Ask any country music fan what the best music for the Fourth of July is, and hands down they’ll tell you, Toby Keith. Known for patriotic hits like “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue,” “American Soldier” and “Beer for my Horses,” the country legend bleeds our country’s colors. However, with the recent release of his brand new song, “Happy Birthday America,” Keith shows a very different side to American pride.
Toby Keith’s Past Patriotic Hit
Just one year after the terror attacks on 9/11, Toby Keith released one of his greatest hits, “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue.” Originally named “Angry American,” Keith wrote the song as a response to the 2001 tragedy, as well as a tribute to his veteran father, who passed away in March of that year.
In fact, some of Toby Keith’s lyrics are truly based on his late dad’s service:
My daddy served in the army
Where he lost his right eye but he flew a flag out in our yard
Until the day that he died
He wanted my mother, my brother, my sister and me
To grow up and live happy
In the land of the free
While discussing the story behind the lyrics, Toby Keith shared, “[My dad] was a true patriot: He never complained about his eye, [which he lost while serving]. He never complained about the time he served or how they treated him after… He was just a good, old, solid cat.“
It wasn’t until Keith performed his song at a USO Tour that he decided to officially record and release the song.
“I was at the Pentagon, playing for a bunch of Marines that were shipping out to Afghanistan for the first time,” Keith recalled. “And when I got done, [the commander] said, “You’ve got to release that as a single … That’s the most amazing battle song I’ve ever heard in my life.”
How Keith’s New Tribute Compares To The Old
In “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue,” Toby Keith’s American pride is felt through every lyric and every note. However, in Keith’s new release, the sentiment seems to be more “Solemn American” than “Angry American.”
The song starts out positive enough, harkening to the country’s past victories in war. But the mood quickly shifts as Toby Keith sings of American citizens burning their own flag. The chorus is just as broken-down and defeated as Keith writes:
Happy birthday America
Whatever’s left of you
However, the country legend doesn’t boast any political agenda by pointing fingers. Instead, he observes that the country in its entirety has lost its glamour.
Every time I go to town and vote
I just come home with the blues
The lesser of two evils
All we ever get to choose
Although the song lacks the pride seen in Keith’s previous hit, he sings this one with the same authenticity. And perhaps this comes from what Toby Keith thinks his father would say about the current state of the nation.
“My dad, he always was like, ‘Everybody feels like everybody’s getting their toes stepped on these days,'” Keith remembered. “‘Everybody has to have thicker skin, and you can’t be that soft on things. You have to be stronger and know right from wrong, instead of right from left.'”