Red, White, and Blue Music

On July 4th, burgers sizzle on the grill, and cold drinks are passed around. Happy dogs play with frisbees, and sunburned kids finally climb out of the pool. In the growing darkness, fireworks begin to crackle and zoom overhead. At last a special song starts playing, and everyone gets quiet as they remember the reason for the celebration.

When the American colonists declared independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776, they were doing a very brave thing. They knew that there would be no easy way to make the words they put on paper real. The Continental Army would have to fight for the country's right to exist.

People made up new songs, often using old tunes, and sung them in the streets of America. These were full of pride and jokes about the British. There were lots of them! Some, like Yankee Doodle, are classics we still remember, and many songs told the war news, such as An American Frigate,* that tells the tale of one of John Paul Jones' battles on the sea.

When the British returned for the War of 1812, they captured Washington, D.C. and burned the Capitol Building. They then marched to Baltimore. An American lawyer named Francis Scott Key was on board a ship in the Baltimore Harbor during the battle. He was so moved by the American victory that he wrote a song, The Star-Spangled Banner, which became our national anthem in 1931.

So grab a song book or a compact disc from the library to celebrate the Fourth of July the way the patriots did: with lots of great music!

*Found in the book, Songs of '76, by Oscar Brand.

America the Beautiful: A Collection of Best-Loved Patriotic Songs by Tom Glazer.
Favorite patriotic songs to sing and play, including "Yankee Doodle-Dandy," "The Star-Spangled Banner," "America the Beautiful," "Anchors A-Weigh," and many others.

Fireworks, Picnics, and Flags: The Story of the Fourth of July Symbols by James Giblin.
Did you know Uncle Sam was a real person and a turkey was almost chosen as the national bird? A fun look at how we celebrate Independence Day and the reasons behind our American symbols.

From Sea to Shining Sea: A Treasury of American Folklore and Folksongs.
Acompilation of more than 140 folk songs, tales, poems, and stories telling the history of America and all its peoples. Illustrated by award-winning artists.

George, the Drummer Boy by Nathaniel Benchley.
Cover to Yankee Doodle, illustrated by Steven KelloggThis early reader tells the story of George, a drummer boy for British General Gage, who sees the start of the Revolution at the battles of Lexington and Concord. The author's other book, Sam the Minuteman, is the story of a rebel boy who fights with his father at Lexington.

Songs of '76; A Folksinger's History of the Revolution by Oscar Brand.
Oscar Brand gives us a treasury over sixty little-known songs culled from primary sources, complete with words and guitar accompaniment as well as a personalized historic commentary.

The Star-Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key
Francis Scott Key wrote what became our national anthem while being held on board a British ship in Baltimore's harbor during the War of 1812. Peter Spier's drawings recreate the triumph and sacrifice of America. Music for piano and guitar is included. Try it as a read-aloud on patriotic holidays.

Wee Sing America: Songs of Patriots and Pioneers by Pamela Conn Beall.
What better way to enjoy a family road trip than with these very famous and very American songs? Verses about immigrants and pioneers as well as patriotic anthems, marches, and music.

Yankee Doodle by Steven Kellogg.
Follow little Yankee Doodle as he rides through history accompanied by his puppy. Includes music to the song and explanations of old words.