Sports column: A few suggestions for your Fourth of July playlist

Published 4:00 am Sunday, July 2, 2023

It’s Independence Day weekend, that time of year when we celebrate our awesome and unique American freedoms. Fireworks. Cookouts. Long evenings. Red, white and blue.

And music. Lots and lots of music.

There’s a giant playlist of songs appropriate for July 4. From John Phillip Sousa marches to wrestler theme songs, you’re going to hear a bunch of them this weekend. Some you’ll hear dozens of times. It seems like a good time to highlight a few of my favorites that you might want to add to your own cookout playlist:

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“Real American” — Nothing, and I mean nothing, will make you want to run through a wall for this country harder and faster than hearing Rick Derringer’s “Real American,” best known as wrestler Hulk Hogan’s intro music.

Just listening to it while writing this column made me want to rip my shirt off and flex. But after I did that, listening to the lyrics reveals an oddly deep message about a lot of American ideals — namely, standing up for what’s right and having the courage to rise up after getting knocked down.

I’d say we should hear this one a lot more at Fourth of July fireworks shows, but that might wind up with us having hundreds of shirtless people posing in public parks. Might ruin the whole family friendly vibe.

• “Living in America” — James Brown’s 1985 song was used as Apollo Creed’s entrance music in “Rocky IV.”

It’s hard not to dance along and celebrate a lot of the great things in American culture that are mentioned — until you remember that, 10 minutes after Brown sang it in the movie, Apollo was beaten to death by an evil Russian.

Still a great song, though.

“God Bless the USA” — Lee Greenwood released his iconic song praising the freedom and opportunities the United States offers in 1984. Somehow, it escaped my attention for 14 years.

While taking a cross country trip for a job interview on the weekend of July 4, 1998, I heard it for the first time. By the time I got home on July 7, I’d heard it approximately 3,923 times — and it never got old, nor has it ever since. It’s the rare song that just captures a feeling perfectly in both its message and execution.

“Only in America” — Brooks & Dunn’s 2001 hit is one of my favorites. The way it imparts a hopefulness and optimism at the endless opportunities that lay in front of us — available only in America, as the title states — sums up in a few minutes what this country is really all about.

“We all get a chance/Everybody gets to dance/Only in America,” isn’t just a great lyric, it’s exactly what this country is all about. No matter your station in life, no matter your upbringing, if you have a heartbeat, a dream, and the passion to make it happen, then no dream is out of reach.

“Born in the USA” — Has there ever been a more misunderstood musical artist than Bruce Springsteen? Nobody mixes catchy beats and hooks with lyrics so depressing you need counseling after hearing them like The Boss.

The jaunty baseball staple “Glory Days” is a sad tale of clinging to the past.

“Dancin’ in the Dark” is a bit more positive, but still a ballad about a guy struggling to break out of a huge rut in life.

“Born in the USA” has been held up as a patriotic anthem for 40 years, but it’s really a horrifying song about giving up on the American dream and dealing with postwar PTSD. Yet when it’s played at fireworks shows this weekend, we’ll still tap our feet and sing along to it.

Strange cat, that Springsteen.

“Yankee Doodle Dandy” — This is a more traditional song, predating even the Revolutionary War, that is an incredibly underrated piece of 18th century trash talking.

It was originally written in the 1750s by a British soldier to mock American colonists. The famous lyric “Stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni” is nonsensical now, but originally referred to Americans who acted stupidly and put on unwarranted airs of aristocracy. Macaroni wigs were a high-class fashion statement in the mid-1700s. It was a very strange time.

Within a couple of decades, however, the Americans tweaked the lyrics a bit to mock the British and adopted it as one of our first unofficial national anthems.

So, when you hear it this weekend, go ahead and sing along and celebrate America’s first diss track. The little guy standing up and sticking it to The Man is as American as it gets.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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