Although the genre exists beyond the United States, there’s something special about patriotic country songs by domestic artists. From story-songs of the Old West to the contentious Vietnam era, many country music legends spoke on behalf of pro-American causes. Over the past 30 years, strife in the Middle East and the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks inspired some of the greatest patriotic songs ever recorded, as evidenced by the following list.
“God Bless The USA,” Lee Greenwood
At sporting events and on the Fourth of July, only “America the Beautiful,” “God Bless America” and the National Anthem get preferential treatment over Lee Greenwood’s best-known hit.
“Some Gave All,” Billy Ray Cyrus
The better of Billy Ray Cyrus’ two obvious songs celebrates the fallen warriors and surviving veterans of past wars.
“American Soldier,” Toby Keith
Despite having a varied catalog over the past 25-plus years, Toby Keith’s name is synonymous with post-9/11 country anthems, thanks in part to this memorable single.
“Arlington,” Trace Adkins
Trace Adkins arguably sang even better patriotic songs over the years than Toby Keith. Exhibit A is this moving song that speaks for those who’ve sacrificed their lives in the military.
“Home,” Dierks Bentley
One of contemporary country’s best storytellers reminds his fans that while America may not be perfect, it’s the greatest nation to call home.
“Keep Us Safe,” Carrie Underwood
One of Carrie Underwood’s strongest statements of faith doubles as a prayer for the men and women of the Armed Forces.
“Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American),” Toby Keith
Keith’s post-9/11 image has a lot to do with this song, in which he makes his feelings about terrorists clear and swears vengeance because “it’s the American way.” It’s an angry song that represents a restless moment on our nation’s history.
“The Bumper of My SUV,” Chely Wright
Fiercely independent singer-songwriter Chely Wright stands her ground on a lot of worthy issues, including her support of the military.
“Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” Alan Jackson
Alan Jackson made television history and helped a nation heal when he first unveiled one of country music’s greatest and most important patriotic songs.
“Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly,” Aaron Tippin
Part patriotic country song and part Tom Petty-worthy guitar ballad, Aaron Tippin never sounded fiercer or prouder.
“Have You Forgotten,” Darryl Worley
After a flurry of 9/11-inspired country songs, most stars went back to singing about other topics. Except for Darryl Worley, who poured his all into this defense of the war on terrorism.
“Fightin’ Side of Me,” Merle Haggard
The Hag plays a character with similar values to the ranter in the more famous “Okee From Muskogee” on this Vietnam-era single.
“American Saturday Night,” Brad Paisley
Sometimes, the best way to celebrate freedom is to have a good time. Brad Paisley reminds us of this with some guitar-slinging and clever wordplay.
“American Kids,” Kenny Chesney
“In America,” Charlie Daniels Band
We’re all a little different–from the cowboys and the hippies to the rebels and the yanks. But when the American way gets put down, we’re all in one accord.
“America,” Waylon Jennings
Waylon Jennings added a little Tex-Mex flavor to his best musical celebration of a great melting pot of a nation.
“It’s America,” Rodney Atkins
Rodney Atkins celebrates the simpler things in small-town America by singing about prom night, lemonade stands and brotherly love.
“Ragged Old Flag,” Johnny Cash
Expect hairs to stand up on your arms whenever you press play on this amazing prose, released by the Man in Black during the Watergate scandal.
“Only in America,” Brooks & Dunn
Brooks & Dunn’s high-octane country-rock sound makes them the ideal duo to get listeners pumped up about the endless possibilities for ambitious young Americans.
“If You’re Reading This,” Tim McGraw
Tim McGraw sings one of the saddest songs in recent memory from the perspective of a fallen soldier who’s left behind a loving family.