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Veteran's Day Songs
Photograph: Shutterstock

The best Veterans Day songs

Reflect on the meaning of the national holiday with this curated playlist of the best Veterans Day songs

By John Marshall Katheder and Time Out editors
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Veterans Day is a holiday dedicated to honoring those who have served in the United States Armed Forces. But like 4th of July, Memorial Day and, to an extent, Labor Day, it’s also a time to reflect on what it means to be American. This list of the best Veterans Day songs touch on those themes of patriotism and sacrifice, reflecting the breadth of the American experience, past, present and future.

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Best Veterans Day songs

FEBBdays05Cash

1. “Ragged Old Flag” by Johnny Cash

This spoken-word song, the title-track on Cash’s 47th album, is a heartfelt nod to the patriotism that persisted during the Watergate scandal.

John Cougar Mellencamp

2. “Pink Houses” by John Mellencamp

Mellencamp sings honestly about racial inequality in America, a patriotic gesture that asks America to live up to its promise of liberty and justice for all.

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Neil Diamond

3. “America” by Neil Diamond

Diamond’s sweet crooning gets to the core of what America is at its best: a shiny refuge for the huddled masses that yearn to be free.

Simon and Garfunkel
Photograph: Uncredited/AP/REX/Shutterstock

4. “America” by Simon & Garfunkel

As this song describes, there’s nothing more American than searching for the county’s soul on the open road.

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Violent Femmes

5. “American Music” by Violent Femmes

If you like American music (baby), then you should bump this gentle acoustic ode to a quintessentially American dilemma: not having a date for prom.

Red Foley

6. “Smoke on the Water” by Red Foley

In 1944, this folk classic foretold the fall of the Axis powers at the hands of “the great destroyer / made of fire, flesh, and steel.” (That’s us.)

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The Muffs

7. “Kids in America” by The Muffs

This angst-laden number was featured in the film Clueless, and is sure to resonate with the sulky, sneering kids of America for a long time yet.

Don McLean

8. “American Pie” by Don McLean

Despite many attempts at clarification, McLean refuses to explain what this song’s lyrics mean: You might say such explanation-seekers are driving their Chevys to the levy and finding it dry.

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Jimi Hendrix

9. “The Star Spangled Banner” by Jimi Hendrix

No musician since has injected such raw iconoclasm into the National Anthem.

Merle Haggard

10. “The Fightin' Side of Me” by Merle Haggard

In 1969, this seething country song struck a chord with the nation’s good ol’ boys, providing a counterpoint to the idealism of the Summer of Love.

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11. “American Girl” by Tom Petty

In America, the promise of possibility intoxicates most of us, notably here, one American girl described by Tom Petty.

“Party in the U.S.A.” Miley Cyrus

12. “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus

Maybe Miley Cyrus didn’t write this song but then, what’s more American than paying someone else to do it for you? There’s no doubt, though, that she’s the one driving this timeless ditty about carefree teenage Americana.

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Bruce Springsteen

13. “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen

In this song, Springsteen laments the poor treatment received by Vietnam War veterans. But his point was valid, and, if we want to be a good country, it’s a lesson we should never forget.

The Descendents

14. “’Merican” by Decendents

This punk track attempts to jibe the narrator’s patriotism with America’s conflicted history: As the song goes, “You’ve got to know the truth, before you say that you’ve got pride.”

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Say Anything

15. “The Presidential Suite” by Say Anything

Part of being American is enjoying freedom of speech—that includes the liberty to loudly disapprove of its government, a right that Bemis exercises in this obscure but truly rocking lambasting of the then-president.

James Brown

16. “Living in America” by James Brown

This track packs funk and pride into a slick, groovy jam about a vast and gorgeous country full of bad selves. Woo—get up now!

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Jay z

17. “Made in America” by Kanye West & Jay Z, ft. Frank Ocean

This inspirational ballad deals with the difficulty of coming of age in America and ways in which we can overcome that struggle.

Lynyrd Skynyrd

18. “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

If there is a streak of American life marked by pride, it’s found in the South, and no song describes such Dixie love with more aplomb.

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Lana Del Rey

19. “American” by Lana Del Rey

As this sweet ditty instructs, “be young, be dope, be proud—like an American.”

Bob Dylan
Photograph: Courtesy Bob Dylan

20. “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan

More than 50 years later, Dylan’s queries about freedom and justice are as relevant as ever.

Listen to the best Veterans Day songs

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