Your guests will delight in these American classics, and you can serve them bits of musical Americana, one song at a time.
1. "Star-Spangled Banner," Jimi Hendrix
Fact: Paul Allen (of Microsoft fame) now owns the white Stratocaster guitar on which Hendrix performed his famous rendition of the National Anthem at Woodstock.
2. "America," Neil Diamond
Fact: This was the theme song for Michael Dukakis’s 1988 presidential campaign.
3. "American Pie," Don McLean
Fact: Your guests will already be aware that the song was inspired by the tragic deaths of musicians Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper in a plane crash on February 3, 1959, also known as “The Day The Music Died.” But throw in a lesser-known tidbit: Don McLean was a 13-year-old paperboy on that day and learned the news the next morning when he opened his morning stack of papers and saw it on the front page.
4. "Firework," Katy Perry
Fact: The inspiration for the song came, in part, from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. The passage that inspired her:
"…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes 'Awww!'"
5. "Pink Houses," John Mellencamp
Fact: In 1984, MTV bought a pink house in Indiana to give away as a part of a promotion associated with the Mellencamp single. In addition to the house, the winner received a pink Jeep full of Hawaiian Punch and Mellencamp grilled and jammed for her and some friends at her housewarming party.
6. "American Girl," Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Fact: The band recorded the track on the 4th of July, 1976.
7. "Living in America," James Brown
Fact: Many know it as Apollo Creed’s anthem from Rocky IV (get the MF Balboa/Creed t-shirt here) but they may not know that, despite being unfamiliar territory for Brown (singing a song someone else had written and doing so specifically for a film), it earned him a Grammy and was his second biggest hit—second only to “I Feel Good,” which he recorded 20 years earlier. Another fun tidbit: Weird Al Yankovic recorded a parody version of this number entitled “Living with a Hernia.”
8. "God Bless the U.S.A.," Lee Greenwood
Fact: A crowd-pleaser from its inception, when Greenword first introduced the song into his shows, he featured it in the middle of the show simply because it was new. After two weeks, the audience reactions to the songs forced Greenwood to move it to the end of the show as his encore. In his own words, “I couldn’t follow it.”
9. "The Star-Spangled Banner," Whitney Houston Super Bowl XXV version OR Beyonce 2012 presidential inauguration version
Fact: Everyone was in a tizzy when we learned that B lip-synced her inauguration version of the anthem, but the oft-praised 1991 Super Bowl performance by Whitney Houston was also pre-recorded. Whitney sang, but the microphone was off and the audience, both in Tampa and at home, heard a taped version. Bottom line: they are both amazing. Take your pick. You can’t go wrong, here.