It’s maybe my favorite holiday of the year. The weather’s warm, you get to spend all day cooking out with your friends, at the pool or the lake, and end the day by blowing shit up (or watching it blow up). Oh, and it’s all to celebrate the greatest country on earth. Who couldn’t love that?
And chances are you’ll be listening to some country music throughout the day – because what’s more American than that? From Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA,” Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red White and Blue,” or Aaron Tippin’s “Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly,” there are plenty of country songs to choose from for your Fourth of July playlist that will get you bleeding red, white and blue.
But there’s one song that usually ends up on Fourth of July playlists that probably shouldn’t: Martina McBride’s “Independence Day.”
Now obviously I know why people include it and why it’s a popular song for…well, Independence Day. It does take place on the Fourth of July. And that chorus is enough to get any red-blooded American fired up:
“Let freedom ring, let the white dove sing Let the whole world know that today is a day of reckoning Let the weak be strong, let the right be wrong Roll that stone away, let the guilty pay It’s Independence Day”
And I mean, sure, if that’s the only part of the song you hear you might think that it’s a song about celebrating the Fourth of July. But the verses make clear that it’s about something very different:
“Well, she seemed all right by dawn’s early light Though she looked a little worried and weak She tried to pretend he wasn’t drinkin’ again But daddy left the proof on her cheek And I was only eight years old that summer And I always seemed to be in the way So I took myself down to the fair in town On Independence Day”
The song’s about an Independence Day, but not the kind that’s celebrated on the Fourth of July. It’s a dark tale about escaping from domestic violence from a child’s point of view, one where her mother eventually burns down their house and the daughter ends up getting sent to the county home after losing both of her parents.
Yeah, not exactly celebrating America’s birthday.
Of course it’s an incredible song. Written by Gretchen Peters, the song won the CMA Award for Song of the Year in 1995, and was named by Rolling Stone as one of the 100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time, despite only peaking at #12 on the charts.
But over the years, the song has somehow gained popularity as a patriotic anthem, being used by politicians at rallies, in Fourth of July celebrations, and it was even used by political commentator Sean Hannity as the opening music for his radio show – something Peters objected to since it’s not a political song, but is one about escaping domestic violence.
I’m sure a lot of you will even hear it today.
But when you do, just remember the deeper meaning of the song – one that’s not about the Fourth of July.