Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Patriotic Rock Songs (!)

By Nick

Not the best picture, but it's all I could find.
Rock Music is not known as a bastion of patriotism. The majority of rock songs are apolitical, and those that are political are usually tired variations on the "I-Hate-George-Bush" theme. Many of the best rock bands are hardcore liberals, and "patriotic rock" is usually a codeword for Ted Nugent. And before I go any further, I will say that I am a conservative and I can't stand Ted Nugent's music.
     Many rock songs fall into the somewhat vague category of Anti-War or Protest songs. Many protest songs are very good, such as Bob Dylan's "John Brown". At their best anti-war songs show the horror of wars and put to shame any people who try to glorify war. Any true conservative is anti-war. At their worst (and they're far more at their worst than at their best) they are short-sighted attacks on the military that keeps them safe. It's easy to criticize your leaders if you live in a free country like America. There are plenty of American/British rockers who have criticized George W. Bush and are incredibly famous. I don't know of any Korean rockers who have criticized Kim Jong Il and gotten away with it. Going back to the main point, their are very few rock songs that speak highly of the US military.
     Alice in Chains, the 90s grunge/rock band, is not known for patriotic songs. Most of their songs fall into the general category of "I hate [Fill In The Blank]."  But on their 2nd album, Dirt, from 1992, they performed one of the best military anthems of all time, "Rooster." This is not just one of the coolest pro-military songs ever, but one of the coolest songs ever period. Alice in Chains guitarist (and wah-pedal addict) Jerry Cantrell wrote the songs about his father, Jerry Cantrell Sr., who served with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, and who was nicknamed "Rooster" as a young man. The lyrics speak of the horrors of war while praising the warrior who fights for his country. Musically, the song alternates between the soft, almost psychedelic verses and the huge electric guitar buildups.

Ain't found a way to kill me yet

Eyes burn with stinging sweat
Seems every path leads me to nowhere
Wife and kids, household pet
Army green was no safe bet
The bullets scream to me from somewhere
(Commentary: The soldier in this song is trying to survive so he can get back to his "wife and kids.")

Yeah they come to snuff the Rooster
Yeah here come the Rooster, yeah
You know he ain't gonna die
No, no, no, you know he ain't gonna die
(Commentary: words on a page cannot convey how awesome this chorus is. You just have to listen to it.)

Walkin' tall machine gun man
They spit on me in my home land
Gloria sent me pictures of my boy
Got my pills 'gainst mosquito death
My buddy's breathin' his dyin' breath
Oh God please won't you help me make it through
(Commentary: In the 1960s many of the peace protestors were very rude to veterans coming back from Vietnam, spitting on them or calling them baby-killers. The naive protesters, then and now, do not understand what the soldiers go through in combat in foreign lands, away from their wife and children with their combat buddies dying. The song's singer cries out to God to help him get home alive.)

Yeah they come to snuff the rooster, ah yeah
Yeah here come the rooster, yeah
You know he ain't gonna die
No, no, you know he ain't gonna die

Also in the realm of rock songs and the 4th of July, check out "Independence Day For A Petty Thief" by House of Heroes from their album Suburba. It's not particularly patriotic (although House of Heroes has done some good pro-troop songs on their World War II album, The End Is Not The End.), but it's rockin'.

Current Listenings: The Great Hylian Revival by Jay Tholen, Helplessness Blues by Fleet
Foxes, "Gravedigger" by The Dave Matthews Band.


  1. Another opportunity for music lovers is at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, which hosts an “improvised rock” music celebration that lasts the entire weekend. If patriotic music is your preference, it has something to meet that need as well.

  2. Some people don't like Rock music because they think of it as loud and noisy. I think that it is just a matter of taste and perspective.