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Songs of America: Patriotism, Protest, and the Music That Made a Nation

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  634 ratings  ·  177 reviews
A celebration of America and the music that inspired people and illuminated eras, from the Revolutionary War to the present, by Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Meacham and Grammy winner Tim McGraw.

From "The Star Spangled Banner" to "Born in the U.S.A.," Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw take us on a journey through the eras and the music that helped to shape a nation. Meacham writes a
Kindle Edition, 289 pages
Published June 11th 2019 by Random House
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  634 ratings  ·  177 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Jun 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 5000-2019, lor-2019
3.5 From George Washington and the American Revolution to the present, Meacham charts the music and what it meant during that time period. Music has the ability to make one recall a specific time and place, to elicit sadness and joy, pride and pain. When a song is played it sparks a memory, and often, at least for me, I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the don't was played. Washington recognizes the importance of song, and used it to keep his men marching on. My country ...more
Aug 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tone deaf. Unable to “ carry a tune in a bucket.” Doesn’t matter. We sing. We sing in church. We sing at concerts. We sing in the car. Music is important to us.
Historian Jon Meacham and country artist Tim McGraw look at the role music has played throughout the development of the U.S. in Songs of America: Patriotism, Protest and the Music that Made a Nation. From the Liberty Song in 1768 to Only in America in 2005, we have relied on songs to make our views known, to inspire others to join us and
Jul 16, 2019 marked it as dnf  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
For an audiobook, what a missed opportunity!

This had the potential to be a truly great audiobook. Given the format, I was expecting that excerpts of the songs would be added to the audiobook recording. To my surprise, Tim McGraw read the lyrics. Without performances of the songs, this is sadly a pretty lackluster audiobook. I returned on Libby before finishing because this just didn't live up to its potential.
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Oh, I so enjoyed reading this book! From the beginning with the beautiful and inspirational Overture on The History of Music by Jon Meacham, I did not want to stop reading this history of America through music.

Music brings a deep association with the events and places I have experienced. When I hear a song I can place myself in a specific place and point in time. The Green Berets by Barry Sadler came out when I was fourteen. It had pride of country and was an appealing march. I bought a ceramic
Songs of America: Patriotism, Protest, and the Music That Made a Nation was a delightful book to read over the Independence Day weekend, as it was a journey of America's history brought to life through its songs. From the music during the American Revolution and the War of 1812 to songs of the Civil War and the fight for civil rights and the abolition of slavery, featuring Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Also explored in music was the long struggle for the cause of women's suffrage and ...more
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Let's be clear about one thing: This is not a songbook. Lyrics, when they appear, accompany the historical narrative written by co-author Jon Meacham with occasional sidebar insights by country music star Tim McGraw (a friend and neighbor of Meacham). Some of the songs mentioned are of praise, others of protest - but all (ahem!) underscore what was happening at various times of crisis from the Revolutionary War to the Great Depression, 9/11 and more.

Personally, I'm a huge fan of music; history,
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
From "The Liberty Song" of John Dickinson, to "Born in the USA" by Bruce Springsteen, this book goes through the highlights of America's political history in song. Music, as it turns out, was as important to the political theory of George Washington as it was to MLK. Music may not start a movement, but no movement can succeed long or against great odds without powerful songs to motivate and inspire its followers, and sometimes, even convert its opponents. In the 1950s, when Civil Rights ...more
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic book! It surprised me how much I enjoyed the history lesson that this book really is. It kept the stories entertaining and basic enough to not bore anyone. The photos were fantastic and I loved learning about all the songs too.
Nov 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Everything from the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy” to “Born in the USA” and “I’m Proud to be American” and all the songs in between. Our Patriotic songs, protest songs, songs that reflected the America’s highs, the guided through our hard times, and often sent us off to war. This is a history of America through its music. A very interesting take on who we were and who we have become. Primarily written by John Meachem with some input in the songs themselves by Tim McGraw.
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
This was kind of a dud for me. I love music and I always love learning about a song's history, but this fell flat (pun intended). Some songs had tons of info about them, others had just brief mentions. Protest songs of the Vietnam era were largely limited to CCR's "Fortunate Son", despite there being several other anti-war songs from that time. The Kent State shootings were mentioned, but not the "Ohio" song by Crosby, Stills and Nash, at least not that I could see.

Even older patriotic songs
Jun 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Now a days we take music and the meaning for granted. This book was kind of the history of music and some songs that impacted our country all these years later. The authors did an amazing job at doing research and telling the story of some well known songs and how they came about. Some of these songs I grew up singing and can’t ever remember where they came from. Like most some of the stories told in this book we were taught in school and others I don’t ever remember hearing. It gives me a whole ...more
Tammy Buchli
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a fun book! I enjoyed reading about the songs, some familiar to me and others not, which made our country. The format of the book was accessible, moving more or less chronologically from the American Revolution to the aftermath of 9/11.
I appreciated the diversity of songs discussed - songs by indigenous peoples, the spirituals sung by enslaved people, anthems sung by suffragists and civil rights activists, patriotic songs and protest songs.
I also enjoyed he sidebars by Tim McGraw, which
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I thought this book was going to delve more deeply into the particular history of American songs, but I found myself enjoying it quite a bit (and the archival photos are fabulous). Meacham is a great writer and it's clear that he was attempting to find something with which to connect us in the turmoil of America's current dangerously divisive climate. His own political opinions seep through from the Reagan years onward, but even those chapters are written with a gentle, nearly bipartisan touch. ...more
J.J. Lair
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There were things I thought this would be that it isn’t. I thought they would pick a dozen songs and tell how they tell the bigger picture. They actually mention many more songs and dozens of artists. I also thought musician Tim McGraw would dissect lyrics or why songs are played the way they are. Is this better on guitar vs. piano? Fast vs. slow. From the format of the book, McGraw has these asides where he really adds fluff.
There was a lot of good here. I looked up and discovered some new
Ilene Harris
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderful book, reading it slowly, so much great stuff, we really need this when the politics are so bad today.
Anna Paula
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved to learn about the history of some of my favorite songs as well as to learn more about American history.
Jul 07, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2019
3.75 stars

