6 Heartfelt Songs of Patriotism

Patriotism is a funny thing. It can mean complete devotion to a country and its government. It can also mean loving a place so much you feel as if you need to protest wrongdoings. But in the end, the feeling is born of love, appreciation, and hope.

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It’s such a stirring, noble aim that some of the best songs of the past 100 years highlight a sense of patriotism, a love for the singer’s country. Here, we explore six such songs. Six tracks that make one proud to be from the United States of America. Six songs that love the red, white, and blue.

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1. “Ragged Old Flag,” Johnny Cash

This song, released on the 1974 album of the same name, is about tradition. It’s about the effects of conflict and the resolution never to stay down. Sure the little American town is old and creaky and its flag torn and ripped, but there is pride in where a people have been and what a place as seen. And who better to express this, than the low-voiced country star Johnny Cash? Life can be nuanced in the U.S. but a chest-out appreciation for the land and its people is paramount.

I walked through a county courthouse square
On a park bench an old man was sitting there
I said, your old courthouse is kinda run down
He said, naw, it’ll do for our little town
I said, your old flagpole has leaned a little bit
And that’s a ragged old flag you got hanging on it

2. “America,” Simon & Garfunkel

Released on the 1968 album, Bookends, this beautiful song, rich with harmonies from Simon & Garfunkel, is about discovery. America, for so long for so many, was about seeing the new world, seeing what’s out there. Of course, the search is dual-pronged. To look for America is both to see what’s out there but it’s also to define the space and era for yourself. You are America. The song plays with that idea.

“Kathy”, I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
“Michigan seems like a dream to me now”
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I’ve gone to look for America

Laughing on the bus
Playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said “Be careful, his bowtie is really a camera”

3. “American the Beautiful,” Ray Charles

Written in the late 1800s, this song has been covered countless times. But perhaps no one has done it better than the R&B singer Ray Charles, who released his rendition in 1976 as the country was celebrating its bicentennial. The Charles song came to be so well-loved that it would play every New Year’s Eve in New York City’s Times Square after the countdown to the new calendar.

Oh beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife
Who more than self, their country loved
And mercy more than life

America, America may God thy gold refine
‘Til all success be nobleness
And every gain divined

4. “The Star Spangled Banner,” Chris Stapleton

America’s national anthem, this song, which was born from an 1814 poem by Francis Scott Key, is sung before every major sporting event, including the hallowed annual Super Bowl. Over the years, many artists, from Whitney Houston to Marvin Gaye, have made the song truly soar, but most recently, country star Chris Stapleton stunned audiences with his twangy, heartfelt rendition.

O say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave

5. “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” John Denver

Released in 1971 by John Denver, this song is an ode to the lands. Similar to Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” Denver’s track shows great appreciation for the countryside and beauty that is the American country.

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, growin’ like a breeze

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mama
Take me home, country roads

6. “Color Me America,” Dolly Parton

This song written by Dolly Parton appeared on her patriotic 2003 album, For God and Country, which included both original songs and traditional ones like “The Star Spangled Banner.” (The album cover itself resembles a pinup poster that a soldier might have in his bunk.) On the heartfelt offering, the iconic country songwriter and performer sings about her homeland and her devotion to it, as if on her own private USO tour.

I’m red and white and blue, these are colors that ring true
To all I am and feel and love and do
I stand proud and brave and tall, I want justice for us all
So color me America, red, white and blue.

(Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Webster PR)

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