What’s a great song about the American experience?

9:00 Due to early voting and absentee ballots, 29.8 million people have already voted this election. Is anything lost if we lose our national Election Day in favor of, perhaps, Election Month?

10:00 The new book ‘Houses of the Presidents’ gives a glimpse inside the houses and day-to-day lives of America’s presidents, from George Washington’s time to the present. We’ll talk to the author.

11:00 What music do you think captures the American spirit?

We recently had author Stephen Prothero on to discuss his new book ‘The American Bible,’ which deals with the texts throughout American history that typify the American experience and continue to generate controversy. A lot of people called or wrote in with songs instead of books: from ‘Strange Fruit’ to ‘Dust in the Wind.’

Which songs and artists do you think exemplify the American spirit and experience?

-Stephanie Curtis, social media host

  • peggy rader
  • Richard Gunderson

    Michael Hall’s “America” on the album “Song He Was Listening to When He Died.” Humor is a great American virtue.

  • Michelle

    Almost anything by Springsteen, but always, always, always “Born to Run”.

  • Missy Hermes

    City of New Orleans (or any train song) and The Ballad of Ira Hayes.

  • Anything by Aaron Copland but in particular The original intimate scoring for his, “Appalachian Spring.” It is one of the last works composed in his “Americana Style” [which includes “Fanfare for the Common Man”, “Billy the Kid” and “Rodeo”

    I pick Copland because both his life and work encapsulate the contradiction that is America. That the music of a Gay, Jewish, Marxist from NYC whose mother was a Jewish Texan can be played to introduce Mitt and Ann Romney…

    Check out the LOC Copland Collection:


    *I would also choose anything by American Composer and bassist, Charles Mingus especially his fearless experimental workshop pieces: One album which comes to mind is “Live at the Bohemia”

    * Louis Armstrong and the Hot 7 “West End Blues”

    * Dave Brubeck Quartet, the whole album of “Time Out” but more so the album “Summit Sessions”

    * Frank Zappa, “Joe’s Garage” That whole musical exposes the reality of “Traditional American Values.”

    * Leonard Bernstein, “West Side Story” especially the music from the ‘Dance at the Gym’ is an exciting hybrid of Latin and Jazz conflict, love and conflict.

  • Craig Tonubbee

    I think each of these songs represent different qualities about the American experience:

    1. Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to Candide (for the brilliance and originality)

    2. George Jones’ He Stopped Loving Her Today (for the special kind of sadness that we all occasionally need/feel)

    3. Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance (for the awesome)

    Thank you!

  • Kevin

    Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring has always evoked the practicality and optimism of American life.

  • Stacy
  • Erich

    Randy Newman’s – Lousiana 1927

  • I think “American Anthem” as sung by Norah Jones from Ken Burns’ ‘The War’ exemplifies what it means to be American. The chorus is especially moving:

    Let them say of me

    I was one who believed

    In sharing the blessings

    I received

    Let me know in my heart

    When my days are through



    I gave my best to you

    It recalls a time where the “greatest generation” sacrificed everything for the greater good of America and the world at large. It gives me hope that this spirit will continue into the future!

  • Mary

    On his new CD the song Jack of all Trades is perfect. Especially considering the recent devastation of Sandy.

  • Marc S.

    Bright Eyes (a.k.a. Conor Oberst) “When the President Talks to God” is a great example of a protest song (against the Iraq war) missing in contemporary music, with a dose of sarcasm and jaded world-view that typifies his generation.

  • Paul

    How is Don Mclean’s “American Pie” not just playing on repeat right now?

  • Mike

    “Break on Through to the Other Side”, “People are Strange When You’re a Stranger” and “Riders of the Storm” by the Doors.

  • Deb

    Anthem by Leonard Cohen

  • Connor Johnson

    “Truckin'” by the one and only Grateful Dead exemplifies the American Spirit. Reckless restlessness and irresponsibility… True American freedom both lyrically and musically.

  • James

    Don McLean’s “American Pie”

    Encompassing of pain, hope, pop culture influence, political fractures, and the fleeting opportunity of life and love.

  • Patrick Basile

    Merle Haggard; “If We Make it Through December”

  • Uncle Tupelo’s cover of Sarah Ogan Gunning’s Come All You Coal Miners. It’s about the struggle of the American worker during the depression.

    Listen to it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfNB-SzoCO8

  • Drake

    Grateful Dead- Black Throated Wind.

