My Nominations for Our New National Anthem
10. "I Will Keep the Bad Things From You," The Damnwells, 2004.
America loves its alt.country! Actually, not any more. But this great tune, from the really good album Bastards of the Beat
, is pretty much a nation's love letter to its people. To a muted folk-guitar stroll, Uncle Sam in the person of Alex Dezen tells us what we really just want to hear: "I will be your dad and mother / I will give you older brothers / I will feed you fries with steak sauce / I will keep the price below cost / I will lead the way from 'all is lost'". Extra points for Deftones reference: "Catch it while you can, it's the feel-good hit of the summer."
09. "Freedom," Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, 1980.
All-inclusive on the tips of cross-generationality and -raciality and -genderosity. Easy to play along to; all the people in the stands before a game with kazoos and whistles is MY idea of patriotism. Plus it's eight minutes long, so you could just lower the volume and combine the playing of this with the introductions of the teams, thereby saving precious time. Good old U.S. focus on astrology--when they have everyone yell out their zodiac signs, we could all do that too, and there's no way to mess up those notes. Plus the title is more inspirational than "The Star-Spangled Banner."
08. "Jack and Diane," John Cougar Mellencamp, 1982.
The single most American song, white singer/songwriter version. (Paul Simon has been disqualified forever for trying too hard with "America," bump that noise. Sideways effort does the trick, full-on ambition is too desperate.) Imagine the final line sung by 40,000 people: "Two American kids doin' the best they can." Then a huge explosion of fireworks.
07. "River Deep, Mountain High," Ike and Tina Turner, 1966.
Why not? It's got the geographical references we like, it's got the theme of blind love for symbology that summarizes most people's approach to loving their country, and it's got a boogie-down section at the end that I would love
to see tackled by the University of Tennessee Marching Band.
06. "Tyrone," Erykah Badu, 1997.
O tell me this wouldn't be sweet. A song about making your no-count hit the road, jack, because his act is TIRED is just so much more relevant than a song about a hostage emerging from genteel captivity to see a beat-up stripey starry thing. Plus Key swiped his melody from an old British drinking song, whereas Badu swipes her whole steez from Ruth Brown. Okay, push on that, but still. Also works as warning to other countries: You better call Tyrone, but you can't use our phone. Dammit.
05. "I Ain't Giving Up on You," Allison Moorer, 2004.
The opening track on Moorer's blisteringly anti-patriotic album The Duel
actually kind of works, if you listen closely, as a hymn to her own country. She always told herself that she would walk away "when things get heavy," but she's breaking her promise--this is EXACTLY how I feel about America. Great DIY bootstrap-lifting spirit here: "All I want to do is break even / And you're the best chance I've got." Word booty to that.
One of these days I'm gonna write up my whole Allison Moorer thing here. I really think The Duel
is a lot deeper and richer and braver than anyone else is giving it credit for, but my point has not been articulated fully yet. Gimme a week.
04. "A Change Is Gonna Come," Sam Cooke, 1964.
Awww. This song would be too depressing, of course, but would serve to keep our mind on where we've been and where we're going. Plus the theme that we don't know what's going to happen in the afterlife, or if there is one at all, would help keep religious fanatics in check.
03. Any song Chuck Berry recorded up until "My Ding-A-Ling."
THE MAN WROTE AMERICA.
02. "Dance to the Music," Sly and the Family Stone, 1968.
The single most American song, interracial funk-rock band version. This is like a slap in everyone's face: a slap of love. Tell me this wouldn't make an Olympic win just so much sweeter.
01. "One Nation Under a Groove," Funkadelic, 1978.
If you didn't see this coming, you're as blind as Sir Nose D'Voidoffunk. "Gettin' down just for the funk of it" is as American as you or I can ever hope to understand, and the One needs to be implanted in our children's heads as early as possible.