Is there a better holiday than the 4th of July? Short answer: No.
Long answer: No, because it’s all about freedom, family, food, fireworks, and fun. The 4th of July is a halftime celebration. Halfway through the year. Halfway through summer break for the youngsters. It’s the Super Bowl halftime show of holidays. The Fourth conjures the nostalgia of youth, with the anticipation of the future. But most of all, it’s about being present (while not having to worry about buying presents). Fire up the grill, crack a cold one, find a body of water (pond would be good for you), and turn on some tunes.
On that note, we tasked Outsider‘s Marty Smith, Wes Blankenship, and Jim Casey to wax poetic about their favorite songs to celebrate the 4th of July.
‘The Fightin’ Side of Me’ – Merle Haggard
We live in the greatest country on earth. Why? Freedom.
Do we have our differences and our issues? Sure. But as American citizens, we can stand for what we believe, no matter what it is that we believe. We can walk out the front door every single day and aspire to go and do and be whatever we want to go and do and be. That’s an immeasurable blessing, and I don’t know that we appreciate it nearly enough.
Haggard not-so-subtly reminds us of that in his no-BS anthem, which is as applicable right now as it was when he wrote it more than 50 years ago. In many ways, I relate to Merle’s words. I love this country. I’m so grateful I get to live here. My respect and admiration for the men and women in our armed forces who preserve that freedom is optimum.
Thank you. All of you. God bless America.
‘America the Beautiful’ – Ray Charles
Ray Charles’ rendition of “America the Beautiful” is almost a song you overlook on the 4th of July. Other, more popular, rockin’ “America” songs come to mind, perhaps. But not for me.
In spirited Ray fashion, he doesn’t half-ass Katharine Lee Bates’ lyrics. (Fun fact: Ms. Bates first wrote the song as a poem in 1893 after visiting the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado.) Church organist Samuel A. Ward put it to the rhythm we now know in 1910, and Ray Charles put his magic on it in 1972.
Many, many talented artists have used their skills to unfurl this patriotic masterpiece through the years. Many more will continue to do so in the years ahead. Ray’s version convinces me he was the one who was meant to sing it all along.
The scene in 1993’s The Sandlot that features “America the Beautiful” (night baseball game, fireworks, Benjamin Franklin Rodriguez goes yard) is just so pure. That scene and this song will forever be associated in my mind’s eye.
There’s just so much to appreciate about our fellow Americans and the land in which we live. I pray often that more Americans can find it within themselves to consider every American a “fellow” American in the years ahead. It feels unlikely and damn near impossible most days. But this song gives me hope every single time I hear it—not just on July 4th.
God bless you, your family, your neighborhood, and America.
‘4th of July’ – Shooter Jennings
For starters, Shooter’s 2005 debut single is a total jam. However, “4th of July” is so much deeper than its jammin’ facade—inspired by one country legend (Willie), featuring another country legend (Jones). And, of course, Shooter is the son of a country legend (Waylon).
The autobiographical tale recounts an RV road trip Shooter took from L.A. to Texas for Willie’s annual 4th of July Picnic. Young and in love, it’s a story within a story. Pure happiness with his girl sitting shotgun. Listening to George Jones . . . and singing along.
The song is about celebrating a moment in time, which we should all do more often.
And if you want to get a little deeper, Shooter had moved to L.A. in the late ’90s to forge his own musical path (away from the scrutiny of Nashville). For me, Shooter’s debut single was a musical declaration highlighting his journey eastbound toward his roots, while remaining true to his own musical stylings. And yes, featuring George Jones’ vocals at the end was the firework finale.
I blast this song on every roadtrip—and every 4th of July—as a reminder to celebrate the moment.