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The Songs That Make You Proud Of Your Country

Bruce Springsteen, the NPR audience favorite, plays in front of the flag, circa 1984.
Bruce Springsteen, the NPR audience favorite, plays in front of the flag, circa 1984.

Click the audio link above to hear Frannie Kelley talk toAll Things Considered 's Michele Norris about your picks for songs that make you feel proud to be from wherever you're from. Though Bruce Springsteen was the clear winner, you also wrote in for Filipino band Up Dharma Down, The Tragically Hip (Canada), Los Tigres del Norte and Marvin Gaye's 1983 performance of "The Star Spangled Banner."

July 4th is right around the corner — and I cannot wait for a long weekend. I plan to grill things with friends, to sit with them around a couple of ancient boomboxes and a microscopic MP3 player attached to speakers 25 times its size in the park. From these, we will pump the jams that make us feel celebratory about our country — our home.

Our long-weekend mixes will contain everything from CCR to Santigold to Skynrd to Gilberto Gil. We're free to love what we love, right? And the same songs have been known to inspire very different feelings in different people.

In toasting this country's anniversary of independence, we will listen to all the songs that make us feel hometown pride.

I've been asking around, and one friend of mine, Christina Ferwerda, knew right away what piece of music she'll listen to this weekend — The Duke Ellington Band's performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1956 of "Diminuendo" into "Crescendo in Blue" — specifically Paul Gonsalves' sax solo. That's the piece that makes her feel proud to be American.

It's the set that made Ellington a legend, a performance that had the crowd dancing in the aisles, the one that landed him on the cover of Time. It's jazz, music invented in this country — music that was reviled and feared when in its infancy and is now often dismissed as staid and smooth. It is improvised. It persists.

Another friend, Jasmine Garsd, host of NPR's Alt.Latino, knew the music that made her feel most proud to be Argentinian right away too. It's a song called "Los Dinosaurios," by Charly Garcia, a song about how people survived the dictatorship in her country. The lyrics translate to, "Your neighborhood friends can disappear / The singers on the radio can disappear / The people in the newspapers can disappear / That person you love can disappear / The people on the air can disappear into the air / The people on the street can disappear on the street / But the dinosaurs will soon also disappear."

She says the song is "a testament to the will to fight, remember, and seek justice." She told me she still cries every time she hears it.

So — in honor of this country's day of pride — what song makes you feel proud to be an American? Or a Nebraskan? Or French?

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Frannie Kelley is co-host of the Microphone Check podcast with Ali Shaheed Muhammad.