Songs of Independence

Are you ready to celebrate?

When it comes to a soundtrack for the Independence Day, we tend to rely on a few classics such as the 1812 Overture and “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” Oldies are definitely goodies, but there are other patriotic songs out there too, just waiting to hop onto your playlist. Here are a few selections – both traditional and less expected – to consider for your July 4th festivities.

The composer Charles Ives wrote “Variations on “’America’” in 1891 and premiered the composition at a Fourth of July celebration. Ironically, it’s based on the same tune as the British national anthem. But so is “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” so we shouldn’t count that against young Charles, who was just 17 years old when he composed the piece. Listen to the work as performed by the U.S. Marine Band here.

If you love tradition, “America the Beautiful” is a must-have. The music was composed by Samuel A. Ward in the late 1880s, and the lyrics we know came from a poem by Katherine Lee Bates that was published on July 4, 1895. The music and lyrics weren’t paired up until well after Ward’s death in 1903, so unfortunately he never saw how popular his composition became. Listen to the Capitol Symphony Orchestra’s performance here.

The Broadway musical “1776” (later adapted for movie theaters) was full of catchy tunes by Sherman Edwards. There’s a definite 1970s flavor to the arrangements, but they’ll get you tapping your toes. Check out the overture here.

Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring: Variations on a Shaker Hymn” actually premiered at the Library of Congress in our nation’s capital. The dancer Martha Graham commissioned the work, asking for a ballet with an American theme. Enjoy this performance by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

The movie Apollo 13 reflects the national pride Americans felt in the nation’s space program. The movie soundtrack, composed by James Horner, has some lovely passages. You can listen to nearly a full hour of it here.