  • Martin

    Aaron Copeland – Appalachain Spring

    Leonard Bernstein – West Side Story

    Steve Goodman – City of New Orleans

    Buffalo Springfield – For What it’s Worth

    Bob Dylan – almost anything from his first 10 years

    Joan Baez – almost anything

    Woody Guthrie – of course

  • Anna Lucas

    America The Beautiful. It really should be our national anthem. It reminds us of what is really important, patriotism, fairness, justice

  • Mike

    “It’s hard to find a more fruitful meditation on American music than in the compositions of guitarist Bill Frisell.” –The New York Times

    Not a song, but an artist. He takes on Sam Cooke to Aaron Copland to Hendrix to Monk to Madona and more, making it new again

    PS I love BB King, but Freddie King just slays me. So sexy and powerful.

  • Vicki

    Phil Ochs – Power and the Glory – a beautiful anthem

  • JC

    The American Experience: “The Pretender” by Jackson Browne

  • Julie

    New country – Dixie Chicks “Travelin’ Soldier” or “Not Ready to Make Nice”

  • Greg Mueller

    American Jazz

    Glenn Miller “In the Mood”

    Frank Sinatra

    “New York New York”

  • Connor Johnson

    New country? Does Trampled by Turtles count? If so, their song “Valley” fits the bill quite nicely.

    Bluegrass is the last vestige of country music that is a truly American art form. Twang is American, the “Country Music Channel” is not.

  • Z

    Many of these songs reflect a pseudo-romantic view of the “American experience.” America has become an over fed, under educated, shallow, retail society. Therefore the most appropriate song to personify the actual current American experience is “America”, the main theme from the film “Team America: World Police.”

  • Sarah Johnson


    Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole “Over The Rainbow” it’s sweetness and optimism is so American and that a native Hawaiian from the newest state in the Union sings it with such loveliness is a wonder. I feel this sense of humanity and love every time I hear it.

  • Chris

    Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor “From the New World”

    Upon his arrival in America, he (Dvořák) stated:

    “I am convinced that the future music of this country must be founded on what are called Negro melodies. These can be the foundation of a serious and original school of composition, to be developed in the United States. These beautiful and varied themes are the product of the soil. They are the folk songs of America and your composers must turn to them.”

  • Jon Lockerby

    Regarding the “evocative new country” question, Brad Paisley’s name came up. What about “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive?”

  • Marybeth

    Creedence Clearwater – I ain’t no Senator’s Son – I’m not sure that’s the name of the song. I think that song captures the struggle between social classes in America. When it comes to war, it isn’t Donald Trump’s son or daughter going to war.

  • Alex

    Anything from the Forrest Gump soundtrack…

    “Fortunate Son” – CCR

    “On the Road Again” – W Nelson

    “All Along the Watchtower” – Hendrix or Dylan

  • Deb

    For people who know the great potential that is missed in America might appreciate this little known gem, “Help Me Find America” by Ric Ocasek


  • Jen


    “AMERICAN ANTHEM” by Nora Jones! It’s fantastic and played on PBS’s WWII documentary by Ken Burn’s Film

  • Brendan

    You can’t leave out these essentials:

    Howlin Wolf- Moanin’ in the Moanlight (as powerful & in your face as music gets; He got this vocal style from Jimmie Rodgers too!)

    Max Roach- Freedom Now Suite (completely captures the Black experience during the Civil Rights Movement, all the pain, struggle and hope)

    Charles Mingus- Fables of Faubus (Completely unique and unlike anything else; Also is a highly critical song of the status quo of Jim Crow. Exemplifies our freedom of speech unlike anything else)

    James Brown- Please Please Please (If you watch the early footage of James Brown’s epic live performance of this song, you’ll understand how incredibly hard working & entertaining Americans can be)

  • The use of Barber’s Adagio for Strings in the movie Platoon captures the sadness of the Vietnam War.

  • Danielle

    Buffalo Springfield “For What It’s Worth” – great protest song!

