’t have a fascination with cars?
Reference: George-Warren, Holly, Patricia Romanowski, and Jon Pareles. The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll. Rev. ed. New York, NY: Fireside Press, 2001. Print.
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