Throughout their history, Americans have fought.
We’ve fought other countries, fought for equality and even fought each other. What is important is not the fighting itself, but rather what was being fought for. What we’ve fought (and continue to fight for) is the preservation of ideals we value: freedom, hope, perseverance. As a result of these fights, some timeless and poignant music has been created, leading me to introduce my latest list.
“The Top Five Songs that Embody the American Spirit”
5. Bruce Springsteen – “My City of Ruins”
Written in 2000 about Ashbury Park, N.J., this song took on a new meaning in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001. Springsteen does not dwell on the city that has fallen, instead instructing us to “rise up” and face our challenges head on. The video of Springsteen performing the song for the America: A Tribute to Heroes telethon is simply chilling.
4. Sam Cooke – “A Change is Gonna Come”
One of the greatest protest songs ever written, this ballad of hope was adopted as an anthem of the 1960s Civil Rights movement. The message of the song is clear: Even when things seem their darkest, it will get better and change will come.
3. The Band – “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”
It seems unusual to put a song authored by Canadian artists on a list of great American anthems, but this song is too spectacular not to include. The song tells the story of the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, and Robbie Robertson and Co. encapsulate the spirit of the South more in three-and-a-half minutes than in a ten-hour Ken Burns documentary.
2. Bob Dylan – “Blowin’ in the Wind”
The song that inspired Cooke to write, “A Change is Gonna Come,” this is probably the greatest protest song of all time. This song summarizes what America stands for beautifully: freedom, equality and the ability to voice your opinion when those ideals are challenged.
1. Woodie Guthrie – “This Land is Your Land”
The father of American folk music, Guthrie went on to inspire Dylan, Springsteen, Pete Seeger and countless others who strummed an acoustic guitar in search of the truth. This song stands as the American anthem: This is the country of freedom and endless opportunity. All you have to do is go out and find it.