The Songs That Make You Proud Of Your Country You told us the songs that make you proud to be from wherever you're from, be it the U.S., Argentina or Brooklyn.
NPR logo

The Songs That Make You Proud Of Your Country

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
The Songs That Make You Proud Of Your Country

The Songs That Make You Proud Of Your Country

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

(Soundbite of song, "The Star-Spangled Banner")

NORRIS: On this Fourth of July, we're going to listen to some patriotic songs but not what you might expect. For the past week, our friends at NPR Music have been asking for audience suggestions about songs that make people proud to be wherever they happen to be from.

A couple of thousand people responded, and Frannie Kelley of NPR Music is going to tell us what songs our listeners wrote in about.

Happy Fourth of July, Frannie.

FRANNIE KELLEY: Yeah. You, too, Michele.

NORRIS: So what is the people's choice?

KELLEY: It's The Boss.

(Soundbite of song, "Born in the U.S.A.")

Mr. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (Singer): (Singing) Born in the U.S.A. I was born in the U.S.A. I was born in the U.S.A.

KELLEY: You knew it was going to be The Boss.

NORRIS: Well, you know, I actually didn't know it was going to be The Boss.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: I'm kind of surprised that when it comes to patriotic music, people chose Bruce Springsteen.

KELLEY: Well, I don't know. I mean, there's "Born in the U.S.A." Although it's not quite because it's actually kind of a critical song, especially the Vietnam War, but people said they didn't care.

You know, Kenny Linden(ph) wrote in from New Jersey to say that despite all the people that misrepresent his lyrics as pro-America or pro-Jersey, he actually hears them having hopes beyond Jersey.

NORRIS: You know, people who love Bruce Springsteen really love Bruce Springsteen. They travel around the country. They see him in concert over and over and over again. So if they were nominating him, I guess those nominations are probably pretty interesting.

KELLEY: Yeah. They were great. I mean, because people would pick not just the obvious tracks.

Sarah Bennett(ph) picked one called "Rosalita." She calls that a big stumper. And in that song, you know, he travels across the country, and it's all about like getting signed to your first record deal and feeling really like young and on the verge and - like people imagined America is sometimes.

(Soundbite of song, "Rosalita")

Mr. SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) Tell him this is his last chance to get his daughter in a fine romance because a record company, Rosie, just gave me a big advance. And my tires were slashed, and I almost crashed, but the Lord had mercy. My machine, she's a dud. I'm stuck in the mud somewhere in the swamps of Jersey.

KELLEY: The best part about the Bruce comments is that people didn't get into real detail. They'd just be like, The Boss followed by 11 exclamation points...

(Soundbite of laughter)

KELLEY: ...or like, Bruce Springsteen's entire catalog.

NORRIS: Patriotic songs are often about pride, songs that give you a real pride of place. Were there listeners who wrote in with songs that made them proud to be an American?

KELLEY: Absolutely. And I think that the strong pride came in from feeling like they helped invent something, from feeling like being an American is about being part of something that doesn't happen anywhere else - jazz, blues, bluegrass, soul music, hip-hop.

A friend of mine actually wrote in, and she told me - she's very, very clear on what recording makes her most proud to be an American, and it is jazz. And it is because it was invented here, but it's also about witnessing this moment of rebirth. It's Duke Ellington band's performance of "Diminuendo in Blue" at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1956.

(Soundbite of song, "Diminuendo in Blue")

NORRIS: And this was really an important performance for Duke Ellington.

KELLEY: It was. It really sort of restarted his career after bebop had come into the fore and big bands were less. This happened, he ended up on the cover of Time, and people were like, oh, yeah, this is our music.

NORRIS: So in this case, when people talk about jazz or blues or bluegrass, they're talking about a sense of pride that comes from feeling that they're a part of something special, something unique, something that they can celebrate with other people.

KELLEY: Yeah. It does. And I think that people really like this music that seems to reflect these American values.

Dave Wayne(ph) wrote in, and he said that the music that makes him feel happy to be from here is the stuff that has the spirit of fearless innovation, restless searching, outspokenness, frank emotionality and boundless creativity. He says it seems curiously American to him.

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: Did people from anywhere else in the world write in to talk about what songs made them feel patriotic?

KELLEY: Well, yeah. We have a lucky coincidence this weekend, which is that Canada Day is July 1st. So we had people writing in all week saying, don't forget about us. Don't forget about Gordon Lightfoot or Rush, aka Canada's greatest band, "The Hockey Song," which apparently all Canadians know the words to. But the far and away Canadian winner is The Tragically Hip.

NORRIS: Now, The Tragically Hip is not a description for a group of people. That's actually the name of a band. That's correct?

KELLEY: Yes. Apparently, their nickname is The Hip.

NORRIS: Ah. OK. And tell us a little bit more about The Hip and why they're deserving of the patriotic title.

KELLEY: They've won all sorts of awards. They've done some protest songs, and they've done some fun songs. They're just really beloved.

(Soundbite of song, "Wheat Kings")

Mr. GORDON DOWNIE (Lead singer, The Tragically Hip): (Singing) Sundown in the Paris of the prairies, wheat kings have all their treasures buried. And all you hear are the rusty breezes, pushing around the weather vane Jesus.

KELLEY: This is the "Wheat Kings," which Laura Louise(ph) chose. She said, I'm from Canada, though my family has lived in the U.S. for six years now, and I have two American daughters. "Wheat Kings" by The Tragically Hip makes me proud of and lonely for home.

(Soundbite of song, "Wheat Kings")

Mr. DOWNIE: (Singing) Twenty years for nothing, well, that's nothing new. Besides, no one is interested in something you didn't do. Wheat kings and pretty things.

NORRIS: Did anyone suggest a song that made them proud or made them feel patriotic just because the song was so beautiful.

KELLEY: Yes. I think that person is going to be Tim Pouch(ph), who picked Marvin Gaye's version of the national anthem, which he sang at the NBA All-Star Game in 1983. All my friends on Facebook are posting it today.

(Soundbite of song, "The Star-Spangled Banner")

Mr. MARVIN GAYE (Singer): (Singing) Say can you see...

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. GAYE: (Singing) the dawn's early light...

(Soundbite of cheering)

NORRIS: Never have so many women yelled so loudly at the performance of the national anthem.

KELLEY: Oh, yeah. I would if I had been there.

NORRIS: We hear people do all kinds of things with the national anthem now, but that was really the first time that someone had stepped away from a traditional performance of the national anthem and sort of infused it with his own musical stylings.

KELLEY: Right. Very different arrangement. He seems totally confident in there. He's made it more beautiful than the original.

(Soundbite of song, "The Star-Spangled Banner")

Mr. GAYE: (Singing) Through the perilous fight, oh, Lord, oh, the fight.

NORRIS: Frannie Kelley, it's been great talking to you. Happy Fourth of July. Thanks for taking us down this journey through patriotic music. All the best to you.

KELLEY: Thank you. You, too, Michele.

NORRIS: Frannie Kelley is with NPR Music.

(Soundbite of song, "The Star-Spangled Banner")

Mr. GAYE: (Singing) And the rockets red glare...

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. GAYE: (Singing) ...the bombs bursting in air gave proof...

NORRIS: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.