  • marybeth

    It Ain’t Me – by Creedence Clearwater

  • James

    Artist: Rodney Atkins Song: If You’re Going Through Hell From Album: If You’re Going Through Hell

  • Brendan

    Another one:

    The Stooges- Dirt (The Stooges were highly influenced by the R&B and Soul coming out of Detroit. “Dirt” has a Funkadelic feel to it, yet it is highly abrasive and influenced by the industry of Detroit at the time. Fun House is also probably the first Punk Rock album, and remains one of the absolute best today)

  • Sarah W

    Dixie Chicks

    Not Ready to Make Nice

  • Chris

    I’ve got you Babe

  • Jon Lockerby

    Just thought of this: The 1969 chart-topper, Sugar Sugar by The Archies. The American spirit includes many great virtues, but as this song demonstrates, a good deal of vapidity as well.

  • Hal Watson

    As a white kid growing up in the suburbs in the 70’s, one tune in particular: Donny Hathaway’s 1970 song “The Ghetto” took me to a completely different world, and I think exemplifies the power of Music to build bridges and link us to the larger American experience:


  • Sean mies

    The song that has inspired me politically is a new song from Minnesotas own Brother Ali “letter to my countrymen”.

  • Michael

    Without a doubt, The Trumpeteers- Milky White Way, that america was and possibly, secretly, still is a dark and obscure place

  • Bobby

    Rockaway Beach by The Ramones. Haven’t seen a whole lot of Rock represented, and The Ramones are about as American as it gets.

  • Aaron Miles

    coming to america – Neil Diamond….

    the end (version from the film apocalypse now) – The Doors

  • Elizabeth

    Crosby: ‘Long Time Comin’ ‘

    Stills: ‘Carry On’

    Nash: ‘Teach Your Children’ (remember he doesn’t take his American citizenship for granted!)

    Young: ‘Ohio’.

  • Youssef

    When you played BBKing it was my song and represented my melancholy feeling I had and went through during a tough period in my life that still

    The other song is sending the clown with Judy Collin that touch the heart of those who listens to it.

  • John L

    Singin the Blues by Marty Robbins – I remember this song from when I was 2yrs old – it was everywhere and was the theme song for post war prosperity.

  • Jenna

    “bridge over troubled water“ and “stand by me“

  • Sue Brekke-Benson

    from earlier era…

    Lift Every Voice and Sing…James Wendall Johnson

    Appalachian Spring and Rodea..Copland

  • Jen

    Any song from the Forest Gump soundtrack!

    Especially the CCR song “fortunate son”

  • Emily

    I think we need some Buffy Saint Marie on this list. “My Way!” “I Don’t Need No City Life”

  • “Song for America” by Kansas — over the top prog-rock, but in a distinctively American mode with nods to Aaron Copland

    “Which Side Are You On?”

    “Walk Tall” by Cannonball Adderly

  • sam

    How about some metal? Megadeth’s “Peace Sells” is for me as American protest as it gets. In a similar vein but somewhat more incendiary is COC’s “Vote With A Bullet.”

  • Paul Bloom

    Fanfare for the Common Man — Copland

  • Charli

    Although they tend to be protesting most of the American injustices, Rise Against and their song Hero of War shows a very dark side of American pride.

  • Nate

    Bruce Springsteen, Dylan, Paul Simon, sure, but don’t forget the musicals. Tomorrow from Annie, or Over the Rainbow.

  • Melissa

    American Idiot – Green Day

  • yosteff

    It so happens that it is Michael Schwerner’s birthday today so “He’s my Brother” is very appropriate. The freedom riders were true American hero’s. I can only wish to have had the courage they did

  • Charles Matson Lume

    What about the under belly of America? Obesity, Drugs, TV.

    Ramones – I wanna be sedated

  • Maria Manske

    Emmylou Harris’ version of Pancho and Lefty

  • Tiare Cross

    Sweet Home Alabama

    This song was on a mixed CD that one of the Americans gave to the Sudanese drivers that were driving us across huge vast desserts in Sudan. Whenever this song comes on, no matter where you are in the world, you feel a little bit closer to home.

  • Andrew Barrette

    Buffalo Springfield – For What it’s Worth


    Crosby Stills Nash & Young – Find the Cost of Freedom


  • Reilly

    Stevie Wonder – “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” – big and brassy and metallic, reminiscent of a time when the factories were going full tilt, newly liberated people were beginning to assert their place in society, and we all had hope…

  • Ted

    How about Five for Fighting’s

    Freedom Never Cries

  • Matthew Nelson

    Nat King Cole singing Route 66 is just so American cool.

  • Clint

    As for new country, Jamey Johnson’s “In Color” is very powerful as it relates to the hardships that have been overcome, comparing the difference between seeing a black and white photo versus living the experiences.

