Mix Six: “Land of the Free”

Written by Mix Six, Music

DOWNLOAD THE FULL MIX HERE I don’t know about you, but the 4th of July used to be one of my favorite holidays (now it’s Thanksgiving).  Perhaps it was because it’s a great summer celebration.  You know, you have the day off from work, you gather with friends and family for a meal, maybe a swim, some drinks, and then you cap it off with a fireworks display (if your city has the funds for such a thing).  Rarely did I bother to meditate on what the 4th meant in terms of “independence” or “freedom.”  Rather it was more like “I’m free from work!” Or “I’m finally living on my own, so I’m independent.”  Hardly the stuff of the historical grandeur of a colony declaring its independence from the colonizer.  But for those Popdose readers reside in the U.S. and get to celebrate the 4th of July, here’s a little mix for the 4th of July holiday.

“This Land is Your Land,” Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings (Download)

Sharon Jones has said she’s not a soul artist who covers old songs — even though the style of her music evokes the soul sound of the ’60s and ’70s.  Well, I guess one should never say never because her cover of “This Land is Your Land” is inspired.  Sure it’s an old folkie song from Woody Guthrie that school children often sing without knowing much about what the lyrics mean, but Jones takes the rather jaunty melody and adds a layer of soul that gives the song a kind of depth not heard in the original.

“Living in the U.S.A.,” the Steve Miller Band (Download)

Now here’s one of those songs that’s easy to sing along to! But if you actually read the lyrics to Miller’s ode to some of the turbulence of the ’60s, it becomes less of a singalong and more of a commentary on the failings of “We The People” who were living in the U.S.A. at the time this song was written (1968).  There’s a real desire in the lyrics to, ahem, fly like an eagle away from the U.S.A.,  but then Miller lures us back in with the infectious chorus that masks as the “serious stuff” he’s is trying convey — like “Somebody give me a cheeseburger!”

“4th of July,” X (Download)

I absolutely love X.  Their first four albums are “must haves” in any record collection.  But when they sold out and went with a major label, their raw sounds was tempered and a patina of commercialism came shining through on this album  — and their previous effort, Ain’t Love Grand. Despite my reticence about embracing their post-More Fun in the New World output, I’ve grown to like this song quite a bit. It has very little to do with the actual 4th of July holiday and everything to do with a horrible break up of a relationship.  Still, I suppose you can look at the separation of the couple in this song and blow it up into some kind of meta narrative about the separation between the American colonies and the British Crown.  It’s a stretch, I know, but given the nature of this mix, I’ll go with it.

“Back in the U.S.A.,” Linda Ronstadt (Download)

Who would have thunk back in 1978 that an old Chuck Berry song from the ’50s would propel into the top 20 when covered by Linda Ronstadt.  Okay, when it comes to the mid to late ’70s and Linda Ronstadt, you can bet your bottom dollar that whatever she recorded was going to get some airplay.  Nowadays it’s difficult to recall just how popular Ronstadt was — mostly because when you look for images of her on the Internets, you often get this.  Yes, Ronstadt was popular not only for her music, but the fact that 1 in 3 teenage boys in the U.S. had posters of her on their walls. So when she sang about being glad about living in the U.S.A., millions of undersexed boys were glad she was, too — if only for the fantasy they held of actually dating her one day. And that, my friends, is one of the Four Freedoms FDR was talking about.

“Born in the U.S.A.,” Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (Download)

I love the story about Ronald Reagan in 1984 trying to connect with New Jersey residents by talking about Bruce Springsteen, and George Will writing that while he didn’t really understand his songs (or the politics contained therein) he loved the fact that people at Springsteen concerts waved American flags and sang “Born in the U.S.A.” with a mighty conviction.  Little did either of them know that this song was more of a lament for those who fought in Vietnam and the county they came back to – things Will and Reagan wanted the country to forget.

“Follow the Flag,” Randy Newman (Download)

Sometimes it hard to know when Randy Newman is being sarcastic, but with “Follow the Flag,” I have to believe it was sincerity and not sarcasm that motivated the writing of this song.