Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Hey Baby, it's the Fourth of July

St. Helena, California, July 3, 2007
I love making my own CD compilations for myself and friends and one thing I've been doing since back in the days of cassette tapes is compiling tapes of songs with similar themes, like songs about days of the week (Stones' Ruby Tuesday and Tom Waits' Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night). It's a great way to get artists on the same song list who wouldn't necessarily go together.

So, in honor of the Fourth of July, which has given birth to more than enough annoyingly lousy patriotic ditties, and with the assistance of my audio stash, I give you some of my favorite songs about Independence Day. I didn't post some of the more obvious Fourth songs, like Bruce Springsteen's Independence Day. Instead, I thought I'd offered a few off-the-beaten popular path, as it were. All of these songs are also actually called "Fourth of July."

If you think of any others that I might not have heard of, please post them in the comments section.

With out further, ado ... (Click on the CD covers to listen to the songs).

The first is "Fourth of July," by Aimee Mann. I'm a huge, huge fan of Mann, as much for her lyrics as her pop-infused sound. She's also married to Michael Penn, a wonderful artist in his own right (and brother to Sean). This makes me wonder if he has written a song about the Fourth. I will have to do some research and find out. Mmm, gives me a new idea for a themed CD.

Anyway, this song, from the album, "Whatever" is really a relationship song. Makes sense. I mean what better day to sing about breaking up than on America's day of independence?

The song opens with some of my favorite lyrics of all time about any holiday. I think this says it all, don't you?
Today's the Fourth of July
Another June has gone by
And when they light up our town
I just think what a waste of gunpowder and sky.

The second is a classic by the cult-favorite Americana blues/folk/whatever singer/songwriter Dave Alvin called, um, "Fourth of July." This is the live version by Alvin and his band, The Guilty Men.

Even if you're not a fan of this music, you should go see them play. What Alvin hasn't earned in popular appeal, he has more than made up for in the adoring respect of his peers. So whenever he puts a band together, you know it will include the best players around. And let me tell you from experience, the Guilty Men can peel paint off them thar walls.

And finally, the third "Fourth of July" by a guy named Pete Droge, who came out with a startling great folk/pop record in the late 90s called "Necktie Second." Unfortunately, his career did not take off as expected but fortunately for us, he still plies his trade and his newer tunes can be found on most music download sites.

This song is about a friend who killed himself. I don't know if it's real or fiction, but it's a great piece of folk music and offers a truly different take on independence day.

On the fourth of July
See the sparks in the sky
When you're sick of the trying
and you're tired of the crying
Then the fourth of July
Is a good day to die
They'll celebrate each year
Your independence from here...
As you can see, the one constant about the fourth songs that I know and love is that they're sort of depressing. So along with the three here, I also give you a classic pre-Fourth jam song by Van Morrison, appropriately titled "Almost Independence Day."

Have a blast and keep the music turned up. Loud.

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