    For something totally different, Primus’ “American Life” touches on the dark sides of living in this great country in a nice ballad form.

  • Stacey Edwards

    Take Me Home Country Roads & Wild Montana Skies by John Denver

    Jack & Diane by John Mellencamp

  • David

    “roll em up” by vanilla ice

  • Stephanie

    The songs mentioned on the air:

    A Change is Gonna Come Soon by Sam Cooke and then Aretha Franklin

    Ghost of Tom Joad by Springsteen

    The River

    Born to Run by Springsteen

    I saw the light by Hank Williams

    Ramblin Man by Hank Williams

    Rhapsody in Blue

    The Thrill is Gone by BB King

    Welcome to the Future by Brad Paisley

    Chimes of Freedom by Bob Dylan

    The Highwaymen – Jimmy Webb

    If You’re Reading This – Tim McGraw

    The Field – Mason Jennings

    I’m a Man – Muddy Waters

    These Boots are Made for Walking – Nancy Sinatra

    I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor

    American Tune – Paul Simon

    Momma Said Knock You Out –LL Cool J

    Powderfinger – Neil Young

    Ohio – Neil Young

    American Anthem – Norah Jones

    Changes – Tupac

  • Shantel

    The score of Aaron Copeland’s “A Lincoln Portrait” is quintessentially American to me. The elements take me to another time and really takes the listener through the American story: upbeat at times, sad at others, tumultuous at others. Yet always sweeping and triumphant–just like my country!

  • Peggy Hann

    Bobby Darin’s “Simple Song of Freedom”…more relevent now even more than when he first wrote it…

  • Elizabeth

    ‘Look for the Union Label’

    ‘Deportee’ by Woody Guthrie

    Make that Nash song ‘Chicago’, would you?

  • Angela

    Pink’s ‘Dear Mr President’ – ‘Perfect’ – & ‘Stupid Girls’

  • Chuck
  • Jean Archambeau

    Teach Your Children Well – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

    (needs no explanation)

    Boys of Fall – recent country song by Kenny Chesney

    I believe this song depicts the values that playing football instills in so many of us. It is a story about growing up in America.

  • Dave

    “We Shall Overcome” has to be on the list.

  • C

    Jimi Hendrix’s performance of the Star Spangled Banner (from Woodstock).

    I remember KQ played this on the afternoon of Nixon’s resignation; I was 16 years old.

  • caroline

    absolutely the tune yards. ask anyone who isn’t from the middle of nowhere.

    my country tis of thee

    sweet land of liberty

    how come i cannot see my future within your arms

  • Howard L.

    Don’t Stop Believin’. Either the Journey version or the Glee version.

  • Craig

    How about one by a brit, David Bowie’s Young Americans, in which he belts out aspirations and anxieties in a rollicking contrapuntal mixture of musical traditions that only just manages to keep it together.

  • Jennifer Valley

    W4 by the Dead Prez

  • Jenni

    We Take Care of Our Own – Mr. Springsteen’s song used during Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign… Made me put my hand on my heart

  • Sarah

    Chickin Fried – Zan Brown Band. This song makes me think of warm summer nights with friends and family. It makes me thankful for the simple freedoms we get to enjoy. The song recognizes the men and women who fight every day and who have fought, to give us the freedom to have “a cold beer on a Friday night and a pair of jeans that fit just right”.

  • LE NElson

    “My Country ‘Tis of Thy People You’re Dying” -Buffy St. Marie

  • mitchako

    here’s one they couldn’t play on the air.

    Steve Earle: “F the CC,” from the album The Revolution Starts Now, which contains the singalong chorus ” “So (F) the FCC, (F) the CIA/I’ll say anything I want to say/living in the (MF) USA…”

  • SuzanneV

    In the show yesterday, they said they were having trouble coming up with modern country songs that defined the American spirit. I know modern country is a bit of a different genre than classic country, but I think there are some songs that do typify the American spirit in modern country music. I first thought of Brad Paisley’s Welcome to the Future and American Saturday Night.

    One song that really stood out for me was Dierks Bentley’s Home. I thought this line was especially poignant on election day:

    “Free, nothing feels like free

    Though it sometimes means we don’t get along

    Cause same, no we’re not the same

    But that’s what makes us strong.”

    Thank you for an amazing program for Election Day!

  • Barry Elert

    “The Promised Land” by Chuck Berry, “Route 66”, and “The Wabash Cannonball”