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

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  211 ratings  ·  77 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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4.06  · 
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 ·  211 ratings  ·  77 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
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
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,
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 b
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 wer
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 reli
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs, music lovers
Recommended to Catherine by: Barnes and Noble
I'll start off, first, by saying that I am in no way, shape, or form a history buff. Back in high school and college, I sort of checked out of history classes except for the ones that were of particular interest to me. I know that it's horrible and I really should have paid attention to everything instead of the select few things that caught my interest, but what's done is done. I also don't make it a habit of reading that much on history now that I am no longer in school. However, when Barnes a ...more
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 e ...more
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 anteb
Scott Martin
Jun 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
(Audiobook) This concise and entertaining collaboration pairs a noted historian and one of the top country-western singers in modern America as they attempt to survey the various songs and singers that played their parts in shaping American history, from pre-Revolutionary War days to the present day. Meacham does the bulk of the analysis and descriptions of the book, as the music looks at old church songs, patriotic ditties, slave songs, and popular performance works. McGraw offers his own comme ...more
James Hallmark
Jul 03, 2019 rated it liked it
This came out in June in time for the summer patriotism season. I was optimistic and decided to listen to the book under the assumption they might play some of these songs. They don’t. I also was under the assumption that Meacham and McGraw would make good narrators. Meh. It’s an interesting book, but the narration adds nothing and there is essentially no music. Rather than play the songs, McGraw’s primary role is to read the lyrics of the songs. Let me repeat/rephrase that: much of the book is ...more
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
Alan Sanie
A celebration of American history through the music that helped to shape a nation, by Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Meacham and country music legend Tim McGraw
Through all the years of strife and triumph, America has been shaped not just by our elected leaders and our formal politics but also by our music—by the lyrics, performers, and instrumentals that have helped to carry us through the dark days and to celebrate the bright ones.
From "The Star-Spangled Banner" to "Born in the U.S.A.," Jon Meacham
Jul 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With a narrative text by biographer/historian Jon Meacham and sidebar commentary offering perspectives from singer/songwriter Tim McGraw, “Songs of America” looks at a selection of patriotic music as it charts an insightful journey through America from the battles of the American Revolution into the twenty-first century. The songs touch a wide variety of eras: the Civil War, the women’s suffrage movement, two World Wars, civil rights, Vietnam, and the music of post-September 11th days.

The perfo
Geoffrey Kelley
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In an era where pessimism and division reign, it is enjoyable to read about moments when Americans were brought together through music and song. Whether the songs were of a patriotic nature (“America the Beautiful”) or to protest injustices (“We Shall Overcome”), the key chapters of American history have often been reflected in the music of the day. Historian Jon Meacham ably takes us through the stories behind songs of the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the World Wars and ...more
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
With both interesting historical notes and new perspectives on significant American moments, this book was filled with so many inspiring passages that I frequently developed goosebumps. I love learning about history through the human lens of major events, and this book fit the bill with its review of both familiar and lesser-known songs that are woven into the fabric of American history. The amazing nature of this book is that it celebrates both the immense beauty and many imperfections of our s ...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 son
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 celebration of the history and songs of the eras, and McGraw reflects on these songs as an artist and performer. Beginning with the battle hymns of the Revolution, and taking us through songs from the defining events of the Civil War, the two World Wars, the Great Depression, the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam ...more
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love hearing Jon Meacham read his own work. The sections read by Tim McGraw were not as riveting as they were more like short essays on whatever Meacham had just said. Or when he was reading song lyrics as poetry it wasn't particularly dramatic or moving. As an audiobook, it would have been great to hear the music. But having said all of that, this is a very interesting premise of tying the music of an era to the political climate of that same era, and how the music made (makes) the politics m ...more
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
This was just terrific. I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s and the retrospective on the part of both authors on this era was insightful and especially interesting to me. The combination of Jon Meacham who is an eloquent and respected historian, along with the charming, knowledgeable, and entirely readable Tim McGraw, resulted in a fascinating account and wonderful exploration of the songs we’re heard and recognize by tune and even words, but had little understanding (at least, I didn’t) of the origi ...more
David Dunlap
This is an interesting and creative way to look at American history: through the lens of the patriotic and protest songs along its course. Meacham writes with his usual grace, admittedly drawing on various of his previous writings (although one cannot see any 'seams' in the narrative to suggest wholesale borrowing). The idea for the book apparently came from Meacham's neighbor Tim McGraw, who offers short insights of his own on many of the songs mentioned. (To bill him as a co-author, though, is ...more
Jul 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Superficial review of the songs that influenced America from the revolution to the present. I was frustrated reading it that there were no accompanying audio files of songs I wasn't familiar with, I checked the website for the book and found nothing. Regardless, there were some interesting facts here and there and some insight into the long history of music supporting causes in both right and left wing America. The book ends with a look at current songs that show our divisions focusing on Born i ...more
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
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Music has always been important throughout the history of the USA, as this book attests. From the 1770’s to the birth of the 21st century, author Jon Meacham and musician Tim McGraw examine the significance of music for patriotism in America. Most of the songs are well known, like The Star Spangled Banner and This Land Is Your Land, but be aware that the first chapter starts with an obscure song from the Revolutionary War Days. My favorite part of each chapter was Tim McGraw’s musical commentary ...more
Roger Bailey
Jun 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
This probably would have worked better as a podcast or documentary. Without being able to hear these songs I really couldn't get into this. As a book it's barely over 200 pages if you take out the appendix. McGraw is barely a factor here, he gives a few blurbs about a song here and there. The book wants to bring people together, but that seems to limit how powerful the book could be as it reads like a white washed history text book.
Barbara Lovejoy
Jul 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jon Meacham is one of my most favorite people---I always love to hear him speak and am always anxious to read whatever he writes. Therefore, I was thrilled when I first heard about this book and so looked forward to reading it. It exceeded my expectations. I highly recommend that everyone read it. My love (and hope!) for America has grown by leaps and bounds. Thank you, Jon Meacham..and Tim McGraw who is a co-author.
Denice Langley
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an excellent conversation on how music affects us all. The authors are experts in their fields and their writing reflects their complete interest and fascination with the topic. Music is one of the primary ways people connect. Whether at a back yard social, Sunday morning's sermon, or taking a cross country drive, we all share the moment when your favorite song comes on and you yell TURN IT UP. A great book.
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.
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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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