Songs to Learn for the Fourth of July

Growing up, our small town had an annual Fourth of July parade complete with a marching band and in the evenings we usually gathered with our neighbors for food and song. So I've always associated the holiday with music, especially traditional American songs. The problem is I only seem to know the first few lines of most of them and then I resort to humming. If you, too, need to brush up, I've put together some crib notes, links to lyrics and a link to one of my favorite performances of each song. The Star Spangled Banner Composed as a poem by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812 and set to a tune that had been a drinking song of sorts. It was made our national anthem over a hundred and fifty years later. • lyricslisten

God Bless America
Written by Irving Berlin in 1918 and intended for use in a musical production, he shelved the song and revisited it twenty years later as a "peace song" as tensions in Europe rose before the Second World War broke out. It was recorded by Kate Smith and became an overnight sensation after being played on the radio to celebrate Armistice Day in 1938.
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This Land is Your Land
Written by Woody Guthrie as a response to Irving Berlin's popular "God Bless America" which he saw as overly sentimental and saccharine, some of the more radical verses were not included in the early recordings.
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America, the Beautiful
Inspired by a train trip to the Midwest, this song was originally composed as a poem in 1895 by English professor Katharine Lee Bates and later set to music by Samuel A. Ward.
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America (My Country 'Tis of Thee)
These lyrics were written in about a half hour by theology student Samuel Francis Smith in 1831. Ironically, it uses a melody that became the national anthem of at least six other countries including Britain's "God Save the Queen".
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Yankee Doodle
Originally sung by British soldiers as an insult to what they saw as simple, backcountry American troops, it was embraced and appropriated by the revolutionaries as the conflict with Britain began to heat up.
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Battle Hymn of the Republic
Written in 1861 by abolitionist Julia Ward Howe (and set to a popular melody by William Steffe), the song became a rallying cry and marching song for Union troops in the Civil War.
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You're A Grand Old Flag
Written by George Cohan 1906 for a stage musical, George Washington, Jr., it became even better known as part of a biographical movie about Cohan, Yankee Doodle Dandy. The song's original title was "You're a Grand Old Rag" inspired by Cohan's encounter with a Civil War veteran who carried a worn flag with him.
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(Image: Shutterstock)

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Main, Family, 4th of July

As Apartment Therapy's Family Editor, Carrie covers design and modern homelife with children. A lapsed librarian, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two kids and is in contention to break the record for most hours spent at the playground.

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