Very interesting look at the history of music in America (got a bit dry in spots, especially early parts of the book discussing the Revolutionary War). I was surprised how many songs I wasn't familiar with, but found most of them on UTube.
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
Disappointing - I expected more (or different). Too much history, not enough music.
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Art by: NY Times, book review, June 25, 2019
“… music as an unsung force in our nation’s history.” — Doris Kearns Goodwin, blurb, back cover

Fun. This book falls between a coffee-table book and a history book. Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, you will find something to like in here. The great standards, folk and protest music drew me to the book. In all, we learn about a couple hundred songs with their roots, context and influences.

The book published in June without a word about the songs or the coarsening culture over the
Sean Soard
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I "read" this book as an audiobook, though that made it only slightly more musical. A few of the songs are played in the audiobook file, but most are not (likely due to the nightmare of licensing the number of songs discussed in this book).

Listing Meacham and McGraw as co-authors of this book is a little deceptive. Meacham does the heavy lifting here, banging out a surprisingly thorough recitation of American history shortly after his "The Soul of America." As you'd expect, Meacham heavily
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Don't simply read "Songs of America."
Have YouTube close by so you can listen to U.S. history while you relive it — and sometimes learn that history — through its music.
Author Jon Meacham colors the highlights of America's past with anecdotes and insight, plus lessons that needed to be learned — and in some cases still need to be learned. It's anything but the boredom inducing tomes of history class.
And songster Tim McGraw adds context from the musical world to many of the key pieces that played
Ted Hunt
Jul 10, 2019 rated it liked it
This book takes on a very large task: providing an overview of American protest music from the time of the American Revolution to the period of the 21st century culture wars. I think that this was a bit too much for a book of 230 pages, as its treatment of the subject matter was rather uneven. There were snippets of political history, but not enough to always provide a good backdrop for the music. Some, but not all, singers had short biographies provided. Some songs had their lyrics included in ...more
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Disclaimer: I received this book as part of GoodReads' First Reads program

Songs of America is a telling of American history with popular songs. The first chapter takes us back to the days up to and including the revolution, when songs like "Yankee Doodle" and "Hail Columbia" were popular. The second chapter takes us through the War of 1812, when the "Star Spangled Banner" was written (it didn't become the national anthem until the early 20th century). This chapter also takes us through the
I was randomly selected by Random House to receive a free copy. This did not impact my review. First of all, the publisher did not stint on this book. The cover is sturdy and the paper is heavy weight glossy - don't drop this one on your foot. To be honest, I was expecting songs with some history thrown in for perspective. Instead, I read a book on American politics. I learned things I had not known so the time was not wasted but this was not the book I had anticipated reading. From the notes to ...more
Jim Keating
Aug 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Meacham is a really good author, but I think the book was compiled from previous history books he had written and republished in Songs of America. McGraw added some anecdotal comments that were pretty inciteful but bottom line for me was it was sold as a collaboration and it was really a redo plus 10% McGraw add-on.
I still kinda liked it for the historical recap.
Content was a bit of a surprise, as I expected actual music, not just song lyrics as American history was selectively retold with mention of lyricists, poets, and influences of such on our country’s development and cultural trends. Familiarity with some of the songs enriched the reading, but much was left to my imagination if song, style, beat and melody were unknown!!
Susan Jessup
Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I normally don’t listen to Tim McGraw music and I’m normally not attracted to historical novels for pleasure reading, but after listen to Meacham talk in the spring I figured I’d check this book out. I throughly enjoyed the historical synopsis paired with music based on these periods bringing the sentiment of the people’s stories to life. It was like reading a novel that paired delicious meals with fine wines. A very enjoyable read.
victor harris
Jul 20, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: american-history
Heavy on narrative, light on song. Often has so much commentary and historical background, it buries the songs it is trying to illustrate. Way too many quotations that are extraneous to the music itself.
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have not read this book cover-to-cover yet. To me, it's more of a "coffee table book" as it's such a comprehensive compilation of music in America, starting from the Revolutionary War era, up to the present day. I am going through the chapters, out of order, and reading what appeals to me on any given day, and, what I have read has been thoroughly enjoyable. It's very well written, and has a lot of heart.
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a magnificent short history of our country told through the popular songs of the various periods and movements. Jon Meacham tells the history and Tim McGraw adds side notes for many of the songs which address from a musician's perspective how the song is constructed and how it achieves its goals musically and thematically. It is a useful collaboration, particularly when two songs are contrasted with each other, but I most enjoyed Meacham's history. Now this is a short book so the history ...more
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Jon Meacham is the editor of Newsweek, a Pulitzer Prize winning bestselling author and a commentator on politics, history, and religious faith in America.
“Invoking John Winthrop, Reagan said, “I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it.” It was a free, proud city, built on a strong foundation, full of commerce and creativity, he said, adding, “If there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.” Whatever his faults, Ronald Reagan believed in the possibilities of a country that was forever reinventing itself. “And how stands the city on this winter night?” Reagan asked. “More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was eight years ago…. And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.” 0 likes
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