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 by Katharine Lee Bates
Four verses of the nineteenth-century poem, illustrated by the author's great-great-grandnephew.
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
This 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.
Independence Day by Molly Aloian
Independence Day, or the Fourth of July, is one of the most important days in the history of the United States of America. Discover how millions of Americans celebrate this national holiday each year. Includes songs and music.
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.
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.
You're a Grand Old Flag by George M. Cohan
Norman Rockwell images accompany this patriotic song written for a Broadway musical by George M. Cohan.