In Honor of the 4th of July: Dave Alvin’s “4th of July”

Happy 4th of July – AKA Independence Day – to all Americans here, there and everywhere, and any others anywhere who want to come to this party.

As with every holiday – and every human event – there are many songs about the 4th of July. Some of them are expressions of pure praise for this sweet land of liberty; many others are not.

But how pure and patriotic a song is doesn’t matter to us as much as the answer to the crucial question: Is it a good song? Do you want to hear it? And then hear it again?

Last year we published a 4th of July story on the most popular songs for this holiday. Ray Charles’ “America The Beautiful” is at or near the top of that list every year. In the last couple years, a relatively new song has ascended to the top: “Party In The USA,” the 2009 hit for Miley Cyrus written mostly by Dr, Luke and with additional lyrics by Jessie J and Claude Kelly, 

Videos by American Songwriter

This year instead of repeating ourselves, we’ve decided to focus not on many, but on one great 4th of July song. Of these, the one that stands out personally and moves me every time I hear it is Dave Alvin’s great 1987 song “4th of July” from his album Romeo’s Escape.

That studio version is wonderful, as are many live versions he’s done. But of all of these, the greatest and most exultant version is this live version from February 16, 2017. The event was a benefit  for Los Cenzontles Cultural Arts Academy at the home of Robert Mailer Anderson and Nicola Miner in San Francisco.

It was the band that played with him that night that truly distinguishes this version, and inspired such a joyful version of this sad song. Alvin had legends on both sides as he performed: on accordion was the great Norteno/Tejano virtuoso Flaco Jimenez. And on guitar and harmonies was the monumental David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, one of the greatest singers and musicians of all time.

Also in his band that night was  Pete Sears, Max Baca and Los Cenzontles.

The moment when Hidalgo first sings harmony with Dave Alvin on the beautiful chorus is precious, as it inspires a real-time flash of pure joy on Alvin’s face. Check it out.

The song was originally recorded by X – with dual leads by John Doe and Exene – before Dave Alvin recorded it himself. 

Enjoy. We wish you all a joyous and healthy holiday.

Dave Alvin to play in concert at The Grey Eagle in Asheville, NC -  Entertainment - GoUpstate - Spartanburg, SC
Dave Alvin

4th of July
By Dave Alvin

She’s waiting for me when I get home from work
But things just ain’t the same
She turns out the light and cries in the dark
Won’t answer when I call her name

On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone
The Mexican kids are shooting fireworks below
Hey, baby, it’s the Fourth of July
Hey, baby, it’s the Fourth of July

She gives me her cheek when I want her lips
And I don’t have the strength to go
On the lost side of town in a dark apartment
We gave up trying so long ago

Whatever happened, I apologize
So dry your tears and baby, walk outside
It’s the Fourth of July

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