This post was originally dubbed 'Maryann's Top 5 Songs That Make Me Proud to Be American' but then I realized I don't really have songs that make me proud to be an American, even though I am, in fact, often proud to hail from this nation. But the truth is these songs aren't about how kick-ass 'Murrica' is. For me, they're about my American experience, or how I like to think of it: good and bad, hard and easy, complicated and simple. And they're all ESSENTIAL to any road-trip mix I make.
5) "Wild Montana Skies" by John Denver featuring Emmylou Harris
In 2009 my sister and I took a road trip from Minnesota to Washington. Can you guess what song I made us listen to through the entire state of Montana? This one.
He was born in the Bitterroot Valley in the early morning rain
wild geese over the water, heading north and home again
bringing a warm wind from the south, bringing the first taste of the spring
his mother took him to her breast, and softly she did sing:
Oh Montana, give this child a home
give him the love of a good family and a woman of his own
give him a fire in his heart, give him a light in his eyes
give him the wild wind for a brother and the wild Montana skies
4) "Angel From Montgomery" by Bonnie Raitt and John Prine
Hands down my favorite Bonnie Raitt song not written by Bonnie Raitt (John wrote it). Yes, the song references a cowboy and the rodeo, but at its heart I always think it's about loving this land so much that as angel you'd like to fly over it. Isn't that romantic? Also, it's has the effing incredible line, "if dreams were thunder / lightning was desire / this old house would have burned down a long time ago."
make me angel that flies from Montgomery
make me a poster of a old rodeo
just give me one thing that I can hold onto
to believe in this living is just a hard way to go
3) "Sweet Baby James" by James Taylor
I grew up with this song, and when I met my friend Kj, she told me she'd driven through The Berkshires and I was immediately jealous. A few days after 9/11, my sister and I had James Taylor concert tickets. Everyone was waving American flags as expected, but when James sang this song we all just cried and cried. It was an unbelievable moment in my life, period, but also as an American.
goodnight you moonlight ladies
and rock-a-bye sweet baby James
deep greens and blues are the colors I choose
won't you let me go down in my dreams?
and rock-a-bye sweet baby James
2) "Down South" by Tom Petty
I like to romanticize the South through music. I've been to Georgia, and liked parts of it. Namely swimming in the Atlantic and the food. But I am obsessed with this song. My dad introduced it to me, and every time it plays when we're together, I tell him, "I just LOVE this song." And so far, he hasn't gotten sick of that. :) Plus, the line, "I'll give you all I have, and a little more" will always remind me of my family.
spanish moss down south
find the heroes of my childhood
who now can do me no good
carve their names in dogwood
so if I come to your door
let me sleep on your floor
I'll give you all I have and a little more
1) "City of New Orleans" by Arlo Guthrie
Well, a) it's a Guthrie song, and b) the lyrics.
Good morning, America, how are you?
Say, don't you know me, I'm your native son
I'm the train they call the City of New Orleans
I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done
Honorable Mention: every Bruce Springsteen song ever.