The 1990s was a time full of patriotism. And while patriotism doesn’t fall under just one genre, country music lays claim to some of the best patriotic tracks of the decade.
From story-songs of the Old West to songs paying tribute to the military, many country music legends have influenced the American way through their music. Our list takes a look at five of the best patriotic songs of the ’90s.
‘Some Gave All’ – Billy Ray Cyrus
Billy Ray Cyrus recorded “Some Gave All” 28 years ago. The title track of his 1992 debut album Some Gave All, shows a different side of the young Cyrus. It also proves the depth of his talents and his country music portfolio as a whole.
“Some Gave All” pays tribute to the brave men and women who have served as part of the United States military. The song was written by Cyrus and his first wife, Cindy Smith. They wrote the song in honor of Sandy Cane and others who have protected our freedom overseas.
Cyrus’ first album for Mercury Records in 1992 became the best selling album of the year in the US. It sold over 9 million copies in the first 12 months of its release. It produced four hit singles on the Billboard country charts including his breakthrough song “Achy Breaky Heart.”
A moving, story-style song, there’s no question that “Some Gave All” is one of the great patriotic songs to come out of Nashville.
‘Born Country’ – Alabama
Written by Byron Hill and John Schweers, “Born Country” was recorded by the country music band Alabama. A mid-tempo song where the narrator expresses his pride for the country, “Born Country” makes our list is one of the most patriotic songs of the ’90s.
The hit song was released in December of 1991 by RCA Records. It was the second and final single on their compilation album Greatest Hits Vol. II. Further, it was able to reach No. 1 on the Radio & Records chart in March 1992. It also reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts.
The single was one of three new tracks on the Alabama album. The other two songs were “Then Again” and “Hats Off.” “Born Country,” meanwhile, won an award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers for being among the most performed country songs of 1992.
“Born Country” is the perfect blend of patriotism and outdoors.
“I was born country, and that’s what I’ll always be
Like the rivers and the woodlands, wild and free
I got a hundred years of down home running through my blood
I was born country, and this country’s what I love…“
‘God Bless the USA’ – Lee Greenwood
It wouldn’t be a list about patriotic county songs if we didn’t include “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood.
Originally released back in 1984, the song was played at the 1984 Republican National Convention with President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan in attendance. Also known as “Proud to be an American,” the hit song soared in popularity amid the Gulf War in the early ’90s. It was re-released in 2001 following the tragic attacks on 9/11.
The song was able to reach No. 7 on the Billboard U.S. Country charts in 1984 and No. 16 in 2001. “God Bless the USA” unquestionably remains Greenwood’s most well-known song. It’s one of the songs that every American knows the lyrics to.
His passionate performance during Game 4 of the 2001 World Series is proof that he belongs on this list and every list of the best patriotic songs. We aren’t sure whether to cry while listening to it or stand proud.
“Should’ve Been a Cowboy” – Toby Keith
“Should’ve Been a Cowboy” was Toby Keith’s debut single and the first from his self-titled debut album. It was released in February of 1993 and is another example of patriotism shining through in ’90s country music.
The lyrics of the popular tune romanticize the cowboy lifestyle through references to old Westerns. The first verse references the old television series Gunsmoke, where the cowboy hero, Marshall Dillon, never settles down with his love interest Miss Kitty.
Cowboys are widely regarded as being patriotic. The “cowboy code” is that of honorable behavior, respect, and patriotism. In “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” Keith perfectly sums that up and brings us back to the golden days of the US.
Kieth’s hit cowboy song reminds us of our favorite show on TV currently, Yellowstone. One of the best parts about the Paramount Network hit series is that creator Taylor Sheridan has the goal of making the show as realistic as possible. As a result, they even hire real cowboys to play on the show. One of those cowboys is Forrie J. Smith. He plays the ranch hand, Lloyd, on the Dutton ranch. “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” feels like it should be on the Yellowstone soundtrack.
Meanwhile, Keith’s song would go on to reach number one on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs and the Canadian RPM Country Tracks charts. It also peaked at number 93 on the Billboard Hot 100. In addition, “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” holds the title as the most-played country song of the 1990s, having received more than three million spins on country radio.
It was Toby Keith’s first music video and in proper cowboy fasion, was filmed in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
‘That’s Why I’m Here’ – Kenny Chesney
Written by Mark Alan Springer and Shaye Smith and recorded by Kenny Chesney, “That’s Why I’m Here” was released in March 1998. It was the third single from Chesney’s 1997 album I Will Stand.
This song, while not a traditionally patriotic tune, represents two things that all Americans can relate to — struggle and hope. Chesney explained the story behind the song to Billboard magazine and said that it was his favorite song on the album.
“The thing that is so cool about this song is that it’s about an alcoholic that’s struggling to get better, but it has a happy ending and there’s a lot of hope in this song,” Chesney said.
“That’s Why I’m Here” became Chesney’s sixth Top-10 hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, peaking at number 2.