Hey, it’s the Fourth of July soon and we thought we’d whip together a list of all things American across pop culture. We aren’t claiming these are all “patriotic”, but they reference our home country of the United States of America. Sorry, we don’t have any tanks or military fly-overs for you, just some thoughts on American pop culture we enjoy. Happy 4th of July!
- “Living in America”, James Brown (1986) – The perfect song to kick-off your outdoor BBQ party soundtrack.
- John Adams (2008) – If you missed this series on HBO, with its stellar cast, it is now on Amazon Prime for the perfect founding-of-America binge on the long weekend.
- The Untold History of The United States (2012) – I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll keep plugging this excellent documentary (and book) that may not always make you feel great about our recent history, but is patriotic in its honest take. Originally aired on Showtime, it is currently streaming on Netflix I believe.
- “An American Girl”, Tom Petty (1977) – Something about Tom Petty’s music just feels quintessentially American, but not in a blind flag-waving sort of way.
- 1776, David McCullough (2005) – This remarkable book gives a detailed but exciting account of the American Revolution, with a focus on George Washington’s role. It will make you appreciate that American victory was never a foregone conclusion and, in fact, was very close to not happening.
- The Americans (20013-2018) – Both leads were outstanding in this family drama/spy thriller on F/X, but Keri Russell’s performance was particularly fierce. Currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
- Born On The Fourth Of July (1989) – This is a film I disliked at first, then watched years later and really appreciated Oliver Stone’s directing and Tom Cruise’s acting.
- “R.O.C.K in the U.S.A”, John Mellencamp (1985) – Mellencamp’s homage to 60’s rock. Now I can’t use this for a future post on songs that spell out words.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – My son missed some of the earlier Marvel films so he’s in the process of watching all of them. I’ve rewatched some of them with him and the Captain America series is definitely the best.
- The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America, Bill Bryson – I got to drive “across country” 20 years ago, and I was struck by how big, diverse and quirky (and sometimes bizarre) America is. In this book, Bryson echoes some of that sentiment with his trademark wry observational humor.
Bonus: Rocket Popsicles – At least that’s what I knew these as, but evidently they are now called “Bomb Pops” (don’t order that in an airport) or “Firecracker Popsicles”. Either way, there was something about the red, white and blue colors that always made these special as a kid. They are best ordered at a beach snack shack, or from a neighborhood ice cream truck (complete with semi-creepy driver), on a 90 degree, humid afternoon.
DJ: I thought about the John Adams miniseries as well, exceptional TV. I have always meant to read some Bill Bryson but just haven’t got around to it. Speaking of 1776, McCullough’s John Adams is really good as well. I’m not big on the Mellencamp song but I will say outside of Bruce Springsteen it doesn’t get more American than him. He does small town America proud.
- Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) – Great James Cagney Oscar-winning musical that chronicles composer George M. Cohen’s life and his patriotic body of work.
- 1776 (1972) – Musical film adapted from the stage about the pressure of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, great songs, such as “Sit Down John”, with William Daniels as the lead John Adams.
- A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn (1980) – A critical and honest look at the history of the United States. A must-read for anyone that cares about what happened before today.
- “No More Kings” (1975) – A Schoolhouse Rock song about the American Revolution. Don’t use it as a history lesson but the song is pretty catchy.
- “American Pie” Don McLean (1971) – McLean sings about the Buddy Holly plane crashed that also killed the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. It’s a classic rock staple even at 8 minutes and 33 seconds.
- Lies Across America, James W. Loewen (1999) – A fantastic book that analyzes historical markers across the USA that are not very accurate.
- “America“, Simon & Garfunkel (1968) – Love this song, unfortunately, commercials have overused this song.
- An American in Paris (1951) – One of my favorite movies, using Gershwin music Gene Kelly plays the title character. Great set pieces and amazing dancing, the last 17 minutes have little to no dialogue.
- American Idol (2002-present) – I hate this show now and what it has become, it’s goofy and too preachy, but the first few years was great TV. The original judges including Simon Cowell were fair and honest, cared less for stories and more for real talent. Where are the winners from the last few years?
- America: The History of Us (2010) – A documentary from the History Channel, it’s a ten-part series that chronicles America with a technology-driven spin. Hard to find something new but it provides it.
Bonus: Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle (the 1970s) – I loved this toy, although it never worked like the commercial showed. I was a huge Knievel fan watching most of these 1970’s stunts on Wide World of Sports on ABC. He was America always dressing in Red, White, and Blue.
MG: Nice job getting in an American-themed toy into the mix. “No More Kings” was a great and memorable Schoolhouse Rock song. I can’t hear “American Pie” anymore without thinking of Weird Al’s Phantom Menace parody. Lies Across America sounds like a cool book I should check out. I thought about American Idol – it was good television in the beginning and showcased some good talent, even beyond Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. I tried to watch some of it the past two-years and it was rough all around.